The past two weeks have been tumultuous for food and agriculture, featuring the convergence of special interest agendas and consumer food trends into a series of high-profile business developments. In particular, Chick-fil-A’s announcement that the chain will begin selling only antibiotic-free chicken by 2019 and the growing importance of gluten-free foods have epitomized the economic viability of the “free from” moniker.
While gluten-free and antibiotic-free are hardly the same, both claims are used to help position a food’s wholesomeness. Claims such as these are among food and dietary trends that romanticize a time that is perceived as simpler and healthier. For instance, the gluten-free trend is closely related to the Paleo Diet, which encourages eating similarly to how our hunting and gathering ancestors ate. Even though such ideas aren’t necessarily supported by science, they’re backed by a complex marketplace that values the image of a quaint, wholesome life.
The last half of February also has seen even more special interest action, a new book criticizing the poultry industry – and new research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Meat Institute suggesting that the role of animal protein in the American diet may be trend-proof.