It honestly amazes me the lengths to which big food manufacturers will go to convince us that the highly processed dreck they're serving us is "natural." But even more amazing are the ways our brain tricks us into believing them. The latest example? Turns out food manufacturers are spending big money to make sure their "natural" foods don't look like they came off an assembly line. And we're buying it.
The old adage says that we eat first with our eyes, and food manufacturers seem to be taking it to heart. Consumers want foods that look like they were cooked by hand or in someone's home—and if the label says "natural" or "artisan," the food had better not look too perfect.
Take, for example, the new Egg White Delight McMuffin that McDonalds rolled out this year. While nothing about the muffin is "natural" or "artisan" it is supposed to be healthy fast food, and apparently that is partially signaled by the fact that the egg whites have a loose shape—rather than the hockey pucks served on the regular Egg McMuffins.
A recent AP article reports that:
- Kraft actually invested more than two years of research and development into building a special cutting machine that would replicate the way people slice turkey at home, ensuring that no two packages of its (highly processed) Carving Board line of turkey lunch meat look exactly the same.
- Hillshire Brands Co. darkens the edges of its turkey with caramel coloring to "give the impression that it was just sliced from a Thanksgiving roast."
- Wendy's has softened the straight edges of its famously square burgers because focus groups reported the square patties "looked processed." (Um, duh!)
- Dominos employees are instructed not to make the rectangular crust of their "Artisan Pizzas" look too perfect, as the pies are meant to have a rustic look.
And by all accounts, we're falling for it. "They can't change the fact that they're making processed products so they have to use these other tricks to pretend," Michele Simon, a public health lawyer and author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back told the AP.
Photo Credit: Used with permission from manreviewsfood.com