Episode #014
Mark Schatzker: Deception + Dishonesty Are Flavoring Human Nutrition

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Our Mark Schatzker interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Dave Chapman: Welcome to the Real Organic Podcast. My guest today is Mark Schatzker. Mark is the author of the Dorito Effect: The Surprising New Truth About Food And Flavor and another book called Steak: One Man’s Search For The World’s Tastiest Piece Of Beef. Hi Mark, how are you doing? I haven’t seen you since we had dinner together at the Shelburne Inn, after Nourish Vermont, David Hollenbeck’s really wonderful conference. That was a great conference. It was a great dinner. It was a great dinner and you gave a great talk. And I had not read your book before that and he invited me to introduce you. And I thought “well, I better read the guy’s book.” And so I did, and I will tell everybody that it is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was so well-written and so well-researched,You know, most books people really could get away with just putting out the first two or three chapters and the last chapter and you’d really have the book, but that was not the case with the Dorito Effect.

Mark Schatzker: That’s very kind of you. It’s also one of the best books I’ve ever written, but I’ve only written two.

Dave Chapman: I hear you’re writing a third.

Mark Schatzker: I am. Yeah, it’s in the, kind of the late stages of production.

Dave Chapman: Kind of what is that about? Well, it’s,

Mark Schatzker: You know, picking up where the Dorito effect left off, really looking at how a lot of the changes we’ve made in food in terms of literally how it tastes, the signals that food feeds our brain. Exactly how that’s, that’s making things go wrong, how it’s messing up our metabolism, how it’s making people gain weight. It’s really drilling down on some of the latest neuroscience in, in terms of how our brain understands food.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. That’s, that’s great. Another two people I interviewed, you might know Dave Montgomery and ambit clay who wrote the hidden half of nature together and they are writing a book on basically connecting soil and Newt and nutrition. Yeah. Yup.

Mark Schatzker: Yeah. That’s a great topic. And it’s, it’s certainly not what most people think about it. They just think of the food on their plate and they don’t think about where it came from. So, and there’s an amazing story behind that.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. So let’s, let’s dive into the Dorito effect. How did, how did you come to that? What, what, what started that journey?

Mark Schatzker: No, it started with Steak. Steak was my first book and it’s just like, it’s One Man’s Search for the World’s Tastiest Piece of Beef. It was fun. I traveled all over the world eating steak, but you start to ask interesting questions like, you know, why does food tastes good? I learned interesting things. I go to visit a ranch and there’d be some pregnant cows in one field and some steers in another and the steers are fattening and the, you know, the rancher would tell me, well, you know, the, the cows are in that field. They’re, they’re feeding on Clover because they have a higher protein requirement because they’re pregnant and you think, well, how does a cow know that there’s protein and Clover? How does it, does it count even know what Clover is? And you start to realize that we think of animals as being incredibly stupid, these, these dumb beasts in a field just munching away.

And when you actually drill down on the science of grazing, it’s fascinating. Animals have an intelligence that I think we’ve lost, that they know what they need to eat. The other thing I noticed during the steak book is that you know, as much as we rave about steak houses and dry aged beef and this and that pretty much, the entire world is eating incredibly mediocre beef. Beef has lost its flavor. It doesn’t taste the way it used to. You know, I talk about this with old timers. They say, you know, you got that, right. And they remember fondly the amazing beef of their youth, but it’s nothing like that today. And that’s because we’ve gotten incredibly good at producing incredible volumes of beef at the lowest price possible. And we’ve paid for that both in terms of the nutrient density of the beef, but also the flavor.

So that was telling me something pretty interesting because I found that the best tasting beef, the best steak was a really great grass fed steak, which was also the most nutrient dense the best for the planet and also the best for the cow. So it’s really not what I expected because we think of beef as being this incredibly indulgent, destructive food. It destroys the planet. It destroys you. And there’s this idea that what is pleasurable is bad for you. And here I’m getting the signal that no, actually we’ve got that totally backwards. The steak that was bringing me the greatest joy was also the best, pretty much for everybody. So that prompted me to look more deeply. It’s not, it’s not a story that’s exclusive to steak. It’s true of all the food that we create and that we eat. The last, you know, 50 to 100 years have seen just an incredible expansion in the volume of food that we produce.

And it’s very important. We have less farmland than we used to, and our populations exploded. So on the one hand, that’s good because we have more massive feed. But the one thing we don’t think about is how have we paid for that? And we’ve paid for it in terms of flavor and also nutrition that the food we eat is kind of like a pale imitation of what it used to be. And I think, you know, some of us realize this most acutely when you take something like an heirloom tomato or a great strawberry, and it just hits you, it just floors you you’re blown away by it. And that’s how food is supposed to taste. And it’s telling us something, there’s a reason. It tastes good.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. I am often thinking that we’re like the frog in the pot that is slowly heating up because we, we, we don’t know what’s changed, but, but if you step back and look at it, you realize that the velocity of change of our food system is, you know, work five. I mean, we are, we are, things are changing so quickly. That’s what the Dorito effect laid out. So clearly.

Mark Schatzker: Yes. And the reason I called the Dorito effect is because it is such a Crispin calculation of what’s happened to food that, that literally the corn substrate from which the chip has made we’ve had incredible you know, boosts in terms of corn yield, but it tastes less like corn than if you taste heirloom corn, but we’ve also dusted it with flavorings. We’ve, we’ve made, it tastes like something that it isn’t. And we tend to think this is okay, because we sort of think flavors is unimportant thing that the brain doesn’t know what I need. You know, what I need is like protein and vitamins and what the heck does my brain know? It turns out it’s not that simple. And the Dorito really encapsulates what’s happened to food. We’ve just kind of have this high calorie delivery vehicle for flavors that, that we have imposed.

Well, this is really a very recent development up until about 60 or 70 years ago. This flavor industry, which is worth billions today was just a tiny little industry that did things like, like syrups and extract. And flavor came from nature. You know, if you want it to taste a great apple, you had to get a great apple. If you want it to taste a great piece of fried chicken, you had to get a great chicken and you had to know how to cook it, but we’ve turned that all over to Ted. Now we produce chicken that is devoid of flavor. You know, if you look at the way recipes have changed, it used to be the chicken just needed salt and pepper. Now you brine it and then you have to put a dry rub on it. And then you have to blitz it with something after you’ve cooked it because it just needs so much help. There’s so little going on there. And it really is astonishing. You know, food sort of looks the way it used to but it really doesn’t taste the way it used to. And we have to work so hard to make it flavorful. Cool.

Dave Chapman: So why doesn’t a chicken tastes the way a chicken used to taste?

