Globalization and your fruits and veggies.
In this great age of globalization we have at our fingertips exotic delicacies from all over the world. From pre-packaged foods, to fresh produce and cheeses, to meats; perishable products today are being produced on massive scales, then sent to every corner of the planet for consumption. How did this come about? What effect, if any, does this have on foods such as fruits and veggies that we consume daily?
There are many contributing factors to the ease with which we are now able to ship ‘lower shelf life’ products feasibly across continents. One of the first and more obvious is a better global transit system. Larger and faster cargo ships as well as mightier airplanes with greater cargo capacity have made transporting the goods over large stretches of ocean much more cost effective and expedient, resulting in a more feasible shelf life. Then there is the already existing global rail networks and roads which naturally made trains and trucks ideal options to transport the goods across land directly to the consumer.
Transportation aside, another huge contributing factor is our ability to keep the perishable goods refrigerated or frozen. This is monumental in prolonging the life of the product in order to get it to the consumer before expiration. Before the ability to continually cool perishable items, often, the only way to get them over long distances was to preserve them, which would most likely hugely change texture, nutritional value and flavor.
Often, with items such as fruits and veggies, just cooling them was not enough to extend the product life to be able to make it to the consumer in good condition with time to be eaten, so other measures had to be taken by farmers to ensure extended long life and frequent similar flavor.
In order to meet extremely high demands and produce a more ‘ship friendly’ product, many farmers resorted to using specific hybrid strains of fruit that could more easily be grown in large amounts and were more naturally able to maintain their physical appearance and flavor.
For example, most of the bananas that we see in the supermarkets are called cavendish bananas. They are so widely sold here because they meet each of the aforementioned criteria to make them ideal for mass transport. They can easily be grown in large amounts. They have a naturally longer shelf life than heirloom bananas and are more able to retain their flavor and appearance.