Let’s get real about ‘Real Food’

By Mike Barnett

I read and hear a lot about “real food,” and I’m always puzzled when someone or some group uses that phrase.

It’s usually in the context of local food or processed food, and the implication is if the food is not “whole,” or is grown by some other means, it’s inferior. Taken to the extreme, “real food” addresses social justice and, to buy it or eat it, it helps if you are politically correct.

Here’s a definition I picked off the website http://realfoodchallenge.org/: “‘Real food’ is food which truly nourishes producers, consumers, communities and the earth. It is a food system—from seed to plate—that fundamentally respects human dignity and health, animal welfare, social justice and environmental sustainability. Some people call it ‘local,’ ‘green,’ ‘slow’ or ‘fair.’ We use ‘real food’ as a holistic term to bring together many of these diverse ideas people have about a values-based food economy.”

Now, I’m a huge fan of fresh food. I frequent farmers’ markets on the weekends, especially during the summer when the tomatoes and squash and cucumbers may have been picked fresh from the vine that morning. I don’t really care if it is organic or not. I do care that it is local, because I’m paying a premium to have the juice run down my chin when I take a bite out of that tempting tomato.

But most of the time I just go to H-E-B and buy fresh vegetables and fruits and my meat. More than likely this produce was not raised organically and my meat was grain-fed and contains a tiny bit of added hormones to promote growth in the cattle. And I’m more than likely going to pick up a loaf of white bread where the flour has been bleached and undergone further processing.

Is that food “fake”? Is it inferior or is it going to poison me because it’s been processed and pesticides were used to keep insects from devouring it before I can?

I resent the fact that, taken to the extremes, there are groups of elitists out there who cast aspersions on family farmers and ranchers who use modern production methods to place food on my plate every day. Those farmers and ranchers provide food and fiber in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. They know providing proper care for their livestock pays dividends when it’s time to go to market. Values are paramount as 98 percent of the farms in the U.S. are family operations.

It doesn’t matter if they are conventional, organic, local or anything else: Real Farmers grow Real Food providing Real Choices for Real People.

Don’t let anyone tell you different.


Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

5 Responses to “Let’s get real about ‘Real Food’”

  1. Mike, it’s not the farmers who aren’t producing real food to consumers. It’s the middle man who buys from the farmers. Farmers grow corn; not Xanthum Gum. Xanthum gum is produced through chemical processes and one of the ingredients is corn. It’s my opinion that what once was “real” in the field is now “not real” when it hits my plate. I’m tired of looking at food labels and seeing mostly chemical terms. I’m assured they’re not bad for me, but we also thought lead, asbestos, and mercury weren’t bad for us either.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      Clay, the great thing about ‘real food’ is the choices. Some prefer to prepare food fresh from the field. Others prefer the convenience of processed foods. Thanks for expressing your opinion and I appreciate your comment.

  2. Collene says:

    Thanks for the message today Mike. Its interesting you decided to blog on this topic today, my lunch conversation was closely related. Fake food to me equals fast foods and processed foods. Guilty as charged!! Out of convenience I eat way too much of these categories. However, on the other hand, I too enjoy fresh veggies, particularly the tomatoes with lots of juice! For me, real food equates to food prepared at home and served or eaten with other like minded folks (or those that humor my opinion). I believe that people that like organic fruits and vegetables, grass fed beef, free range chickens, etc. should be able to do so as they wish. Mine is not the only way, theirs isn’t either. I won’t push my preferences on them and appreciate them returning the favor. American farmers and rancher have enough of a challenge without wicked plots and comments from the peanut gallery.

    • Mike Barnett says:

      Collene, I wish I had time and willpower to prepare supper every night. I too, fall prey to the convience of fast food… and Church’s Chicken on a Sunday afternoon picnic sure is good!

  3. Reed Baize says:

    The issues with organic farming and minimally processed foods is that, as the population of the Earth continues to increase and as land available for farming decreases, those methods are going to become less and less viable. I love the concept of organic farming but, long term, it is not sustainable agriculture.

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