Food is, by and large, trust-based commerce. What ends up on your plate doesn't have a bar code and is nearly impossible to track. Yelp will tell you if people think something is tasty, but there's no Consumer Reports, no Angie's List or litmus test for the veracity of menu claims. And the government isn't equipped to police on our behalf. Thus, some farmers and farm-to-table restaurateurs have a lot of leeway to misrepresent what they sell. Why would they do this? Because they can charge three times as much and everyone bathes in the warm glow of ethical eating.
Are we doomed to be duped?
Tampa Bay Times food critic and UF Science Journalist-in-Residence Laura Reiley says we're probably not doomed, but we've got to be willing to exert more effort. We need to understand seasonality, use social media effectively and be pushy about defining terms — what, precisely, does responsibly raised mean? The bottom line is that the farm-to-table movement will die a death of a thousand cuts if there aren’t focused efforts to make the system transparent.
The Science Journalist in Residence (SJR) program is funded by the Office of the Provost, the Office of Research and the College of Journalism and Communications.