The supermarket has become a festival of oxymorons.
Fresh-frozen peas. Jumbo shrimp. Boneless ribs. Chanukah ham.
And the most common of all: Natural food.
If you are eating wild-caught fish or mushrooms gathered from the woods, you’re eating natural food.
Otherwise, probably not.
There’s nothing “natural” about agriculture, whether it’s practiced on the industrial-sized soy and corn fields in the midwest, on the sprawling fruits and vegetable farms in the Salinas Valley of California or on the local and regional farms whose owners truck their crops to the 7,800 farmers’ markets across America. Agriculture is, by definition, about the management of nature– fertilizing the soil, getting rid of weeds, insuring that crops get the water they need. Even if you grow a few tomatoes or cucumbers in your backyard, you’re enjoying the product of decades of selective breeding.
The misguided fetish for the “natural” is a problem for a couple of reasons, as I’ll explain. But first, if you doubt that the claim of “natural” is a selling point, take a look at a few of the labels that I came across the other day at the Whole Foods Market in Bethesda, Md., where I live: [click to continue…]