Space-Aged Processed Food Flavor Technology

Apropos of the Processed Food / Processed Media analogy, I just found this fascinating Salon article about flavor chemistry…

“If you take a fresh strawberry after processing, it’s nothing. It tastes like nothing,” said Wright, as a way of explaining why the food industry is so reliant on the $12 billion global flavoring industry. 

Some of the demand for flavoring is related to how plants and animals are grown and raised. Wright urged me to try a taste test at home if I was so inclined. Take three different whole chickens, she said — an average, low-priced frozen one from the supermarket; a mass-produced organic version like Bell and Evans; and what she termed a “happy chicken.” This was a bird that had spent its life outside running around and eating an evolutionary diet of grass, seeds, bugs and worms. Roast them in your kitchen and note the taste. The cheap chicken, she said, will have minimal flavor, thanks to its short life span, lack of sunlight and monotonous diet of corn and soy. The Bell and Evans will have a few “roast notes and fatty notes,” and the happy chicken will be “incomparable,” with a deep, succulent, nutty taste. Wright, as you might imagine, prefers consuming chickens of the happy variety, which her husband, who is also a flavorist (he works from home as a consultant), is generally the one to cook.

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