I walk into a local burger joint, place my order, and wait on my food. My plate is served and in front of me is a burger. I see a patty of ground beef, two slices of bacon, swiss cheese, pickles, lettuce, grilled onions, and mushrooms with a side of broccoli and cheese. Not everyone’s burger looks the same. What do you see on your plate?

Some folks imagine their burger looks like this…

food policy hamburgerI didn’t see those ingredients on the menu. Where did the bleach, ammonia, and sodium benzoate come from? Filler. “Cheese?” “Fresh.” What are those things supposed to mean? Not everyone has the same perspective on the food we eat.

The image above is from a Food Policy meeting I attended on campus last year. I had been talking about food education online for a few years, but needed to take more physical steps to educate myself on the opinions’ of folks on the other side of the table. I haven’t had the schedule to be able to attend meetings as often I had hoped, but it was still an eye-opening experience. This group of folks is dead set on having organic, local, natural foods brought to campus and honestly are not that engaging when it comes time for my questions.

There are groups of Americans who have lost faith, trust, and belief in our modern food systems. Many are skeptical about most things they hear and want to return to the good old days of ‘natural’ food. It’s a nostalgic perspective of times that likely weren’t as good as they seem. We are all guilty of grasping at story lines we want to be true. Sometimes it’s a matter of whether we decide to apply common sense or do a little investigation for ourselves.

The internet is a scary place. We can look up information on most any topic, most of which lacks validation for truth prior to posting. We have been let down so many times by false information, it’s human nature to cast a skeptical eye on what we’ve been told. Unfortunately, many do not take time to validate those facts, hoping that surely it must be true, and often times we can end up grasping at “bad science” to promote our beliefs. Sometimes folks want something to be true so badly, they will lash-out aggressively at others who are doing differently. Others literally block all those with opposing views. The internet seems to remove that filter on our comments the ability of civil conversations.

Should we take the news and media a reliable source of information? Surely, the media wouldn’t be biased in their coverage. Wait, do you remember the 2012 Election? Fox News wasn’t the only offender. Leaders within ABC News recently admitted they have portrayed news “in a slightly inaccurate way.” Should that statement expand beyond politics, maybe to their coverage of food and agriculture headlines like ‘pink slime’? Those lawsuits are still on-going.

Back to the image above. How should we learn more about what is really in our food? Should farmers alone be the authority? I grew up on a ranch and have spent the last several years of my life traveling the country and studying more about livestock production. But don’t take my word for it! According to the comments on my CNN articles, I am just a sell-out, a shill of corporate agriculture.

To be honest, I can’t say that I’m excited about the extent to which highly processed foods take over the shelves in our grocery stores, but it’s my own personal responsibility to make my food choices. It’s my dollar that chooses which food goes on my plate. Farmers really shouldn’t be the ones to blame; they are the ones making the raw materials. The food markets, cash flow and government regulation are the driver of food processing. *Keep in mind, not all processing is bad. Some is for our food safety from naturally occurring germs.*

I read an article last month that claimed more folks die each day from obesity than undernourishment. Food and health is a matter of personal responsibility, not a blame game to be played at the expense of some news ratings.

I can’t tell you where to get credible information about your food sources. Farmers are a piece of that puzzle, but not the entire pie. If you have lost faith in those individuals, I can’t tell you where to turn, because sound, reviewed science probably doesn’t do it for you either.

don't believe what is on the internetAnd finally, please stop posting all of those memes and Facebook photos claiming the latest cure-all or home remedy. More often than not, someone was just bored and looking for attention.