But What About the Flavor?

These days food is big business, we all know this but the implications are disturbing. Steve Sando, the force behind Rancho Gordo heritage bean purveyors, reports on his blog that he was recently invited to an industry event focusing on beans. In all the business talk, there was a little something forgotten.

For hours, we toured acres of bean fields and heard the results. The beans were bred for uniformity, size, color, resistance to disease and bugs and of course, yields. I was having a grand old time until the end when it dawned on me that not one word had ever been mentioned about flavor.

Seems that for all this growing for the market we’re not prioritizing the right things, and it’s not just happening in the bean world. “[W]e’ve done the same thing to pork,” Steve points out. Pigs have been bred to be lean and bland, so that “when we cook it, we need to smother it in barbecue sauce to again hide the lack of flavor. What if the ingredients tasted like something and we wouldn’t need to buy the barbecue sauce?”

A nice thought, indeed.

One of the commenters on this post agrees with Steve, though he offers cautious hope.

Taste hasn’t been a relevant factor in agricultural research for decades. Slowly, slowly, slowly, I see signs of change, however. The UC system, for instance, has new sensory analysis labs in both Davis and Parlier. (It is considered very cutting edge for food production researchers to spend the time and money on what the food tastes like.)

Perhaps a new day is dawning. As the commenter, who leaves his name as only “Jim,” says, “Some folks have finally figured out that beautiful, disease-resistant, conveniently timed produce isn’t enough. It needs to also be something that consumers want to eat.”

You’d think it would be obvious, but apparently not.

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