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Distrust in Our Food System: How Did We Get Here?

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Being an advocate for agriculture, I regularly get into conversations about the current state we find ourselves in right now. The new wave of marketing our food and re-gaining trust in our food system is through encouraging farmers and ranchers to get involved in the conversation. Even people outside of agriculture are pushing for this new wave, as they realize there is a gap between how and where our food is produced and they believe farmer’s faces should fill that gap.




If you look back at our ads in the 40’s and 50’s in this country, it was all about brands. People believed in brands, they supported brands. Often times you didn’t even have to show the product in an ad, as long as it contained the brand name, people knew the brand delivered. People knew the brand meant quality, consistency, trust, and a delicious product.


Today, we keep seeing over and over headlines about our “broken” food system, about how the public’s distrust in our food system increases, and every week a new headline comes out which threatens that trust even more.


The public is buying into and believing celebrities over the people who grow and produce our food, those brands which we used to trust are now labeled as “Big Ag”, foods that don’t come locally are deemed as “unsustainable” and “unhealthy”, and people are believing all sorts of lies without any sort of scientific consensus behind them.



And who is expected to fill the gap and pick up the pieces? The farmers. Suddenly the farmers and ranchers are propelled into the spotlight and expected to change the face of our food. Certainly many have stepped up to the challenge and are making big differences in these conversations. Some are just now joining the table. And others are still trying to figure out what the heck social media does.


HOW did we get here? What happened? And will we ever get back to a place where we trust our food companies?


I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. But what I do know is that as this distrust grows, our food system gets safer and safer. Will we ever see a world where our food is 100 percent risk free? No.


But if you really look at the numbers, the food we eat is pretty darn safe. Let’s do some math. The U.S. census bureau reported that in 2010 the population of the U.S. stood at about 308 million. That’s a lot of people. Now you figure, 308 million people eat an average of two meals a day, some three a day but for simplicity’s sake, two meals a day. That is 616 million meals eaten every single day, which equals out to around 225 billion meals consumed in the United States each year. Now out of those 225 billion meals consumed, according to the CDC annual’s estimates, about 48 million illnesses result from food born pathogens, only 127,839 are hospitalized, and only 3,037 deaths each year. Now put that into perspective, I’d have to say that our food is pretty darn safe, wouldn’t you?


Do I want our food system to go back to the way it was in the 1940’s? No. I am proud of the scientific and technological steps we have made to make our food system the best it can be. I am proud of the fact we are taking steps towards transparency in how our food is raised and produced. But in order to fix this distrust and restore our “broken” food system, it’s going to take all of us. And it’s also going to take a little faith: faith in the people who work hard to produce your food from the farmers to the food companies and the distributors.


Let’s start by doing them a favor, rather than putting the blame on them, let’s start a conversation. Let’s stop the mud slinging and using buzzwords like “big ag”, “factory farm”, and “sustainable”. Let’s open our minds to a different perspective and celebrate the fact we have a choice in the food we purchase at the grocery store. Let’s start asking questions rather than making assumptions or believing the next news article you see on your screen. Let’s start digging deeper and I hope that once you start digging deeper, you will re-connect with the beauty that we once had in our food system. You will see that our food system here in the U.S. is pretty dang incredible compared to what it was in the 1940’s. And honestly, at the end of the day, we are plain lucky to be putting food on our table.

About the Author
Jennifer is a self proclaimed country girl born and raised in Northern California. After joining social media, Jenny met a farmer from North Dakota. She followed her heart all the way to the rural prairies of ND where she is now married to that farmer. Besides spending time with her farmer, Jenny can be found with a camera in hand capturing the world around her, loves the challenges of bringing culture to the North Dakota prairie through a variety of culinary creations, and using her interior design degree to flip their bachelor pad into a home. All of this and more can be found on her photography blog: