U.S. Army Influences Food Available in the Market
Did you know that a lot of the food you can find in the supermarket nowadays was actually invented exclusively for soldiers, and not for public consumption?
It's true. Goldfish crackers, ready-to-eat guacamole, canned goods, deli meats, and energy bars-their origins can all be traced back to the military.
Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, the author of Combat-Ready Kitchen: How The U.S. Military Shapes The Way You Eat, says in her new book that a lot of the packaged or processed food that are stocked in shelves of supermarkets began as Army science experiments. They were initially intended to form part of the combat rations for our soldiers. We have the military to thank for most advancements in food-preservation.
Take a look her interview:
How do products from Army experiments end up on shelves in the supermarket?
Most people don't realize that the military has a policy to get the science that it uses for rations into the public's food. The reason is military preparedness. This dates back to a policy that was made after World War II, which is designed to make sure both the military and its supporters can be ready at a moment's notice to convert over to producing rations or to create consumer products that they might be substituted in their stead. The key point here is that companies don't generally invest in basic and applied food science. What the Army is looking at is the big questions in food science. There are not many other places interested or able to do the research, so the Army guides the direction of food science.
Give us an example of a food technology unique to the U.S. military.
There's something called high-pressure processing. It's not so much a surprise, but a wonderful example of how the Army organizes itself. They pick a topic, decide to pursue it and organize a team to solve the problem. The issue was finding new ways to preserve food, and HPP came out of that.
HPP is the application of a tremendous amount of pressure to food. The example I usually give is: Picture 20 minivans on a single penny. [The force applied] is that extreme, and what that does is it kills any bacteria that may be in the food.
The important thing here is that along the way, companies took the technique and began applying it to their own products. Many of the single-serving fresh juices use this [method] - it's a way to sterilize juice without losing the flavor. Ready-to-eat guacamole uses HPP, and so do many salsas. The big one is Hormel. In the mid-2000s, it applied the technique to deli meats. This whole line of deli meats now says no preservatives on the label, and that probably means it was produced with HPP.
Can you give us a sneak peek on what the Army might come up with next?
One thing they're working on is shelf-stable pizza. What I mean by that is the vision of the future is really a place where we don't need refrigeration. This pizza could just be left in your pantry for a long time, like as long as you leave [canned goods].
They're also working on shelf-stable sandwiches, wraps and bagels. In fact, it seems like the military is moving to a system where they want to reduce or eliminate regular hot meals like breakfast, lunch and dinners. Instead, they'd just provide day-long grazing options for soldiers. I think we could definitely see this affect the consumer market in the future.
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