Announcing the netroots ad campaign for Real Food

I'm on the plane, supposedly on vacation as of four hours ago, and yet I can't stop thinking about this Hellman's Mayonnaise campaign for "real" food. It really gets my goat that one company spends as much on advertising to associate its shelf-stable, caged-egg-based food product, also known as mayonnaise, than the mighty United States government does to promote farmers markets. (If I had Internet on the plane, I'd look up where the phrase "get my goat" came from.)

I hear the "netroots" have become a force to be reckoned with, that politicians and changemakers are looking to us to see which way the ever-warming wind blows. I propose that we bloggers mount an alternative campaign for Real Food to counter Hellman's. Collectively, we reach as many "eyeballs" in marketing parlance as they do, and I suspect the actual brains behind these retinas know what real food really is.

So: are you up for some true grassroots marketing? Let's claim Real Food for reality-based food communities everywhere. Advertising is just another way to say nothing left to choose. Write your own real-food manifesto, and if you want, put a link to it in the comments section below.

To me, Real Food:

  • Grows in the earth, not in a test tube or a petri dish or on an assembly line.
  • Comes from animals that have just one bad day in their life (versus living on death row)
  • Was grown or made by someone I know, or at least am only a few degrees removed from, not by a machine or someone who has zero interest in knowing me
  • Is the product of evolution, not an attempt to hack genetic code that we barely understand
  • Is solar-powered, not fossil-fueled
  • Offers a symphony of taste, in contrast to factory food, which has just three basic notes — salty, sweet, and/or fatty.

This is Real Food, Exhibit A:

Chicken from Clark Summit Farm in Tomales, CA.

I roasted this chicken with butter, oregano from my herb garden, kosher salt, and pepper. (Annoyingly, I failed to upload the lovely photo of the cooked chicken from home before I left for vacation, but I'll add it later.)

The meat had texture, and dripped with the flavors of sun and grass: it tasted, basically, of life lived. It kicked factory chicken's butt. This chicken is to "nuggets" as silk is to polyester.

Even better, I saw where this chicken lived and scratched and strolled, I know what it ate; Clark Summit raises broiler chickens called Freedom Rangers that really do roam freely after a few weeks in the typical "chicken tractors."

I may have even helped catch the particular one I ate on harvest day. (Did you know that holding a chicken by its feet upside down renders it as placid as a zombie?) While I didn't actually slit its throat while it hung immobilized in the tin cone — deciding to leave that to the people who knew what they were doing — I did help process it: cut off its head and feet once it was dead, pluck the remaining few feathers with pliers, disembowel and de-gland it, then empty the crop and trim the liver and heart. An interesting experience for an ex-vegetarian, although I confess I'd already popped my carnivore cherry a few weeks earlier, watching a beef and pork "harvest." And before you protest the euphemism, as I also did previously, consider that these are animals raised to be food, slaughtered when their meat has reached its peak weight and flavor. What is that, if not ripeness?

This is Real Food, Exhibit B

Deviled eggs: Eggs from Clark Summit Farm, mayonnaise (brand not important), dijon mustard, Fatted Calf bacon, and chives from my herb garden

14 Responsesto “Announcing the netroots ad campaign for Real Food”

  1. Don Luis says:

    I looked up "get my goat" for you. Apparently, it comes from the early 20th century American practice of putting a goat (or a sheep) in the stall of a thoroughbred race horse to calm it down before a race, and competitors would bet against the horse, steal the goat, and hope for the best.

  2. deliberately says:

    Dairy Queen: as always, great post. And thanks for not only saying that you wanted it to be local and "co-produced" but recognizing that co-production sometimes comes with the ugly side, meaning the actual slaughter and processing of the animals we eat. I'm a carnivore, but I'm also sensitive to connecting what it takes to get meat to the table. Your assessment portrays well the ranch to table connection. We love your writing and look forward to the next installment.

  3. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    I am all for the idea of claiming "Real Food" for reality-based food communities. But just writing manifestos will not stop big companies marketing campaigns.

    The big problem I see is: If we make the effort to associate the term "Real Food" with what we believe real food to be, how long before a large company like Hellman's or a conglomerate of large companies (like the people that are trying to change chocolate) copyright or trademark the phrase for themselves? Have they already done it?

    "They" have already begun to change the term "organic", as well as many other words used to describe real food As a result, I have made an effort to stop using that word unless I am referring to the co-opting of the word or I am trying to describe the type of food that I consider to be real food to food civilians. Unfortunately, it is too late for the word "organic". Many of my friends and relatives who used to listen to me rant about real food are now proudly buying "organic" food that is not exactly what I consider organic food to be.

