Live from the Union Square subway:  A big food message that tips its hat to changing consumer perception.  When I saw this poster, the first thing I thought of was the film King Corn.  The filmmakers explain that grass-fed cows used to take 2-3 years to get fat and ready for our beef consumption.  Once we started feeding them corn, however, they got to the same weight in just 15 months.  By changing the diet of our cows, we’re forcing them into false maturation.  With this, and so many of our industrial food ways, we wrestle nature into the ground.

More and more, activist groups like Slow Food USA, are putting reason back on the table.  It takes time and thoughtfulness to make real food.  This Simply Orange ad isn’t all good, nor all bad.  But it’s interesting to think about its context.  Why would this be their message now?  The food revolution is making its way through the mass media channels.  What do you think?

Live from the Union Square Subway

Authenticity is an elusive concept.  Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Chinese philosopher Lao Tsu wrote, “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.”  In contemporary American culture, we say, “Trust your gut.”  As more people shift towards knowing our food sources, we also fine tune our reception to the voice of authenticity.  We hear it directly many ways; one easy example is in the phrase promoted by the USDA, “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.”

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the new Triscuit brand marketing campaign.  The front of the box says “Join the Home Farming Movement!”.  Flip it over and there’s a small piece of cardboard in the box that holds basil seeds ready for planting.  Really?

Continued below

Green Sprout = Clue

Playing with the language of "garden" vs. "home farm"

I was recently talking to a fellow food blogger and he commented, “This isn’t so much a food revolution as it is a food evolution.  The big ag companies aren’t going anywhere.”

His words have stayed with me as I follow the marketing cues of these companies to the changing food consumer.  The Triscuit campaign press materials promote that they are starting 50 community gardens with this effort.  At the website, www.triscuit.com/homefarming, there’s a map of these gardens, as well as posts by gardeners around the United States.  When I read the comments, it seems like the words could be from any one of my relatives across the country.

So, why is my gut off on this one?

I’ll never be so cynical to think that corporations can’t also be socially responsible, even though the history to date is often dismal.  Additionally, my dream for the sustainable food movement is that we create a dynamic industry that employs many people in long-term, well-paying jobs that bolster personal and environmental health.  This is precisely what we are starting now.

I’m reminded of the age-old question for activists:  Does change happen from within the current system or outside of it?