Mark Schatzker: Because we have you know, chickens, probably the most interesting story we’ve really altered chicken, the most of, of any animal part of the reason that chickens, you know, when they have a brood, they have lots of them. So you can really breed for certain traits very quickly. But essentially the chickens we eat today are much larger and much, much younger than they used to be. So chicken in the late 1940s would have been something like 12 to 18 weeks old. Now they’re about six or seven weeks old and they weigh more. We’ve just genetically bred them to just grow extremely quickly. We, we give them a very you know a feed that’s very rich and macro nutrients, lots of protein, lots of energy. And they’re just protein producing machines. They just get big so quickly. The prices come down. There’s literally a chicken in every pot, but it doesn’t taste like chicken.

Mark Schatzker: I mean, one of the most interesting things is that we say when something’s flavorless, that it kind of tastes like chicken, but once upon a time, chicken really did have a distinct and wonderful and incredible flavor in anyone’s who ever had the opportunity to eat what I think of as a real chicken and heirloom chicken and chicken that reflects its own life that reflects, you know, the fields where I grew up in and all the little things that it ate, the little critters and the leaves that is just an amazing experience. And it’s not something you get from March chicken,

Dave Chapman: Something that’s being lost now.

Mark Schatzker: Absolutely. In fact, most people, I would say, don’t know what chicken tastes like. Right. It’s really only the old timers I made. I go on with these chickens and comforter from my dad who was born in the early thirties in Europe. And he said, I haven’t tasted a chicken like that since the war.

Dave Chapman: Wow. Yeah. I read that 99% of the meat milk and eggs in America come from CAFOs from confinement operations. And I, you know, when I was a kid, there were no CAFOs. It wasn’t that long ago. Yeah.

Mark Schatzker: Yeah. It all changed very quickly. And they’re, they’re essentially, you know, factories.

Dave Chapman: So why did it change seeing less the food doesn’t taste as good?

Mark Schatzker: You know, it’s a really interesting question because it’s not the same in every culture. You don’t see as many CAFOs in Europe, for example you see things in France, for example, like the Pula breasts or the LaBelle reus chicken, where they have different standards of chicken, where they have to be raised a certain way. We did notice it. If you look, I’m someone who voraciously reads old cookbooks and you can see that cookbook authors, I think it’s Paula Wolfert. She has an interesting I think it’s her, her book on Moroccan cuisine. She talks about if you’re, this is in the sixties, she’s saying or a seventies, if you’re eating a chicken, that’s been scientifically bread and she’s talking about, even then she noticed that chicken was lacking flavor. Julia child noticed it in mastering the art of French cooking that she said modern, modern breeding has done wonders to create plump cheap chickens, but, you know, they’ve lost flavor. So people didn’t notice it, but overall it was just a steady drip, drip loss. And we didn’t realize why it was happening. I think people thought, well, you know, it’s great. Food is cheap. And, and on the one hand, you know, we do have mouths to feed and a lot of people struggle with food affordability. But you know, north America, I would say more than anywhere, really. We really lost flavor. We, we lost our, our, our awareness of it and our love for it.

Dave Chapman: Okay. So we, we have read that north America has the cheapest food in the history of the world that we all contribute less of our annual income to buying food than has ever been true. And it’s much cheaper than Europe and much cheaper, cheaper than in America’s history, too. It’s

Mark Schatzker: True. And you know, the interesting thing to think about is that, you know, where does that food go? It goes in your mouth and then your body. And if you think about it, it’s, for some reason we have this fixation with cheap food, but when you think of other things, I couldn’t even tell you what the cheapest car is. I’m not sure. I don’t know anybody who buys the absolute cheapest clothes. If I needed to buy the, the cheapest pair of shoes, I wouldn’t know where to go. That’s not to say I buy really expensive shoes, but I’m not even sure where these things are, because there’s always idea of like, well, I want some quality, right? I want to buy a decent car at the very least, but with food, it’s like, no, it’s gotta be the cheapest. I even meet people who are extremely wealthy and they talk about the great deal they get on steak at this or that, you know, big box places there they’re really winning. They got a great deal on food.

Dave Chapman: Hmm. Okay. So, so here’s the question. Do we think that it is a great deal? One of the things that you talk about is that the flavor is so good at fooling us into thinking that we are eating something different from what we’re eating. So if they can take a chicken and dress it up, so it tastes like a chicken again, why should we care? Yeah,

Mark Schatzker: That’s a great question because if, if it’s cheaper and it tastes good and it makes, you know, lights up those pleasure centers in my brain, what’s the big deal? Well, the big deal is why do things have flavor in the first place? We are a culture of nutritionists. We, we think that the experience of food is this kind of fleeting, you know, idiotic thing that we have to push out of our brains. And what really matters is the nutrients. We get obsessed with these different diet trends. We think we, we think we have some understanding of the amount of calories or vitamins in the food that we have no clue. It’s, it’s kind of this mass illusion. So you have to ask yourself, why does flavor exist? It’s really interesting. If you look at your blueprints, your design, your DNA, the fittest chapter in that whole book to make you is on making your food, sensing equipment, your nose, and your mouth, literally your flavor sensing equipment.

That is the thickest chapter. It’s a bigger chapter on how to make your eyes, how to make your brain, how to make your sex organs. So from an evolutionary point of view, it must be really, really important for us to have all that DNA devoted to it. So what is it doing? Why is that we put food in our mouth. It, it actually triggers a bigger burst of action, your gray matter than anything else. Well, the answer comes, we can’t tell by looking at ourselves the best. I think the best way to understand this is to look at animals where, where I initially got this idea from looking at the way cattle behave. And in the book, I spent a lot of time with a scientist by the name of Fred Provenza who studied flavor, feedback, relationships. And he showed very crisply how it works, why we have the sense, and it all comes down to this in a very simple level.

The nutrients that we eat, the micronutrients, especially are inert. You can’t taste things like you know, the vitamins and food or the minerals. We have no ability to, to sense them so that we had to evolve some way of knowing what was in our food before we ate it. So Fred would do experiments. For example, he would make sheep deficient in phosphorus, which is a necessary mineral. You don’t get phosphorus, you die. He would make them deficient. And then he’d give them a choice of feeds. Some of these sheep would get a coconut flavor feed and some would get a maple flavor feed. And that’s all it was, was just flavor. But then he kind of, he was, you know, he’s smart in the way scientists are, he would inject into their room and either water or phosphorus. So he would pair the needed nutrient with the flavor.

The flavor remember had nothing to do with it. It was just a pairing. But what he found is that the sheep learned that the flavor of maple equals phosphorus. So when Fred would go and make them phosphorus deficient again, what do they do? They go out looking for maple flavored food because their brain understands. That’s how I get what I need. And you might be thinking, well, hold on a second. Maybe Sheik just liked the flavor of maple. So he switched it up in another experiment. He had the coconut paired with the phosphorus and those sheep when they would become deficient in that needed mineral would seek out the coconut. So that is why we have this incredibly sensitive sensing equipment that picks up these little chemical cues from food, because that’s why we know what’s in it. And when food lights up our brains with pleasure, it’s telling us something, there’s another really good example of this.

Scientists, the University of Florida named Harry CLI has been studying tomatoes. He’s been trying to return flavor to tomatoes, but in order to understand how to get flavor into tomatoes, he had to understand how tomatoes make flavor. And he found that there’s about 26 different aromatic compounds and tomatoes that really light, light up the brain. This is what we really love and tomatoes. And what he did is he looked to see how does the tomato make that flavor? Cause if I can figure out how it makes the flavor, I can start to manipulate those genetic pathways through breeding. And what he found is that the flavor compounds and tomatoes that we love, that, that, you know, really may make us go, wow, that tastes great. They are all synthesized from essential nutrients in a tomato, from vitamins, from omega threes. So you can think of the flavor of a tomato as kind of being a chemical projection of what’s in the tomato.

So when you bite into tomato and it tastes great, your brain is going, there’s good stuff in there. I should be eating more of that. So that it makes a lot of sense, right? We, you know, evolution w you know, our evolutionary past was a tough time where we had limited time and limited resources to nourish ourselves. And we had to do a good job of it. And that’s why we develop the sense. That’s why animals have this flavor feedback mechanism. So then you look at something like the flavor industry, where we’re plucking these chemicals out of nature. And that’s what they do. I mean, they go into the rainforest, they go into orchards, they get fruit, they get soup, they do all sorts of things. They analyze the flavor chemicals, and then they produce them in factories and start to put them in soups and chips in, in literally anything you can imagine. That’s why this is a problem, because we are creating this sheen of nutrition, but it’s a lie because you’re not getting what the food is telling you that you’re getting.

Dave Chapman: Okay. Got it. I have so many questions. This is great. So those 6 26 aromatic compounds, would those be considered secondary plant metabolites? Yeah. Yes.

Mark Schatzker:
And that’s a great word. Secondary. Yeah. Secondary plant metabolites or compounds. And so what’s a secondary compound. If you look at the history of botany, scientists are trying to understand plants and they were looking for the important things like, like the energy and the, the lignin, the structure of a plant. But then there was all these chemicals that plants produce, like tens of thousands of them that just seem to have purpose at all. They just didn’t seem to be doing anything. So they call them secondary and they had all sorts of weird theories. Maybe this is like a waste product that the plant just couldn’t get rid of. They just didn’t really know. And then they figured out it finally dawned on them that these are produced for strategic reasons. So if you look at something like I use the example in the book of a corn field, when, when a corn plant is attacked by a particular caterpillar, the corn will send out an alarm, a chemical alarm.

It sends out these chemicals and it alerts other corn plants. It says, Hey, you better watch out. There’s bad guys that are trying to eat us, but it also sends out a signal to parasitic wasps, wasps that lay their eggs inside these caterpillars, and really eat them from the inside out. So the, the corn plant is communicating or cotton plants do it too. Lots of plants do this, communicating with insects, and they do it with these, what they call volatile, aromatic compounds or secondary compounds compounds that don’t really have anything to do with the life of the plant. It’s not energy. It’s not about reproduction. It’s about signaling. So in nature, flavor is communication.

It’s, it’s how organisms talk to one another. It’s how information is shared. So that, that’s what flavor is. It’s it’s chemical signals. And that’s why we have sensors that pick these things up.

Dave Chapman: So I know that you’ve, you’ve written that even, even in grass fed beef there’s a, there’s a big range of quality based on the quality of the, of the soil, the quality of the grass, the quality of those different plant species. I think one of your, the heroes of your first book was Glenn Elzinga who one of our real organic project farmers. Yeah.

Mark Schatzker: Glenn is I mean, he’s, he’s an amazing rancher and he’s a dear friend and just a wonderful guy. I mean, just an inspiring person.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. We, we all, you know, bow to Glenn, he’s really a national treasure. So you know, there’s a difference in, in which secondary plant compounds are going to be in the plant and those, the variety, the diversity of those is going to signal to us whether the food is in fact, nutritionally dense and nutritionally diverse. Is that, did I get that right? Yeah. I

Mark Schatzker: Would say that, you know, what what’s really interesting is you can think of the flavor of, of any, you know, kind of natural meat as kind of a biography of that animal. If anyone’s ever eaten a deer or an antelope that was grazing heavily on Sage brush, like you taste the Sage. So, so there’s something interesting biologically that there’s this little, these little gates that open that let certain chemicals into the cell and you can taste them. So the, the flavor of something like good grass fed beef really is a reflection of the land, where it came from. So, you know, in, in the world of wine, they call this terroir, but, but you’re, you know, that is reflective of its environment. And that’s why you’ll get different tasting beef from different parts of the country. It’s not to say one, you know, people like to say, well, what’s the best. And it’s really not about that. It’s just that, there’s this beauty in this diversity of flavor that is reflective of the land.

Dave Chapman: Do you think that the reason that we like some food, like we like the chicken from a hundred years ago, or the French chicken better than the, the modern Purdue factory chicken, the reason that tastes better to us is that we co-evolved with those animals and with those ecosystems that they are signaling to us, this is good food for you.

Mark Schatzker: Yeah. I, I think, yes, I think so. I think humans have been eating meat for an awfully long time, and I think we need some way of knowing is this good or not? You, you can’t, it doesn’t make it. It’s very inefficient to figure out 40 minutes after you’ve eaten your meal. Was it any good? See, so you need to know in the moment, is this good? Is this worth eating? You can taste, it tastes a piece of fruit. It can be really bland. It can be pretty good, or it can just overwhelm you. And the, and it’s telling us something about the quality.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. I was at a workshop at a seminar at the tuck school of business at Dartmouth, and it was on new food technologies and they were talking about fake meat. And the guy said how they had worked and identified five secondary plant compounds that were very important. These were the ones. And I, I asked a question and it got a lot of votes, so they asked it and I said, do you think that some of the other, and I’ll, I’ll ask you how many, how many secondary plant compounds are there?

Mark Schatzker: I don’t think anybody knows it it’s in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands, maybe millions it’s, it’s just an unknown quantity. I know in talking to people that research specific fruits, they’ll tell you, we don’t even know what the list is. They just know that it’s massive. It’s interesting because we think of these frankenfoods is having this long list of ingredients, but we actually, when you look at a real food, something that you’ve plucked off a tree, the list goes on, you know, from here to the moon. I mean, it’s just incredible, the incredible diversity of chemicals that nature produces.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. I asked them if they were concerned that any of the missing 38,995 secondary plant compounds might be significant for nutritional, you know, for us, anticarcinogenic a million things. And they said, gosh, we never thought of that. All we were looking at was the five secondary plant compounds that we found were critical for making meat flavor. Yeah. And so I thought, you know, that’s, that’s perfect because they, they got really good at making meat flavor, but they really hadn’t even considered what was being lost in that transaction.

Mark Schatzker: And the same thing happened with tomato flavor. If you look at ketchup flavored potato chips, they captured the flavor, the tomato, but not the nutrition, but here’s the other thing is they talk about the flavor. And, and that’s a total mistake because foods don’t have just a single flavor. We can talk about the flavor of an apple, but every single app we’ve ever eaten has been a version of apple, but it’s always changing. And I think one of the things they don’t realize is that when you eat food that always tastes the same, it just gets incredibly boring. And one of the exciting things about eating food from nature is that it’s, it’s, it changes with the seasons, but it also, like I said, it changes from place to place, but it’s just exciting. It surprises you and, and that’s fun and that’s exhilarating. And when it’s just sort of this, this flavor, this is how meat tastes have chicken tastes. It’s not really true. Real chickens, all have a variety of flavors. They’re all kind of in a central zone, but there’s not just one flavor.

Dave Chapman: Okay. So going back for a moment, you said we were talking about the fact that the modern food industry, and it is an industry. We can’t call it farming can now make food much less expensively and they can make lots of calories and they can make it taste like whatever they want. And my question again, to continue on that is why would I care? What’s the downside?

Mark Schatzker: The downside is that your body is being confused on a nutritional level. It’s not the food isn’t as nutrient dense as it used to be. Now you can say, well, it’s not that big of a deal. It’s not, you know, if it’s down 20%, you can just have another tomato, another bite of the apple. But I would say the loss of flavor is even more important because the system we had of, of understanding, you know, if you look at that experiment that Fred prevents it did, if there’s no longer this relationship between the flavor that these cheaper eating and the nutrient payload that they get well, what happens that, that whole system of knowing what to eat breaks down. And when you look at you know, when you look at how deranged eating has become the problems we have with obesity, with binge eating, it’s as though in some very central level, we don’t know how to eat. I know some people will argue, we were wired to get fat. I don’t think any of that is true. It’s only very recently that we’ve seen this very abrupt and striking change in eating behavior. And that’s because I think of what we’ve done to food, that it doesn’t talk to us the way that it used to. And we’re our brains are literally confused.

Dave Chapman: Okay. So let’s, let’s talk about that because obesity, and, and I would say a host of other related noncommunicable diseases that are now the diseases that are the main diseases that our society must cope with. You’re suggesting that this is, and you’re not alone in suggesting that this is a result of our changing diet.

Mark Schatzker: Well, I want you to think about it this way. You know, we can talk in a very technical level about, you know, molecules and, and our sensory equipment, but just think about, just put all that aside for a second and just think about a soft drink, think of a soft drink. Your kids might, when you remember w we’re all nutrient obsessives, right. And we all think, well, the problem is that they’re sugary. It’s the sugar. Well, I’ll put it to you this way. If you take all the flavoring out of a soft drink, it’s just sugary soda water. It doesn’t taste very good. I’ve tried it. It’s just, you’re like, who would drink this? It’s so boring. It is so bland when you add the flavorings, that’s what makes soft drinks, seven up Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, what makes those unique and what gives them that ability to surprise us and find them delicious is the flavor technology that’s gone into them.

So on that simple level, this, this, these flavorings that we produce in factories and put wherever we want makes us eat food that we wouldn’t eat. Ordinarily. The Dorito is a great example. The first ever Doritos were just salted tortilla chips, just like the ones you dip in salsa. And they flopped the complaint was that, that the snack sounds Mexican, but it doesn’t taste Mexican. And it’s when they made the Dorito taste like a taco that people ate. I mean, think about this. It P it was a snack that people didn’t want to eat. It became a snack that people couldn’t stop eating. This didn’t have to do with the salt. Didn’t have to do the carbs. Didn’t have to do with the fat it had to do with that magic dusting of flavor chemicals that make people go, wow, that tastes great.

Dave Chapman: Okay. So let’s dip into why let’s say that you’re, you’re kind of a health nut, and you say, well, I don’t need to read those and I don’t drink Coke. I know that that’s junk food. So I’m going to go to the store and I’m going to buy real food. And I think that you suggested that good luck real food isn’t quite real anymore. Either. It’s difficult

Mark Schatzker: To find food that has not been, you know, tainted, but by this way, we have of producing food. People are fond of looking at ingredient panels and often they’ll see a term called natural flavors and they think, well, that’s great. It’s natural. It couldn’t possibly be bad for me. And this is one of the greatest you know, the, I can’t think of two more misleading words, strung together, natural flavor. What, what does it mean? People think, I don’t know what they think. I think they see the word natural and they think it’s okay, but I, I don’t know if they’ve actually tried to piece together, but all the word natural means. Cause they’re afraid of artificial. That’s terrible. That’ll give you cancer. That’ll destroy you and give you Alzheimer’s. But natural is nourishing and of the earth. All that word refers to is how the chemical was made. So you can have two identical chemicals, two identical flavor compounds. One is made from, let’s say coal tar. And one is, let’s say made from lawn clippings that are distilled and then put in a centrifuge. And then you know, they do something else to it, which is quote natural. What you end up with is the same chemical. It’s how you made it, that determines whether or not it’s artificial or natural.

Dave Chapman: That’s a very good description of what’s happening right now in organic certification when they certify hydroponics and they’re making highly processed fertilizers out of natural materials. And then, you know, they’d go through hydrolysis or something like that. And you end up with something that is essentially indistinguishable from a chemical fertilizer.

Mark Schatzker: And I, I, this is controversial, but I think of so-called plant-based meat the same way they say it’s plant-based, but it’s it’s plant background has been so totally obliterated. You’d never know. I mean, it’s just as plant-based as well, less so than something, a cow weight, I would say it’s been so processed and so removed from its original context that it doesn’t have any of the qualities that make a plant a plant anymore.

Dave Chapman: Huh. huh. So if you, if you had started with a wonderful, healthy soybean, there’s very little of, of what made that soybean wonderful in that, in that story?

