National Ag Day is upon us (March 21)! It’s a great time to shine a light on agricultural practices and food production advancements that bring you the foods you love to eat at your favorite restaurants. Many of the delicious meals, snacks, and beverages served at restaurants have ingredients that originate on a farm. Let’s take a look at how some of these ingredients end up nourishing you.
GMOs on the Farm
We’ve talked about GMO (genetically modified organism) safety and the crops that are available with the use of GMO technology. Right now, there are just 10 commercially available GMO crops: soybeans, corn (field and sweet), canola, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, summer squash, papaya, apples, and potatoes. These crops become ingredients in many delicious dishes. For instance, the sugar beet represents about 54 percent of domestically produced sugar in the United States, and it tastes exactly the same as cane sugar. Thus, there is some probability that the sugar used to make a sweet treat or a baked good from a bakery or coffee shop could have originated from a GMO sugar beet crop.
GMO technology is making plants more resistant to pests and decreasing pesticide application. While farmers use safe and regulated practices for pesticide application, the reduction in pesticide use has a positive impact on the environment: reduced greenhouse gas emissions; growing more food on less land; and, consumer access to a variety of affordable foods year-round. Also, according to PG Economics LTD, the global benefits for genetically modified crops have reached $150 billion since the crops were first planted in 1996.
Processed Foods Reduce Waste
Many folks think “fresh is always best” when they reach for fruits or vegetables, but that is not always the case. We’ve compared the nutritional benefits for fresh versus frozen or canned produce, and we’ve seen comparable nutrition profiles. It’s important not to overlook how processed foods help provide reliable sources of nutritious and good-tasting foods. Frozen food can help reduce food waste—yes, put a superhero cape on all your bags of frozen spinach. USDA’s 2014 report on food waste found that in 2010, an estimated 31 percent or 133 billion pounds of the 430 billion pounds of food produced was not available for human consumption at the retail and consumer levels in the United States. Even today, people are unaware of how much food they waste, so this remains a major issue. By freezing food, shelf life is increased, which means less food is thrown away and can be enjoyed at later dates.
The Healthier, the Better
The next time you have a healthful salad, a juicy steak, or a chicken sandwich, be sure to think of the responsible farming practices used to raise healthy animals or grow reliable crops, and all the different technologies at work to get food safely to your plate, whether at home or at your favorite restaurant.