Food quality: Why it has decreased in the last century & how that affects you today
In the last decades, it seems there has been a shift from quality to quantity.
It is not so important anymore how good the quality of something is, but how much you can produce and consume.
Quantity > Quality, instead of Quality > Quantity.
This is not a single occurrence or restricted to a specific area or industry.
It is everywhere, from food to media, to social connections, to basically everything we consume and produce.
There are a few exceptions in every industry, companies and people that produce high quality instead of just endless streams of meaningless BS. But for now, that’s what they remain: an exception.
That’s why I recommend following a “Quality Diet“.
Read on to learn why there was a shift from quality to quantity, how it affects us today & the top 3 reasons why quality is actually important.
Why are we focusing on quantity instead of quality?
It might have to do with the industrial age, the advanced industrial age so to speak.
- Since the introduction of factory jobs, we have become sedentary. We don’t need to make unnecessary movements. We might burn some calories!
- Thanks to supermarkets and other stores, all day shopping and all day eating are a reality and not a dream anymore.
- Air conditioning and heaters make every climate enjoyable.
- We eat fast food and junk food. No cooking, thank god…!
It might also have to do with the digital age we are so used to. We can’t imagine anything else.
It provides us with cheap vacations, cheap products & cheap food from around the world.
Surprisingly the digital age is a mere two generations old. But everything is now digital, so everything is cheaper!
It already feels like this is the way it has been for all time of humanity.
Sadly, no. These „luxuries“ are not even one hundred years old and yet we act as though we know nothing else.
But what does the industrial age have to do with quality?
The industrial age and finally the digital age have made everything cheaper.
This is a good thing, who doesn’t like cheap things, but at some point in time, most things can’t become cheaper without other sacrifices.
Henry Ford industrialized the car. Suddenly everyone could afford one. Ray Kroc started McDonalds. Soon, everyone could afford eating out. Today, Primark makes clothes even cheaper than they already are. Everyone can afford them.
But this will be a definite thing.
Food, clothes, and other things can’t possibly continue to get cheaper until the end of time unless quality decreases.
And that’s what’s happening.
I’m not saying the industrial & digital age are bad, they are quite the opposite, but when it comes to food we should rethink our approach of
Quantity > Quality.
How the shift from quality to quantity is affecting our food today.
I already mentioned Ray Kroc, who founded the McDonalds we know today. At the beginning, the quality was probably good.
But today? I don’t know, but regarding the immense quantity, they have to produce, as more and more people can afford eating out, quality for sure takes a hit.
The documentation “Supersize me” from a few years ago made this pretty clear.
What about supermarket food?
There are studies that show the nutrient content, especially in fruit and vegetables, has been decreasing since over 50 years. Producing more and more food, using fertilizers, herbicides and “other-sides”, has depleted the soil of its nutrients and as a consequence depleted the foods grown in that soil as well.
Regarding all other supermarket foods, 80% contain added sugar and “80% of processed food is made up of just 4 ingredients — corn, wheat, soy and meat” as Tim Spector wrote in “Diet Myth”. Although synthetic vitamins are often added to supermarket foods to make up for the lost natural ones during processing, they don’t improve the quality of the food.
I leave the question to you of whether or not this is quality food.
It is hard to say what food is healthy, but when you look at 2 samples of the same food and one of them contains more nutrients, vitamins, and other positive agents, it can be said that it is healthier.
Another decrease in quality occurs in supermarket food because it is often picked when not ripe, shipped thousands of miles, treated with additional chemicals to slow down the process of ripening.
Convenience & Quantity > Quality.
What about eating out?
Not a sign of a quality diet.
Restaurants are more and more focusing on all-you-can-eat buffets and fast & cheap production. The problem with eating out is that we can’t check the quality. We don’t know where the meat and vegetables come from or if everything is homemade.
Unfortunately our only quality identification tool “taste” is becoming more and more useless with modern day food.
Food scientists are developing new ways to trick our brain and our taste.
