Seeing through the hype as “food experts” carp about food choice

Had a carp steak lately? How about a helping of carp fillets or maybe a heaping basket of carp fritters?

I’m betting the answer is a resounding “no” for most of us. And we’d all be pretty surprised to discover that there was a government campaign launched about a century ago to get Americans to eat more carp. The ugly fish filled up lakes and streams at the time and were viewed as an economical source of protein.

Obviously the “Eat the Carp” campaign was a flop. Carp may be a delicacy in some parts of the world, but didn’t catch on here. There are just so many other delicious and affordable sources of protein, like pork, beef and lamb, which make a lot more sense for American palettes.

But the fishy food campaign of the early 1900s does show how food recommendations come and go over the years. It’s also a good example how American consumers over the years have been able to cut through the hype and use good common sense to choose a nutritious and balanced diet.

Nobody that I know of is pushing carp these days, but there is no shortage of people on television, in magazines and everywhere else who are telling Americans how to eat. Celebrity chefs take cheap shots at everything from eggs to chocolate milk. Activists falsely accuse corn sweeteners of being the prime source of obesity in America. And groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS continue to push their anti-meat agenda with events like Food Day, which is scheduled for this October. It goes on and on.

Basically, these folks are trying to shame consumers into giving up their choice of foods.

There was a recent cartoon that caught my eye. It showed a few poor consumers shackled in stocks, the kind the Puritans used to shame lawbreakers. The offenders’ crimes: eating salt, carbs and whatever else the food police determined was forbidden.

I chuckled at the cartoon, but there’s a lot of truth to it.

Today’s farmers are producing an almost endless variety of foods that offer consumers affordable, healthy choices: choices that our ancestors could hardly imagine.

Yet many so-called experts today seem determined to shame consumers into feeling guilty about choosing.

In the end, we’ve got to hope that today’s consumers see these food campaigns for what they are: attempts to keep consumers from making their own choices of nutritious foods for themselves and their families.

It didn’t work with carp, did it?

Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau.