If you ate today, thank a food processor!

Posted by Jessica Duncan on

What did you eat today? Did it come straight from the ground, or was a food processor involved in meeting your daily dietary needs? Out of curiosity, I recently Googled “food processor’’ and, instead of finding things like Kraft, or Singing Bowl Granola (yup – we’re both food processors), I found Amazon selling electronic whirly things that will turn your food to mush or powder in the flick of a switch. So, just to clarify, when I say, “if you ate today, thank a food processor”, I’m talking about the people who convert raw materials into ready-to-eat meal items, not small kitchen appliances.

So, what comes to mind for you when you hear/read the words food processor? Do you picture a large factory in Godknowswhere mass-producing boxes of godknowswhat? Do you picture Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory? Perhaps you don’t even give it any thought at all, and yet, food processors are an integral part of your day-to-day existence. Why not take a minute to look around your kitchen and contemplate the processed foods and beverages that grace your fridge and cupboards. How does each item make you feel?

Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory.

Early days of mass food production, á la Lucille Ball and Ethel Merman.

Food processors come in all shapes and sizes, serving different purposes. Dominating the food industry are the multinational corporations who capitalize on making life easy for you and getting you hooked on certain flavours - sugar, salt and fat being the most popular. We all have some of their products in our homes because they are affordable and easily accessed. When we look at these items, perhaps we have no emotional reaction at all, or, if you are like me, you try to envision how and where the product was made, and under what conditions.

At the other end of the spectrum are the micro food processors, working out of their home kitchen, selling bread and pickles and jams and all the feel-good items at the farmers’ market. Their products usually cost more, but you are also paying for the face-to-face interaction, and knowing that the product was made by human hands. It is worth it to the consumer to pay extra knowing that their money is going directly to the processor.

Jessica in the early days of selling Singing Bowl Granola at the farmers' market.

The early days of Singing Bowl Granola, selling at the farmers' market.

And then, there are what’s known as “small scale” food processors like myself, who are well known throughout a certain region, but not beyond. These processors tend to be a bit more niche and a bit more expensive than the multinationals, but their loyal customers are willing to pay extra for this specialty product because they know it’s made with integrity by someone in their community. Most of us, having grown from selling at the farmers’ markets, now have commercial kitchens and up to four employees. In fact, 30% of food processors in British Columbia have fewer than five employees, and, like Singing Bowl Granola, are family-run businesses.

Singing Bowl Granola staff being filmed for a Food Safe video.

Two of my three members of staff being filmed in our commercial kitchen.

Eight years ago, when I was starting Singing bowl Granola, I met Debra Hellbach whose passion is the food processing industry – getting food from the ground to your mouth in one form or another. Debra knows the food processing industry inside and out, and her recurring theme whenever we meet for coffee is just how maligned and ignored food processing is. As she delves into deep research for her masters program, she is discovering that, it is not only the average consumer, but also those who have the power to effect change, who either consider food processing to be negative (as they imagine large corporations replacing nutritional ingredients with cheap chemical fillers, manipulating our taste buds), or they don’t actually think about it at all. It was our conversation this morning at our post-holiday rendezvous that got me thinking about how disconnected consumers are to the source of their food. It is heartening to know that the farmers’ market trend is growing every year, but we still have such a long way to go before we really start to understand how the food we eat has been processed from raw materials to something ready and delicious.

As we head into this new year, I challenge you to start taking notice of the food on your plate, and consider how it got there. Perhaps do a little research on the brand of your pasta or bread or beans or cheese. Is it a local company or a multinational? Does the company share your values, employ local people, contribute to your community, or are they merely out to make a buck? As you start to identify the source of your daily meals, consider putting your money where your mouth is and buying from food processors you feel good about supporting.

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  • Great post Jessica! Thanks for getting the message out there. Food processors need love too ….

    Debra Hellbach on

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