You are you and I am me because of processed foods, because our ancestors learned how to cook meat and make bread and, perhaps more importantly, beer. Accordingly, our brains grew and our guts transformed. But those two words smashed together, processed foods, take on new terror in this era of organic, locally sourced, artisanal, cage-free, free-range, I-want-to-know-the-given-name-of-the-chicken-I’m-eating food.
But it’s time to get real about processed foods. For one, processed doesn’t have to mean unhealthy, and indeed it’s only because of certain processed foods that people around the world get the nutrition they need. Two, processed foods keep better, cutting down on food waste. And three, if we expect to feed a growing population on a planet with finite arable land, we have to engineer new sources of food, protein in particular.
The core of the confusion around processed foods is definitional. According to the Institute of Food Technologists, processing is—and get ready for this—“one or more of a range of operations, including washing, grinding, mixing, cooling, storing, heating, freezing, filtering, fermenting, extracting, extruding, centrifuging, frying, drying, concentrating, pressurizing, irradiating, microwaving, and packaging.”
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