Unless we stop consuming processed foods and additives, our taste becomes so used to them, that we can’t differentiate between quality food and our brain being tricked.
I’m not saying there aren’t any good restaurants left, as there certainly are, but often they are either very expensive for reasons that go beyond quality or they are slowly converting to using “convenience products”.
Convenience & Quantity > Quality.
Why do we have to buy and eat so much food?
We’re built this way through evolution. Evolutionary psychologists i.e. Daniel E. Liebermann, are saying that those basic instincts in our brain are still active today.
We “eat all we can get” because otherwise we might be starving. At least, that’s what our brain thinks. Unfortunately, this is leading to obesity and diseases such as diabetes & heart disease.
We crave salt, sugar, and fat because those are the things that were scarce in our hunter-gatherer times, as Michael Moss explains in his same-named book.
The changes the industrial revolution brought to our dietary habits are immense. We are creating an overabundance of cheap, high-caloric, low nutrients & low fiber food, exactly the foods we crave so much.
Additionally, expand less energy to get this food.
Supermarkets offer an incredible convenience for humans. We are able to buy all the food we like all the time, with the only restriction being the opening hours of the supermarket.
Overabundance leads to overconsumption.
Sadly, though, approximately 30-50% of the very food we crave, is simply thrown away.
Most of it is thrown away by supermarkets or consumers. The sad part: most of that food isn’t bad. It could be eaten without any concerns.
It doesn’t matter if we throw food away because it has become so cheap, we can just buy something new.
Again: Convenience & Quantity > Quality.
To sum this trend up: Low-quality foods, which are making us sick, became cheaper, so it is easier to throw them away and buy more low-quality foods, while high-quality foods, which would make us healthy became more expensive.
Why is quality actually important?
Quality, especially food quality, is important for a number of reasons. Let’s consider the top 3:
- Taste The thing we love most about food is good taste. In order to get the best tasting food, we should aim for the best quality food. As I mentioned before, today our brains are often tricked into believing that the food we are eating is of good quality or as a matter of fact even is “real” food, when unfortunately it is not. Once you know the difference between real high quality food and “trick food”, you’ll probably realize what you have missed all those years.
- Health The food we eat has a big impact on our health. Hippocrates had this figured out already saying: “Let food be thy medicine”. As said before, nobody knows what the perfect nutrition looks like or if there even is such a thing, but it is very probable that additives, most of which are a fairly new addition to our diet, are an unknown risk. A lot of those additives are already labeled as carcinogenic, but for most of them studies on long-term health effects aren’t available yet.The already mentioned overabundance of low quality and high caloric food is increasing obesity, as well as civilization diseases. Eating quality food, with more nutrients, taste and pleasure, will not only enhance your health now, but also in the long-term reducing health care costs and providing you with more enjoyable years in your life.
- Environment High quality food is often produced environmentally friendly. One of the best examples of this is the Polyface Farm founded by Joel Salatin. He built his farm on natural systems, minimizing the waste, while maximizing his output. Unfortunately most labels today like “Fair Trade” or “Organic”, often lack the kind of commitment Joel Salatin shows, having either incredibly low requirements or no connection at all to any environmental Since high quality food is often produce of local origin, there is also less of a carbon footprint attached to it.
Introducing a high-quality diet, especially for food, has many benefits in the long-term, while the “downsides” if you consider things as giving up low-quality food as a downside, are only temporary.
So even if you are on a diet and want to stick to it, it is helpful to upgrade that diet with high-quality food:
Vegans, go for Quality Vegan. Organic Vegetables and fruit. Paleos, go for Quality Paleo. Grass-fed beef & pastured eggs. Pescetarians, go for Quality Pescatarian. Naturally raised fish. I’m not one who is complaining all the time without providing, at least, an attempt of a solution. During the last couple of years, I tried to upgrade the quality of my food in every possible way.
That’s why I’ve compiled my top ten ideas on how to upgrade your food quality. You can download the PDF below.