J500 Media and the Environment

Forming a Stronger Relationship with the Food We Eat by micolea

I admit it. I was a child of the fast-food and processed food generation. When I was younger I never bothered to look at the ingredients listed on the label of a Hostess cupcake or a bag of Doritos before I devoured it. I also didn’t concern myself with finding out where the beef in my quarter-pounder came from or what toxins that meat would be putting in my body. It is only when I opened my eyes and looked closely at the ingredient label that I realized what I was really consuming.

Photo by foodcore/Courtesy Flickr

I agree with the statement, “ignorance is bliss”, because throughout my childhood and teenage years, I was completely unaware of what unnatural ingredients, harmful chemicals and pesticides are contained in processed foods. Which is why I continued to eat processed and fast food until I learned the truth about the science behind how these foods are made (and made to last on grocery-store shelves).

It was astonishing for me to discover that a Twinkie contained ingredients which are also used to kill weeds and make cardboard. For Steve Ettlinger, author of “Twinkie, Deconstructed”, to uncover these additives that manufacturers insert in processed foods is a true eye opener. An interesting point made by Ettlinger, in Anne Underwood’s article, “MMM, Tasty Chemicals”, is about why these chemical ingredients are added to Twinkies. “To stay fresh on a grocery-store shelf, Twinkies can’t contain anything that might spoil, like milk, cream or butter.” As consumers, it is up to us to scrutinize food labels in order to be aware of what we are putting in our mouth. In Michael Pollan’s new book, “Food Rules”, one of his rules is, “avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce.” By educating ourselves about where our food comes from and how it is made, we can begin to improve our relationship with food.

Though it is not common to use the words fast food and natural ingredients in the same sentence, in the case of Chipotle, these words create a perfect harmony. According to Chipotle’s Web site, its food has no artificial colors or flavorings. More so, Chipotle is the largest restaurant buyer of naturally raised meats in the country. Hopefully, soon, more restaurants and manufacturers will follow in the footsteps of restaurants like Chipotle and realize the important relationship we all share with food.

Micole Aronowitz


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I am really excited to know that about Chipotle. I went to their web site and saw their nod to Food, Inc. I’m happy about their meat, but I wonder about the rest of the ingredients. Is the stuff like beans, guac, and lettuce fairly eco-conscious too?

Comment by Kelly

On Chipotle’s web site, it says that 30 percent of their beans are organic and that each year they increase that amount. Also, their site says the cheese and sour cream they use are free of the synthetic hormone, rBGH. Hope that helps to answer your question!

Micole A.

Comment by micolea

Micole, why not give our local Chipotle a call and see where the ingredients Kelly asked about come from? We all want to know. . .
Simran Sethi

Comment by j500

Professor Sethi,

Thank you for your suggestion! After calling our local Chipotle and asking about where various ingredients come from (avacados, lettuce and beans), I was told that they try and purchase as much of their produce as possible from organic farmers. I was also told that because there are a limited number of organic farmers, not all of their produce and ingredients are organic. But they make an effort to have as much organic ingredients as possible. They also said they increase the percentage of oraganic beans in their restaurants each year.

Micole A.

Comment by micolea

Micole, thanks for that post. It was such a breath of fresh air! I don’t know about you, but it makes me think twice about eating fast food, but in a different sense. Chipotle has always been the more expensive fast food, so I never opt for it, but after watching that video I am more likely to spend the extra dollars to eat at Chipotle than at another fast food restaurant. I think Joe was right when he said it wasn’t going to be a switch on/off kind of movement, it just takes a lot of social responsibility to do what he is doing.
Becca N.

Comment by beccan


I don’t know if you say Michael Pollan on Oprah last week. But at the end of that show she did a segment about Chipotle. I don’t know if any of you remember about a year-or-so ago when Oprah featured the new grilled chicken from KFC on her show and you could download a coupon for a free bucket of their grilled chicken on her website. KFC was hoping to come out swinging as a new leader for healthier options for fastfood, but Oprah viewers got so excited about the free meal that KFC actually didn’t have enough chicken to fulfill all of the coupons downloaded. I think they had to stop accepting them but promised customers that if they waited a few weeks they would take them again. Oprah is a pretty influential lady and while I am very glad that she did her show about Food, Inc (she also offered viewers a discounted price on buying the DVD at amazon.com, so hopefully lots of people will buy it), I wonder if everyone won’t flock to Chipotle and then we could have another shortage problem. Do any of you think that there is currently enough sustainable meat options out there, or that there ever will be? Is there enough pasture space on our planet for all 7 billion of us to eat free-range animal products everyday the way many of us would like to? Or do you think we need to make more drastic changes and make more sacrifices? -Kristina B.

Comment by kristinabev


In response to your question about there being enough pasture space to eat free-range animal products, I think more of the focus should be on finding helpful and resourceful ways for people to learn about what they are eating. I think that if people started eating more sustainable meat and produce options that, eventually, in time, it would force big corporations to change their food plants and practices. Thanks for your questions and comments!

Comment by micolea

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