Where Our Food Really Comes From

Where Our Food Really Comes From


It’s dinner time, and you’re making grandma’s famous lasagna. The ingredients in front of you include things like high-quality noodles, jarred tomato sauce, sweet Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, and more, and it all came from your local grocery store—nothing too fancy. You trust the brands you bought, after all, and the supermarket you went to, and the recipe your grandmother passed down. But what do you actually know about the products you brought home? Where did the meat, the sauce, the cheese come from? Where do these ingredients fit in a larger global food supply chain? And what would grandma’s lasagna require if it were to be prepared at a professional venue like a college cafeteria where they feed thousands of people items like lasagna every single day?

Get to the bottom of these questions and more with Where Our Food Really Comes From, an eight-lecture course that explores the history, design, technology, and labor behind the foods you know and love. Certified Master Chef Brad Barnes will be your guide. He is a published author and strategic food business development consultant who has worked with a range of food service establishments to develop wholesome yet practical menus, procure quality food products, and service diverse clientele. He has firsthand experience—not just as a chef but also as a consultant and a culinary leader deep in the weeds of the food business. No one is better equipped to talk about how food gets grown, delivered, processed, and consumed.

With Brad at the helm, see how food products are cultivated on farms, ranches, and fisheries throughout the world. Explore the intricacies of the food industry, moving from its delicate supply chain to the fascinating psychology behind its most sophisticated marketing tactics. Learn about your own power as a consumer, generated through the choices you make and the opinions you choose to vocalize. Dive into food service, a broad and vibrant sector that encompasses fine-dining, senior living centers, hospitals, and college dormitories. Analyze the modern grocery store and why it works the way it does. And see how we can contend with problems facing the modern food industry in the 21st century, from food insecurity to food waste.

Making, Manufacturing, Marketing

In today’s world, food rarely comes directly from the farm to your table. Enter the modern food industry, an intricate and well-coordinated web of growers, ranchers, fishers, packers, truck drivers, manufacturers, and inspectors that stretches across whole continents. While certainly not a perfect system, this international conglomerate of machines, farms, and labor does a pretty good job at feeding large segments of the world’s population.

Where Our Food Really Comes From breaks down how each part of the food distribution web works together to deliver food to your local grocery store, hospital dining hall, or favorite restaurant. In just eight lectures, discover what it takes to grow and transport food products like tomatoes and fish. Study the economics behind growing, producing, and marketing food at such a large scale. Explore how food brands utilize customer data to bring you to products you know and love. And figure out where exactly you fit into the process as a consumer; a customer; and an eater, most of all.

But you won’t do this work uncritically. Our modern food industry—as efficient as it is—does not and sometimes cannot adequately feed everybody. As you examine this amazing-but-flawed system, Brad will help you zero in on the many problems that come with the way we currently grow and distribute food, such as:

  • Malnourishment and Food Deserts. What groups lack access to good, nutritious food, and why? And how can the least fortunate places acquire, access, and afford healthier products?
  • Environmental Disaster and Food Waste. What can we do to limit food waste and promote a greener way of procuring food? What role can universities, nonprofits, and the government play in solving this distinct problem?
  • Labor Exploitation. How much work goes into picking, transporting, and preparing our food? What can we as a collective do to ensure that food workers and cooks are treated and compensated fairly?

As you will discover, you have a role to play in all of this, too. Brad will show you how you can empower yourself as a consumer, the ever-important end piece in the greater global food supply chain. He will teach how to navigate a growing assortment of food labels. And he will illustrate you can use your voice to bring our modern food system into the 21st century—where sustainability, worker justice, strong public health, and consumer activism matter more than ever.

Food’s Final Destination

Once food is grown, processed, and distributed, it has to be sold to us—either as a retail product or part of a prepared dish at a restaurant. Brad examines both, presenting a sharp and thorough exploration of how the food retail and food service industry tick, in both theory and in practice. He starts with retail, carefully deconstructing the anatomy of a grocery store from the frozen aisle to shelf slots, paying special attention to how human psychology informs its layout and the sales it offers. He then helps you evaluate three major retail strategies to see how supermarkets attract new and retain current customers. He shows how retailers use customer data to refine and reform their marketing strategies.

Then, turn your attention to food service, a diverse industry that spans everything from five-course fine dining to army mess halls. With a trained master chef and food consultant as your expert, dive into the mind of a chef to see how it all works behind the scenes. Ask and answer: How can we distinguish between different kinds of food service establishments—the local diner, the hospital cafeteria, the grocery store hot food bar? What kinds of skills are important when it comes to running a professional kitchen? Do factors like location, clientele, ingredient availability, and community preferences affect a menu at a restaurant? And what are the new trends in food service, and who pioneered them?

In the end, Where Our Food Really Comes From is more than just a detailed sketch of our modern food industry. It approaches the system fairly and humanely, highlighting its strengths as well as its weaknesses. It shows us that there are people powering our food, from farmers to truck drivers to seasoned chefs like Brad. And it illustrates that we are not passive but active and engaged participants who can work to make sure our food industry is ethical, just, and sustainable.Hide Full Description

Released 4/2023

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