Mark Schatzker: Want to just eat soybeans? I think it tastes good. Yeah.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. So let’s go even a little bit deeper on that. Let’s say I’m such a, such a food extremist that I’m only kind of eat things like, you know, potatoes and asparagus and carrots in order to get my nutrition. You suggested in the Dorito effect that even there things have changed quite a lot in the last 80 years. And I know you referred to Don Davis, his research. Yeah.

Mark Schatzker: Don Davis, I’m a biochemist, did amazing work, looking at what he calls the dilution effect, which is the fact that as we have essentially bread, all the fruits and vegetables and animals that we grow to be more productive, they’ve lost their nutrition. So fruits and vegetables have less micronutrients than they used to. So you’re not getting the same nutrition, but I would say even more importantly, you’re not giving the same flavor. So if let’s say you set out to have this kind of a diet, it’s going to be much harder to sustain because it’s just not satisfying to eat. I’m a great fan of Italian cuisine and I respect so much the fact that Italians respect flavor that they think the, the quality of the ingredients is so important. And they prize simple dishes that have very few but very good ingredients. And it works. I mean, when you taste food that’s made from good ingredients, simply with love food, that’s designed to amplify the flavor of nature and not impose a man-made flavor. It really does. I mean, it speaks to your heart. It’s just an incredibly, it’s so good. And so many people have never really experienced that because we’ve just all gotten so used to, you know, the kind of industrialized version. Yeah. Yeah.

Dave Chapman: And we can’t even remember what we’ve lost. That’s, what’s amazing to me is, you know, you say, well, what should a carrot tastes? Like? How would, you know, if you’ve never had one, right.

Mark Schatzker: And when you do have one, it’s a striking experience. But, but again, you got to go and look it. The, the only thing I would say is there is hope. I think because there have like, you know, for example, you know, someone has never tasted a great carrot. There’s lots of great carrots in all of our futures, but when people do have that experience, it does speak to them. And I think we see that there are some surprising signs of change. If you look at wine, for example, wine is something where we don’t, we don’t just buy the cheapest wine. Maybe we did six or seven years ago, but our, you know, our wine pallet has become more sophisticated. That sounds kind of pretentious. But I think we’re looking for more of a flavor experience. We’re saying I’m not just buying this to slick my thirst, or to get hammered. I’m buying this because I want to have a rich involved experience. I think if you look at cheese, there’s a similar story going on. I mean, there’s a long way to go, but I think there are some real promising flickers of hope. I think in the world of chicken, there’s more and more people, you know, realizing yeah, there is something wrong and we can fix what’s, you know, we can fix these mistakes. We can go back or we can go forward to a future that’s informed by the past.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. So certainly I think Dorito effect was one of the great Clarion calls of the last 10 years to help us see how, how much food is changing. Right, right. Before our eyes, but we can barely see it. And once we see it, we have the possibility of creating a movement to try and find an alternative. Do you do, after you wrote that book, did you feel, did you get feedback that was promising to you?

Mark Schatzker: Yeah, I it’s interesting. It didn’t. You know, of course when you write a book, you know, you’re hoping it’s gonna be the number one smash bestseller of all time. And of course it never is, but I’m, you know, every week I’ll get a message from someone who tells me how profoundly has changed the way they understand food. Some people have some real problems with eating and that, that really gives me a lot of encouragement. Cause that’s, that’s so important. What’s also excited me is the response I’ve gotten from scientists. Because you know, you’re nervous, you’re, you’re writing about science. You’re worried about getting it wrong because I have such respect for so many scientists that do work. And when they come to you and say like, wow, your book was amazing. That makes me feel great. But more than anything, what I want, you know, we have a real puritanical tradition on this continent of being suspicious of pleasure and thinking if it makes me feel good, it must be bad.

And I think part of the problem with so many of our attempts to try and fix what’s wrong is we think we kind of have to be austere Stoics that we’ll eat food that tastes bad, but it’s good for me. And people live a miserable life of eating awful food, food that just doesn’t bring them joy. And that’s not how we were designed to be food as it should bring us joy every day, many times a day. And I think if we can start to understand that and understand that flavor, that nature gave this ability to sense what’s in food and to enjoy it, that those that’s really important. That’s the only way you can have a sustainable and healthy relationship with food is if you love it. And if it nourishes you.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. You said just now that some people have trouble with food, I thought that was a little bit of an understatement.

Mark Schatzker: Well, you know, a lot of people have trouble with it. They do, and it’s tricky territory because you don’t wanna be judgmental. And it can be challenging to talk about it without sounding that way. But some people really have a very distorted and alienated experience with food. And you know, I think artificial sweeteners are a really interesting example where a lot of people, some of the science even suggest this is good stuff, you’re kind of getting something for free. But then I talked a lot of dietitians who say, you know, the people I work with who have the most fraught difficult relationships with food are, are people who search for these kinds of easy answers.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. So how big, how big an issue is obesity for America? Right now? It is, I would

Mark Schatzker: Say our number one public health problem. It’s not the number one cause of preventable deaths smoking still is, but it’s the number two. Cause it is however, the number one cause of preventable morbidity, which is to say unnecessary disease, it’s causing so much unnecessary suffering. It’s not a state anyone aspires to, and it’s getting worse. And it’s so interesting because you know, you look at something like cancer, we’ve been fighting a war on cancer and we haven’t gotten as far as we’d like, but we’ve made progress. Things are better now than they have been. But if you look at something like obesity, it seems the harder we fight it, the worst things get it. It’s like trying to put out a fire with gasoline. And it really is our, our relationship with food I think is, you know, we’re, we’re all very obsessed right now with the pandemic for, for very good reason. But if we can set that kind of momentary fixation aside, our relationship with what we eat, I think is our most pressing health problems.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. So there are these, you know, there are these two lines on a graph that I look at and I think about, and one is, is the cost of food, which goes down, down, down, down. And the other is the cost of our healthcare, which goes up, up, up, up. And you know, I think that as a country, we no longer can claim that we have the greatest life expectancy or the best health outcomes. Even though we spend more money than any country in the world per capita on healthcare. So, you know, when people say, well, we can’t afford good food and I go, yeah, but you can afford bad healthcare. I mean, it, it doesn’t quite fit. Could you, could you talk about those two, two lines in the ground? Yeah,

Mark Schatzker: No, that’s interesting. I hear that a lot. I hear also that processed food is cheap and that’s why people eat it. I’m a parent have three kids, processed food is not cheap. It’s the packaged food that kills you at the checkout aisle. If you take your kids to a fast food restaurant, it’s like 60 bucks for a not very good dinner. If I take $60 and buy food and prepare food, I can make a very, very good dinner with some of these kind of elitist ingredients that people like to turn their nose up at. You can make a much cheaper dinner than that. Now some people say, you know, not everybody has the time to cook. That may be true. There may be some people that are so busy that they don’t. But I think, I think a lot of us have an awful lot of spare time. And we just make the decision not to cook. Cause we’d rather spend that time you know, watching YouTube or, or spending time on Twitter or something like that. But it doesn’t take that long to cook. It is certainly an investment of time and you have to learn how to do it, but it’s worth doing and it’s it’s, I mean, once you learn how to do it, it’s great. I love it. I love cooking.

