Happy spooky month from the Diestel Family. Close your eyes and imagine I just clicked on a flashlight, which I’m holding directly beneath my chin.
(This is the part where I’d normally laugh maniacally, but I don’t know how I’d spell it. Spooky, right?)
Want to hear a scary fact? The food industry’s got all kinds of tricks to make you believe that what you’re buying is high-quality, healthy, and wholesome—even when you’re not.
Alright. Let’s turn that flashlight off.
But now that you’re in the mood, let’s do a little trick and treat and break down a few of the industry’s most diabolical deceptions—and ways you can pull their masks off the villains.
I guess that makes us “those meddling kids?” (Scooby-Doo, anyone?)
Most of the food companies you’ll find in the grocery store aren’t actually farming companies. (Talk about an elaborate costume, right?) That means that even though they’re selling the food, they played little (or sometimes no) part in making it. The further the brand is from the farm, the less likely it is they can tell you how it was produced. Vertically integrated companies, on the other hand—like Diestel Family Ranch and all the others like us—spend every day on farms and in processing plants, which means they can tell you exactly what goes on behind the scenes.
You want a treat? Look for the brands that talk about raising animals and crafting products themselves. If you’ve got a turkey brand that’s willing to dish on everything that went into bringing that bird up, you can bet they had bigger thighs to fry than how to raise them as cheaply as possible. Things like sustainability, animal welfare, and—dare we say it—quality.
A lot of the food brands you’ll find in the grocery store aren’t food brands at all. They’re marketers. A good tagline is about the only thing they’ve learned to craft; many of them don’t even own their own farms or production facilities. Instead of artisans who know how to craft safe, wholesome and delicious food; they’ve got scientists who know how to optimize their food formulations. They’re purchasing X quantity of Y cut of meat to fill orders. That’s no way to make a meal. If you want the best quality products, look for the brands who actually craft the food you are consuming.
This tip is even sweeter than candy corn. You’ve got the power to know where your food is coming from—no matter which brand it’s coming from—by looking up the establishment number. (Yes, there’s an app for that.) While it’s not uncommon for great brands to have co-packers who help produce to exceptionally high standards, if you don’t own and operate a facility yourself – you really aren’t qualified to confirm that your high standards are being achieved. By looking at the establishment number it doesn’t get any easier to tell who’s behind that clever packaging.
The big guy always likes to talk about supporting the little guy. (Some of them even put a cute name on the package—something like Mr. Hogland’s Best or Pete’s Picks.) Unfortunately, one of the only ways they know how is to make the little guy a cog in a much, much bigger machine. After all, birdness is birdness. To get products to the shelf at a price most people are willing to pay, the big guy’s got to cut corners. The lower the price, the more likely your food isn’t what you think.
The easiest way to find an independent farm that’s truly independent? Look for the ones who put their names on the package.
Once you’ve got the name, the internet makes it easy to dig a little deeper to find out whether they’re still family owned and operated, or if they’ve been snatched up by Mr. Big Bird or some other mega food conglomerate.
Rumor has it if you close your eyes and say his name three times, you can still see the face of Mr. Big Bird wandering the refrigerated section of your local grocery store.
(We’re kidding about that last one.)
Anyway, happy trick or treating the aisles this Halloween season! With these tricks, you’re sure to find something great.