Old Food, New Trends

Published on Author ugarteg17

Tech companies are attempting to bridge the gap between farm and table in order to provide healthy (accountable, more so) foods amid a long history of food safety mishaps in China.

Urbanization inherently widens the gap between rural communities and cities: As people concentrate around urban centers, they become geographically and personally less attune to the “food chain,” or the network of processes/infrastructures/intermediaries between farm and purchase.  Rapid urbanization coupled with the rapid mechanization of agriculture has magnified this gap in China.

Tech companies are replacing traditional food safety measures (inspections, lab testing, increased enforcement procedures) with phone apps capable of geo-tracking produce/products or chopsticks that can check food for toxic “gutter oil.” The initiatives are led by tech-giants Alibaba and Baidu, respectively.

Chinese are consuming more calories per capita than ever in recent history. Skyrocketing diabetes and obesity rates are recent phenomena and can be directly attributed to changing diet.  The rise of food-conscious technologies indicate Chinese are becoming increasingly aware of diet. With strict single-child laws, the longevity of young Chinese is imperative to the longevity of the economy.  A healthier Chinese population equals a longer-living and more productive workforce.

The overlap of the tech space and agriculture also has modernizing implications. Tech giants, such as Alibaba, have the capital structures and innovative teams to reinvigorate China’s massive and problematic food supply system. Ultimately, the “food chain” in China today reveals an interesting crossroads of old and new as new Chinese rekindle awareness of an agricultural past.


3 Responses to Old Food, New Trends

  1. With the Chinese population so high, major economic restrictions must be in place to creating large scale organic options for urban populations. With urbanization increasing as well, these issues will only become more apparent. How does China plan on increasing organic or healthy food production to keep up with a rapidly growing urban population?

    • In China, with polluted surface water, I strongly suspect that “organic” in fact means less healthy products. See a previous post on food safety, replete with extensive comments.

  2. Being “concerned” with better food is in practice not linked to actually eating healthier. I know numbers of individuals who “eat healthy” in terms of organic and the like, but are obese. I’m skeptical of claims that eating the right foods makes a difference, and am sure that it matters less than overall moderation. Balancing caloric intake and output is not something that aligns well with our genetic disposition to feast when the opportunity arises, even as more sedentary lifestyles and aging mean we (and above all Chinese) need to eat less than a decade or two ago.

    In a country of 1.4 billion there’s a market for almost anything conceivable (and many things we find inconceivable). We should thus be careful not to read too much into new product announcements that make it into foreign media, as they tell us more about our perceptions of China’s needs than any widespread perception in China of their own needs.