Dave Chapman: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sure you read Michael Pollan’s book cooked, which was a celebration. Yeah.

Mark Schatzker: I thought I’m just going to cook me something here is make a noise. I’m going to make it. Yeah, good.

Dave Chapman: So yeah, that’s part of our strange changing food landscape is that we tend not to cook. We tend not to eat together. I, one of the people I interviewed was Alice Waters and she talked about fast food culture and you know, their value. She had a very interesting image for me, which is that when you eat fast food, you’re actually digesting the culture of fast food and it affects you. And if you keep eating fast food, you start to embody these values of speed of cheapness, of replicability. So that, you know, it’s always the same. You can get it anywhere. It doesn’t

Mark Schatzker: Matter often eat it alone. And one of the lovely things about, you know, the communal aspect of eating is that it’s sort of a two way street. Eating really good food alone is like watching a funny movie alone. It just doesn’t feel right. It feels like it must be shared. And when you share good food with someone, it, it pays off because it makes the experience of eating the food better, but it also makes your relationship with that person better. So it’s it’s more than additive. It really is such a win-win and it’s something that is so easy to lose sight of when you, you know, we think of food as just sort of shoveling fuel in our bodies. I mean, people have created these meal alternatives because they think eating is a waste of time. It to me, it’s just so it’s like thinking sex is a waste of time. It’s like, no, these are, these are wonderful activities that we were programmed to do. And they, they, they give us great pleasure.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Well, and of course in our culture, food is often also seen as an enemy, not just a waste of time, but it’s something bad because it seems to lead us into, into corners that we don’t want to be in, you know, in terms of eating a lot of stuff that makes us not well, that makes us put on weight that we wish we didn’t have. Thanks. I think

Mark Schatzker: About how interesting that is because we were designed to eat, to nourish ourselves to exist. And it’s cotton to this point where it’s actually bad for us. I mean, imagine if we were afraid of breathing, it gets kind of like that. I mean, we’ve come to accept it, but it is so bizarre and it’s so wrong.

Dave Chapman: One of the things that Chris Nichols says talked about is that at this time we have a lot of people in the world who are simultaneously malnourished and obese, and that’s a confusing idea. Really?

Mark Schatzker: Yeah, it is. I th you know, that’s something I’m very interested in. I think, I think what we see happening there is that the brain can seek out more than one thing when it seeks to eat and it can seek calories or it can seek other things like micronutrients. And I think what we see in, in people with obesity is this strong drive to get calories at the expense of, of all else. So you see that they have this work relationship where they’re eating way too many calories, but they’re not getting the micronutrients. So, like you say, they’re over nourished and yet malnourished at the same time,

Dave Chapman: Do you think the body is actually seeking the micronutrients? And it just isn’t getting them in all the wrong places?

Mark Schatzker: Yeah, I think that’s happening. I mean, like, for example, if we screwed up the signaling where we’re putting this sheen of nutrients in, in these, you know, drinks and food that, that make them seem like they have nutrients when they don’t, well, that’s a problem. But I think also there’s something about the food system that is just turning people into calorie, mongers that they’re, that they’re just really seeking it out there. And they struggle with it. It’s not, you know, this idea that they’ve just chosen to eat more and, you know, skinny people have just chosen to eat less. It’s not like that. I think these people really struggle with some demons and that and that they don’t have control over their impulses to eat.

Dave Chapman: So we we’ve talked about obesity, which is so obvious, but there are a host of other diseases heart disease, cancer, diabetes, that many people have believe that the explosion of our rates are based on our diets. Do you agree with that?

Mark Schatzker: I agree with some of it, it’s, it’s hard to know. You know, they say correlation doesn’t equal causation, so I’m not someone who thinks that food can cure everything, but at the same time, I think diet is very important. And we see people, you know, the worst, the diet is the worse, the outcome is. So there’s clearly some relationship. And to think that there isn’t one I think is wrong. I think of mental illness, things like anxiety and depression. I think there’s something going on there. These systems are so complex that there’s such an incredible complexity to the, all these, these chemical and you know, neurological relationships in the body that it’s, it’s really hard to, to find that string of breadcrumbs that says this causes this. But I think we know that people that have really bad diets and fraught relationships with food have some problematic health outcomes. I mean, it’s, it’s right there.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. And in one of your books, you said, the part of the problem is human nature. We are all natural reductionists. We always want to find a single cause of this or that problem, because then it’s easy to come up with a silver bullet. So,

Mark Schatzker: And that’s what we keep going after is the silver bullet solution that we think there’s one food, or there’s this one supplement I can take, that’s going to cure everything. That’s, that’s both the cause of all our problems and the solution. And it’s just so complex. We have to think of ourselves as whole creatures that exist within a system. And to look for the one thing and to think you can just cure that one thing with this other one thing is, is simplistic. It sounds great. It’s very convincing, but it doesn’t work that way.

Dave Chapman: So we need to embrace complexity.

Mark Schatzker: I’d say. So it’s hard to do. It’s really nice when the snake oil salesman knocks on the door and says, I know exactly what your problems are and you take this one little magic pill and it’ll go away. And, and, and we’re so excited by it that we often believe it. And our enthusiastically, we will, you know, we will sing that same gospel, but, but we have to embrace complexity and we have to embrace the fact that we don’t always have all the answers that there’s still this great mystery. That nature is so much more complex than we can understand. It’s frightening on one level, but it’s also exciting because there’s still so much that we have to learn.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Einstein once said something like but the simplicity, this side of complexity, isn’t worth a plug nickel. And the simplicity on the other side of complexity is priceless. And I think that’s what you’re talking about here, which is that when we, when we embrace complexity one of the things that I see is that the people who embrace complexity also embrace a certain level of humility, which is to say, I don’t know, I don’t understand how this works. It’s really complicated, but so I’m going to live in a certain way where I think I’m getting the best outcomes. I

