Friday, August 16, 2013

Processed, Packaged Foods Gave Women The Freedom To Enter The Workforce

From Bloomberg, "How Wonder Bread Fed the Women's Movement" by Megan McArdle:
Michael Hobbes explains the obvious in his discussion of Michael Moss's book, "Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us"that stuff is in it because without it, your food will quickly go bad, and/or taste terrible.
Hobbes blames capitalism, which has forced companies to sell us salt-sugar-and-fat-laden foods because if they don’t, they’ll lose market share. But a more accurate culprit would be “women who would like to do something other than spending the equivalent of a full modern workweek preparing food.” That’s right -- in the Victorian era, keeping the family fed took well north of 30 hours a week. Getting out of the kitchen meant that the industrial supply chain had to take over many of the tasks that women used to do by hand, from plucking chickens to baking bread.

These innovations are the reason that the average modern woman spends only four to five hours a week on food. If we were making everything from fresh, raw, unprocessed ingredients, our food would contain much less sugar and fat and salt, and it would contain many more hours of our lives. Clearly, most of us are not willing to make that trade-off.

I don’t mean to say that the industrialization of our supply chain was caused by the women’s movement -- 1950s housewives were big fans of packaged and processed food. Rather, the causation goes the other way: no pre-packaged foods, no women’s liberation. We’d still be in the kitchen, making marinara from the fresh tomatoes we’d grown in our own gardens.
Besides, most people don’t feel they can afford to spend $20 a week just on bread, that being what it would cost to procure a daily fresh loaf from my nearest bakery. You can similarly multiply the costs of other foods, if you want them absolutely fresh -- so fresh that they don’t require preservation and flavor enhancement.

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