Why Doesn’t Fruit and Veg Taste Like It Used To?
Buying fresh produce isn’t the same as it once was. Being able to pick out the right melon was an art form. And the taste! Whilst supermarket bought produce may be convenient and look perfect, the taste is often lacklustre.
Why is it that apples you buy at the supermarket look so good, but finding one that’s flavoursome is so hit and miss? Why does that spotless, bright red apple have a soft mushy texture? Why are the apples I buy already browning and discoloured on the inside?
A simple answer to these questions can be explained by the general change in the structure of our food supply over the years. The supermarket supply chain has altered how we consume food, due to the business model of large-scale industrial farming enterprises and supermarkets brands.
The supermarket supply chain
The very structure of the supermarket supply chain creates a timely delay from the time the produce is harvested, to the time it’s on your plate. To deal with this delay, crops are often picked before they are even ripe.
They do this to make transport to distribution centres easier, without bruising fruit before it’s on display in supermarket shelves. At distribution centres, the fruit and veg is either put in hibernation mode, for extended storage, or ripening mode, to ensure the product looks up to standard when it’s in store.
This process is built around benefitting the large supermarket chains and their profit, whilst artificially manipulating the natural growing and ripening process. The end result is food that may look good, yet in reality it is anything but fresh.
More often than not, crops such as apples spend more time in cool rooms than they did growing on a tree.
This is why the perfect apple you’ve picked lacks flavour, texture and ultimately nutrients.
The supermarket business model
Supermarkets are built around extending the shelf life of their fresh produce. This extends their sales cycle and increases the profitability of their supply chain. This is the reason that you’ll often find pre-packaged fruit and vegetables in plastic wrap. This traps the oxygen flow to the produce, slowing its spoilage, whilst negatively affecting its flavour and nutritional value.
It all comes down to the fact that the shelf life of produce, from the farm gate to supermarket shelf, is longer than the natural life of fruit and vegetables. By the time it has reached your plate, externally its appearance would suggest the fruit is fresh. Yet, it has long lost its flavour, texture, nutrition and quality.
Everything that you look for in fresh produce.
The Industrial Farming Business Model
The produce suppliers to Coles and Woolworths operate within a low-margin, high-yield business structure. Modern agriculture is a numbers game and yield drives profitability. This has led to a situation where the growers also intervene with the natural harvesting process, introducing pesticides, artificial fertilisers, antibiotics and hormones to meet their target. These producers are paid by yield, not quality. This is industrial farming.
This type of industrial farming has also led to the homogenisation of mostly all food. Farmed animals are bred to be a standard size to fit in their assembly line cages for processing and transportation. Diversity used to be the trend in fruit and vegetables, yet now we’re limited to a few hybrid or cultivated varieties in each category. For example, tomato varieties were once commonly developed in small communities, this is where the word “heirloom” tomato comes from. Yet now, all supermarket tomato varieties seem to be uniform in shape, size and color, yet lacking that real flavour.
The introduction of the supermarket business model and supply chain has radically altered how we as humans consume our natural produce. Longer transport and storage times mean that by the time the fruit or veg is on your plate, it may look perfect and fresh, yet tastes anything but. This is why you can never find that perfect apple.
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In Part 2, we’ll be going over how the growing and harvesting side has changed, to find out why fruit and vegetables just don’t taste the same.
Thanks for reading!