Mark Schatzker: Think that’s a really good way of putting it. And I think it takes a lot of courage to say, I don’t know we all want to have a quick, fast answer, but, but the truth is we don’t know. And so I think you have to, you know, go down the path that you have reason to believe is the good path, and that will take you to a good place. I think that’s where nature informs us nature can be informative. It’s been around for an awfully long time. And to think that we can rewrite that book, that, you know, things like my S my sense of flavor, or is useless. I think that’s where we’ve gone wrong. And I think, I think our intuition does tell us something.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. So we have a challenge here. We, we now much more than talking about farming. We talk about the food industry, even in organic. We now talk about the organic industry and a term that I, I have some resentment towards, because I don’t think that organic was intended to be an industry and the re I bring it up because when we try to imagine, how do we change? What we see as is a problematic situation. I think it’s problematic that our food is so nutritionally deficient, and how do we change that? I, I, it seems to me that the reason it’s deficient and I’m one of the things I admire about your book is that you’re not seeking villains. You know, you talk about, about the guy who invented the Dorito respectfully, and you, you talk about many people who have been clever people who have imagined different ways of doing things that have led to tremendous profit with some respect while I think respectfully disagreeing with, with the results. So, do you agree, I mean, do you agree that we’re dealing with I don’t know what to call it a mass hallucination. So this, the situation in which the profit motive is driving us off a cliff,

Mark Schatzker: I mean, certainly it can get, you know, it can do that. And it’s what I find really frustrating is that sometimes people will come up with a really great alternative. They’ll put a lot of effort into, you know, let’s, let’s say creating something that’s better. And then it gets blocked by someone who, who just ruins it and uses the name and all the hard work that went into this great thing. And they just take all that goodness out of it, but just sell it on the name. And that’s very frustrating, but I think part of the problem is that we’re all seeking these simple solutions. So we want one label that, oh, if I just find that one label, everything’s gonna be fine. And I think you know, food’s really important. And you need, it’s not as, just as simple as having these simple little labels, you need to be in touch.

I’m not saying you have to be best friends with every single farmer in your food show. That’s, that’s unreasonable, but you have to have some idea as to where food comes from and, and the knowledge and passion that goes into it. One system I like a lot is what they have in Europe. The the doc system in Italy, or the AOC system in France, where they basically say, if you’re going to make a wine here and call it this wine, you’re going to make this cheese and call it this. You gotta do it a certain way. You either have to use this breed of sheep or this breed of cow. They can only eat this. You got to make it this way. If you do all that, you can use this label. And then when you, when you buy something to that label, it actually means something.

And they’re putting up a fence that it says, you know, you can be inside the fence. If you do things the way we think is important, but you can’t use our name. You can’t use our hard work and everything we put into to creating this goodness and this beauty, just so you can make money the easy way. And I think, I wish we had more things like that. You know, the Japanese prize, what they call brands, but they’re just very often signifiers of where in Japan, a particular kind of beef or an apple came because they’re very proud of their geography. And I think if we had similar things like that, you know, we do with things like some, you know, like wine, for example, but I think you can carry over. We can have standards for things like pastured, pork, or grass fed beef or tomatoes where, you know, I think if somebody really did create a great tasting tomato that you could buy at the supermarket, people would buy it.

I know we have that quote technology, but this guy in Florida, Harry CLI has developed these tomatoes, tomatoes that are abundant. They have a good shelf life they’re disease resistant, but they also have this incredible flavor. They’re not genetically engineered. He just did this through, you know, good old fashioned plant breeding, which is how we got those heirlooms to begin with. So I think, I think it can be done. I know it can be done. But what we need is to reward the people, doing the hard work, you have to spend a little bit more and saying, I’m not going to buy the absolute cheapest tomato. I’m gonna spend a bit more and getting a delicious tomato and you might be surprised at how, you know, maybe you’re going to be throwing out less food because that food is more valuable to you.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been in touch with Harry. I haven’t gotten to test his, his variety yet, but I will, you know, we grow a variety that has essentially become an heirloom because the breeder stopped breeding it and, and, you know, so we’re, we’re, we’re breeding it ourselves. And, and, you know, they taste very good and that’s why people buy them. So you know, that’s a wonderful thing for us, but you know, when you talk about the label, of course, that’s what the national organic program was meant to be. It was started, I believe, with the best of intentions, Senator Leahy from Vermont you know, it was one of the co-sponsors of the organic food production act and it was intended just, just the way they would say, if you want to call a Champaign, it’s got to come from this county or whatever this province, and this was intended, they came up with good definitions of organic that the community agrees with.

The problem is, and this is not just a government problem because we see it with private efforts as well. Is that once there becomes serious money in it, of course, businesses are going to move in and try to make that money. Yeah, that’s what businesses do. So I don’t know what to, I, you know, this is, of course now we’re, we’re in the process of starting another label, but if eventually, if we succeed, we’ll have the same problem there. And I, I think that what you’re doing and what we’re doing is the same thing, which is like, we need to educate people. They need to not just say I want the right label. They need to understand why it’s important and start to ask more sophisticated questions about the process.

Mark Schatzker: And here’s the other thing I would say is, and this is why I think flavor is such a big part of that. Because if I’m, if you’re attached to something, let’s say it’s a tomato or a chicken or an apple, because you really love the way it tastes. You don’t want anyone to mess with that just, and if they do, if they change something you love, you’ll get angry and say, I don’t want that anymore. So that’s why we, it can’t just be about the organic quality. It’s purity, it’s gotta speak to your soul. And when people value it that way, I think some of these big business they’ll think twice about messing with that because they know one of the really big reasons people are coming back for this is because they love the way it tastes.

Dave Chapman: Well. I’m going to have to tell a somewhat pessimistic story in response to that. So we sold for many years to a major chain and in new England and we were their organic tomato and they loved us. We loved them. We were the best of friends. We had a great relationship and eventually things start to get a little tense as we got, you know, we were on our fifth buyer for the chain and he started talking about price. I said, why are we talking about price? We haven’t changed our price in 10 years. And he said, yeah, but we’re getting much cheaper organic tomatoes from Mexico. And I said, well, those are hydroponic. And he said, well, yeah, I know. And I said, so they really shouldn’t be certified. He said, I don’t care. They’re certified by the USDA. And I said, yeah, but ours tastes much better.

And you know it, he said, yes, they do. We all know you have the best tomatoes, but still we got to talk about price. And eventually actually they dropped us. And I just say this because we had a tremendous reputation. I got very upset phone calls and letters from people. One woman, I really loved this woman. She, she called me from Cape Cod and she said, why can’t I get your tomatoes at this, at this chain anymore? And I said, well, they, we still offer them, but they chose not to buy them. And she said, well, why can’t you do something about it? I said, they’re buying cheaper hydroponic tomatoes. She goes, I know they taste terrible. I said, I know, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do. And it was so sweet. She, she almost was yelling at me. She said, you must be smarter. You must be smarter. And I thought, yeah, I’m being as smart as I know how to be here. And, but for me, it was the enormity of the, of the problem that we had many customers who wanted to buy our tomatoes. And we had a store that wants to please their customers, but they had something that was significantly cheaper. It had the same label and they chose to go that way. So that’s just a real life story.

