As I was reminded by a recent article about the historical trajectory of orange juice in America's food supply, I am continually baffled by the war being waged against food "processing" and food "preservatives." If it can be shown that there are no adverse health consequences, and the product tastes rather good and people like to buy it, and it's much cheaper than "fresh and unprocessed" food, then why demonize a product for lasting a long time on the shelf or for being "overly processed"?
Some people complain that "processed foods" are chock full of high-fructose corn syrup and other ingredients that they would like to avoid. However, the presence of high-fructose corn syrup in food has little to do with the number of processing steps required to make the product at a large cost-effective scale, or the desire to preserve and store food for a long time. Instead, corn syrup is put into foods because it is much cheaper than alternative sweeteners such as cane sugar, and people love inexpensive food. People crave sweetness because they are built by evolution to desire high-calorie sweetened foods, which were rare treats in prehistoric nature. No demonization of preservatives or demonization of complicated multi-step industrial processing need enter into this part of the food supply discussion.
Some people complain that they don't like processed or preserved foods because "they have no idea what's in it." I've got news for you, you probably have no idea what's in most of the things you ingest. Most people think of a "roasted coffee bean," for example, as a magical nature product provided by Mother Earth, rather than as a complex cocktail of chemicals in various proportions. Some of the natural chemical constituents of roasted coffee beans are toxic and carcinogenic (but they exist at very low harmless concentrations). If the scientific names of all the chemical components in your all-natural skinny hazelnut macchiato were listed on the back of the cup, they would make your head spin.
Highly preserved and industrially processed foods are simply amazing. They allow us to even out the food supply both geographically and seasonally, and provide low-cost sustenance to people who would have in ancient times suffered a lack of nutrition or even starvation. How quickly people forget that cheese, beer, and wine, those cornerstones of western food culture, were initially methods to "highly process and highly preserve" excess milk, grain, and grapes during bounteous times, in order to stockpile calories and nutrients for leaner times...even stockpile them for many years after the initial harvest. Why did ancient humans bother to invent these things? Why did humans bother to invent beef jerky, and bacon, and salami? It wasn't because some scary corporation thought it would be fun to feed children a bunch of "nitrates and nitrites."
Often, the alternative to eating a highly processed and highly preserved food, or the alternative to eating a food that has traveled hundreds of miles on a truck or on a boat, is to have no food at all. This has been the default situation for mankind for thousands of years, and a situation which has been all but forgotten by the snobbish foodies who complain that frozen concentrated orange juice doesn't taste quite as good as the fresh squeezed stuff picked that day from your very own backyard orchard. Now if you don't mind, before I go shovel the snow from my Chicago sidewalk, I'm going to go have a delicious glass of frozen concentrated orange juice and a mug of chemical cocktail coffee to wash down my Minnesota refined flour crepes spread with California processed cream cheese and a dollop of Montana huckleberry preserves.