    Do we have to trademark the term "Real Food"? Not a bad idea? Is it too late already? Do we get a lawyer in the house and shall we begin a fund-raising effort? Hmm....

    My first thought, and the way I have been treating the situation, was to not use any specific term to describe what I consider real food to be. I have a list of criteria that I follow when buying or talking about food, and that is all I thought I could do. Can companies trademark my list of criteria?

    Maybe we should trademark the term for ourselves. There is already a restaurant, a book, a company, and who knows what else. Is it too late? Or do we just pick a new term that we feel may work and trademark that?

    I wish I had the answers. Instead, I will go cook my self breakfast using eggs from my CSA and veggies from my garden.

  4. Bonnie aka Dairy Queen says:

    Thanks Don, for the reference (I had no idea) & Deliberately, for the kind words. Nosher: I refuse to stop using words because they're in the process of being co-opted. Maybe I'm naive, but I don't think "organic" and "real food" have had their meaning completely hollowed out yet; if enough of us bother to take a semantic stand for them, perhaps they can be retrieved.

  5. cookie jill says:

    Let the challenge bloggin' begin!

  6. Hey, you're violating the vacation code!

    I love this post, and agree with your definition of Real Food. I suspect that the solar-powered aspect of it (especially when it comes to sheltering animals indoors during the winter months) is not yet realized, but is a fantastic goal.

    My favorite of your Real Food definitions is the last - a "symphony of taste." Play on!

  7. Pat Anderson says:

    Real food is beautiful, as well as tasty.
    http://www.patanderson.net/PhotoCurrantsUrnGranite.html
    (I cooked them up with sugar)

  8. Peter aka Nosher of the North says:

    Bonnie - You shouldn't be answering these...you're on vacation!!!

    I meant no disrespect to your proposed effort, but wanted to suggest that we could take an approach similar to the one the Bono has taken with his (Red) campaign. We may have to play their game to beat them at it.

    Big Organic or the Hellman's new Real Food campaign isn't aimed at you or I or most readers of this blog. We've educated ourselves to see each piece food for what it really is rather than how the marketing forces behind it is trying to make us see it.

    If we want to reclaim the term 'real food' we should see if it is legally available - although I would be surprised if it isn't already owned.

    Whatever the effort will be, I will be behind it!

  9. Pat Anderson says:

    McDonald's Corp. has trademarked "Real Food, Real Flavor... Real Good!" for its Boston Market frozen foods.

  10. Bonnie / |DQ says:

    Hi everybody -- glad to have your support. I'm not surprised Real Food is trademarked, those rat bastards. Ed, your manifesto is the best damn call to arms I think I've ever read, even if you do like Crystal Light. I'm coming over to your house next time I'm in DC and camping out until I get dinner.

    Viva la revolution!

    P.S. I didn't say I was taking a vacation from blogging, just the Digest... although the lack of wireless in this otherwise lovely Den Haag apartment is seriously cramping my style.

  11. If one were to trademark the phrase "real food" perhaps it should be under the creative commons license?

  12. Peter says:

    Very timely, and urgently needed. Kudos to all who share the desire and motivation for honest nutrition from the Earth. I wrote this on the eve of Independence day, thinking about our new-found (recently moved, first year with a garden and no TV) independence from bad food and the advertising that makes us (and our children) want it. Here's the link:

    http://quisimangiabene.blogspot.com/2007/07/mission-statement.html

    Cheers!

    PS Maybe we should come up with a disparaging moniker for the McD et al style, rather than bicker about ownership of a phrase they've already stolen; how about "foodesque" or "it's like food, but it slowly kills you" or "nutritional simulacra" for the academics. Nothing gets to the heart of it quite like the "Chickie Nubs" from Atwood's Oryx & Crake.

  13. billie says:

    Real food almost does not exist anymore! It seems like everything on the shelves in the supermarket has been pumped full of msg or modified with food dyes. Trying to feed a family of four a diet of real, organic, nutritious food is a costly practice. I just want to be able to give my kids a healthy start and that means eating as close to the Earth, as close to our door as possible--I applaud the efforts of companies who are truly improving the way Americans eat but a big BOO goes out to the 'all natural' msg laden cereals, and the 'farm raised' hormone injected chicken that I see people buying. Not everyone has been educated about what these labels mean (or don't mean)... brands who deliberately mislead the public are beyond aggrevating.