Mark Schatzker: It is. And it’s, it’s, I mean, it’s awful. It’s depressing. Although there are, there are, you know, there are silver linings. The fact that people noticed, I think is great. The fact that they got upset, I think the store screwed up and they lost an opportunity. Maybe their customers drifted somewhere else, but maybe there’s also another lesson that the word organic isn’t enough. And again, I’m not going to pretend that everything’s better in Europe, but if you think of something like the San Marzano tomato in Italy, where you’ve got to meet certain conditions and you can’t just someone over in left field, who’s grows hydroponically can’t claim to have the same thing. If you create conditions around that label, that can’t be broken, then you won’t have these imitators coming in and literally eating your lunch. So that’s not to say you did it wrong. But that’s to say maybe there’s maybe there’s clues that we can learn from to, to get it right. To get it better so that, you know, we can’t get screwed by the big guy.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. That’s, that’s great. I like that so that they won’t eat our lunch. So a couple things I wanted to touch on. I, I, I promised we wouldn’t go too long. I wanted to say something out of your book, you said a five pound chicken in 1948, cost $3 in $2,014. That would be $30. But in 2014, a supermarket chicken, chicken cost $7. Yeah. So I think that really lays out the thing it’s so hard at this point to do real organic chickens and eggs because the, the competition under the label is so inexpensive that if you offer a $30 chicken, people will think you’re trying to rip them off, even though that that might reflect honestly, the cost to production and offer them something that has genuine value that you can’t get from that $7 chicken. Yeah.

Mark Schatzker: Well, the thing I would say though, is I think we can do a better chicken cheaper, you know, chickens used to have to be hand plucked. That was very expensive. The good Pluckers could do something like 11 chickens an hour. And we, we have we have better, more efficient ways of doing that now. So I think we can create that better chicken and make it won’t be as cheap as the seminar chicken. But I also don’t think it will be $30. And again, I don’t know why in food, it’s always the lowest price is your baseline starting point. It’s not like that with anything else. It’s, it’s, you know, people don’t buy the cheapest medicine. You don’t find the cheapest barber or stylist in town, but with food, it’s always like, if it’s not the cheapest, I won’t touch it. I, we, we have to stop thinking that way. I’m not saying it should all be really expensive, but clearly quality matters.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. Two more questions. One is, you know, there’s a huge debate in the organic world about whether it’s a good thing to bring in the big dogs. And right now in the organic trade association, members include general mills Smuckers, Purdue, Driscoll’s Denon, Cargill, Hormel, you know, on and on. And, you know, the, the thinking is, well, if we bring in these big dogs, we change them and, and agriculture improves. But at the same time, what we clearly see is when you bring in these big dogs and they become truly dominant, they change us and they change what that label means. It’s a tough process. Do you have any thoughts about it?

Mark Schatzker: It’s, it’s a tough one. Like you say, I think the only thing I’ll say is, I think there’s also sometimes the little guys aren’t good either. One of the things I learned when I did the stake book you know, people think a lot of the big slaughterhouses are terrible, that they commit the greatest ills. And a lot of them are the, some of the best run. You know, temple granted has helped design them. And some of the greatest atrocities that take place is that these little kind of country cute little avatars, where they have some really backward attitudes about how to treat animals. So that’s not to say bigger is always better or little is always better. Again, it’s complexity, right? It’s not easy. I, I don’t think big is always bad. I don’t think big equals bad. Sometimes the big guys really, as you say, they do change us and that’s a problem, but maybe we can make a situation where if they do it the right, if we can make them do it the right way, that will be good.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. For sure. And I think,

Mark Schatzker: You know, big, there’s always going to be a limit to what big can do. If you look in France, for example, they have the LaBelle Rouge chicken, and that sort of a big market chicken. They have more than 50% of the whole bird market. You know, it’s kind of economic way of talking about food, which I’m always comfortable with, but they have a big chunk of that market. That’s not quite the same as the Kool-Aid of breasts, which is a, a finer, higher quality, more expensive. So there’s a role for big for that kind of big, higher quality chicken and France, but that’s not to say they smothered everything and put everyone else out. There’s still lots of small breeds in this village or that village that make their way to this or that restaurant. So I, I think, I think it can be a big tent and I think there can be an awful lot of diverse, good players in that tent, but you got to, you got to set the rules, right?

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. That is the challenge. And I think that, of course we want to persuade the big players to do a great job. Of course, that would be ideal. It’s just, it’s, it’s very hard. And often we know it’s the label, not the practice that they’re interested in and that’s, that’s just

Mark Schatzker: And how do you police it? Cause even if you, even if you did convince one big player to do it, right, even you convinced 99% of them, all you need is 1% of them to be unscrupulous and go, well, I’m going to break the rules or all, I’ll get my lawyer to interpret this word differently and, and put it in court for 10 years or whatever. So I think what we really need to do is change the way we think about it so that these people are in it to make money. So if you, if you put it to them, there’s money to be made in doing it the right way. They will do that. They will chase that, you know, that profit to put it in those, those cold terms.

Dave Chapman: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So I maybe we’ll end. Let’s, let’s talk about the future. You’ve said the Dorito effect can be reversed. I think that’s a bold statement. I think it’s true.

Mark Schatzker: I think if you look at the work that Harry CLI has done, if you look at the popularity of grass fed beef, it’s not to say it’s all good, but it’s getting better. More and more people are aware of it. More people are looking for it. I think there are real signs of hope. I think I think cheese is a really good story. Craft beer is a great story. Craft beer is, is, is eating the lunch of commodity beer. There’s more money being made. That’s the segment of the market where the gains are being had. And why are people buying craft beer? They’re not buying it because it’s cheaper now are buying it because it has no flavor they’re buying it because it has more flavor. Is that to say all craft beers. Great. No, but I think it’s a really hopeful sign that we can become different consumers of food and and by, you know, purchase what gives us joy. And maybe it costs a little bit more, but maybe it’s better and maybe we’re rewarding the artists behind it to, to produce something that they care about.

Dave Chapman: All right, mark. Schatzker, what’s the name of your, of your book?

Mark Schatzker: It’s still a secret. You’ll be the first to know.

Dave Chapman: Okay, good. Well, I’ll be looking forward to for of course, and I hope everybody else listening will thank you so much. So thank you.I so appreciate your work and I appreciate your writing.

Mark Schatzker: Likewise. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a great pleasure to chat.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.