You enter through the automatic sliding doors, met with familiar sights and sounds. The supermarket has become an integral component to the American lifestyle. Your senses are overwhelmed by a barrage of colors and graphics, all designed to grab your attention. As you walk through the aisles, you see hundreds of packaged meat products and highly processed foods, neatly staggered on shelves. As you continue through the store, you see two dozen chickens roasting in the rotisserie oven and enormous slabs of farmed fish sitting on ice. This environment has become commonplace in modern supermarkets. We expect to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available for purchase. Typically, we perceive this environment at face value, but it carries a message. Only, it is not a happy or hopeful one.
It is a well known fact that consumers yearn for convenient and quick meals. As a result, pre-packaged and processed food products have become extremely marketable. In fact, the factory farming industry rests upon this consumer trend. Supermarkets are filled with pre-cooked meat products and packaged meals. But what are the consequences of too much convenience with regard to food? It is debatable as to whether this is even a problem in the first place. However, throughout the past two quarters I have been researching this question and re-evaluating the answer again and again. Ultimately, it became glaringly obvious that too much convenience can become a problem for consumers—and in more ways than one.
By minimizing cost and maximizing product yield, farmers can gain huge advantages over their competitors. Only, farming technology has perhaps gone too far. It was once true that progress in agricultural technology bettered the overall state of the human race by providing safer, cleaner food. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case. It seems that the meat industry is moving in the opposite direction now. Not only can technology be harmful, but it can often act to directly impede the processes that it once set out to correct. This fact has become strikingly apparent in a number of settings. Most notably, industrial farming techniques have been developed to output meat at a high efficiency, when in reality, these techniques are often more inefficient than their traditional counterparts.
On a more individual level, electronic conveniences have been shown to complicate our lives in a number of ways as well. Earlier this year, I conducted a survey on the usage of an online meal ordering app called Tapingo, to establish whether it was as widespread as I had been led to believe. The results of which clearly demonstrated how frequently students made their purchases through the app. Still, it is unknown whether this leads to poor dining decisions, but it certainly makes the consumer experience more abstract and disconnected from reality. Students at SCU can order a burger from their room and have it ready for pick-up by the time they make it to the cafeteria. The process is so streamlined and efficient that it always makes more sense to use the app than to stand in line.
The drive-thru has had similar effects on consumer relations with fast food. In order to decide what to eat, individuals merely must look at overly touched up photos of food that has little connection with the food that is actually being prepared. There is a growing disconnect between our expectations of the food we eat and the reality of it. In a sense, we are distancing ourselves from our food and often times this occurs without us being aware of it. By nature, individuals seek out comfort in their lives. However, it is beginning to seem as though we are trapping ourselves by these luxuries. In the name of convenience, parents bring their children to drive thru fast food chains and purchase the lies that these chains are pushing forth through clever marketing campaigns.
While taking this course, I have started realizing more and more that I have been feeding into this problem by choosing convenience over quality. By consistently choosing the lower quality, but faster and cheaper options, we are voting for the same practices in the farming industry to persist. At the same time, the fact that consumers are repeatedly falling into this trap is a result the cheapness of the products emerging out of industrial agriculture. At this point, it may seem like a problem without a solution. But really, the only solution is widespread awareness of the issue itself.