Consumers’ Role in the Industrialized Food System

In the first contemplative practice, the first thing I thought about was how healthy this raisin was for me. As a health-conscious individual, I knew that this processed raisin had some nutritional value. And then it dawned on me: as much as we like to associate industrialized food systems with words such as “processed” and “unhealthy”, we can also associate it with “nutritious” and “efficient”. As I was consuming the raisin, I was able to make out the flavors of various ingredients. I tasted the sweetness of the natural sugars of the raisin. I tasted the smooth, tarty coating of the raisin graze against my mouth. This raisin came to be starting as a grape grown on a plantation, picked by a farmer where it was sun dried, transported to a factory where it was processed, and then shipped to a retailer where it was sold.The “nutritious” raisin that I consumed was “efficiently” produced in an industrialized system.

So how are consumers impacted in a system which commodifies basic essentials such as food into items to be traded or bought? My relationship with the raisin led me to visualize the farm which it came from and the factory where it was processed. It led me to visualize the individuals whose labor it took to produce this one raisin: the farmer, the factory worker, the truck driver, the cashier, etc.Understanding the industrialized food system also requires the first hand experience we as consumers have with this system everyday. This is seen in how foods that are deemed “processed” are interpreted by the consumer as “unhealthy”. The consumer’s relationship with the food is also a relationship with the workers who produced it. Therefore the consumer’s relationship with their commodified product is crucial to the understanding of the industrialized food system.

3 thoughts on “Consumers’ Role in the Industrialized Food System

  1. Elena S Spasova


    I am also a health-conscious human being and I agree with your analysis that the industrialized food system is hard to understand for consumers who are trying to pick apart the truth from propaganda. I too struggle with which industries to support because in order to be both healthy and efficient.

    I think the best way to counter this culture is for the food industry to be more transparent about labor conditions and their sustainability goals. Do you agree? I also think it would be beneficial for companies to run under the precautionary principle like the EU. This would firstly, prevent future catastrophes, as well as keep consumers informed and involved in their industry. Because when the consumer feels like a participant in the system, the system will survive and thrive. This is what the industrialized food system should try to become. Starting with raisins.

  2. Marlee DeForest Blue


    Thank you for sharing your experience of experiencing the raisin. I found myself on a similar path of speaking when I did this contemplative excersize. Food is one of my favorite things in this world. I don’t even think I can really describe how much I love it. During this class, what has really struck me is how little I know about food, especially in terms of how it comes to be in front of me. Rarely do I stop to ask myself how many people contributed to the item I am about to consume; how many systems were in place to package and transport it to me. This contemplative excersize, as you pointed out, forced me to go further than just the raisin and its journey from grape till my mouth, but also all the systems that contribute to the raisins journey. Everything in this world is so connected and food is one of the places it all intersects the most. I completely agree with what you said that our relationship to food is crucial to the understanding of how it came to be in front of us. I think looking critically at what we eat is an important step towards building a more sustainable future.

  3. Eunice Lee

    Hi Matthew, 

    I had similar thoughts as we did the raisin contemplative practice, as with the chocolate one. I similarly starting thinking about how industrialized food system is associated with words like nutritionism, global, efficient. Yet, it never really dawned on me where my food comes from. There are cocoa farmers who have never eaten a chocolate bar before, and we have raisins, which I never realized how intense of a process it was to produce. I realized my view on food is quite self-centered. I tend to think more about if something is healthy for me, rather than if the production process of producing the food is healthy for the environment or the producers. These contemplative practices has re-focused my perspectives around food. 


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