Humpty Dumpty has an existential moment.

I hurriedly went to the supermarket the other day in the hope I could get my hands on the mythical golden prize which is (here in NZ anyway), a carton of EGGS!!!. This was actually the 5th day I had been searching for them. I got to the shelves and there was none (insert expletive here).

Beside the empty shelves was a young man ( I’m old, so he could have been anywhere between 18 to 35), he was holding a 6 pack of Barn raised large eggs. I must have thought my expletive out loud… because he turned to me and said ” you can have these if you like as they are not free-range”. The supermarkets have always sold free-range eggs alongside barn, colony and before Dec 31st 2022 cage produced eggs, so why the shortage now?.

Photo courtesy of Mockup graphics via Unsplash

A bit of background information… Ten years ago the government of the time bought in legislation to stop battery cage farming of our hens by 31st Dec 2022, allowing for a transition to colony cages, barn raised or free-range production. Five years into this transition the 2 supermarket chains decided they only wanted to stock free-range eggs, which didn’t allow enough time for most producers to make the unexpected changes needed. Earlier this year, amid the chaos and shortages the supermarkets backtracked and will continue to sell non free- range eggs until at least 2027, this still hasn’t alleviated the shortages or lowered the now exorbitant price but it has shown that not all of their customers share the same free-range welfare values.

The supermarkets cite “consumer demand” for the free-range only policy and if my eggy savior is anything to go by, there is customer demand for values based purchases. But what about those who don’t share the same values or do not have the resources to enable them to make a choice, should they be excluded from somewhere as accessible as a supermarket? Is this social or values engineering? I don’t know and don’t have the answers but it has got me thinking about where people and food connect (not just the act of consuming) and how as a Food Designer I can encourage others to look at this. This one simple act of an unknown person handing over food to another because it did not fit his values has stayed with me for weeks.


How to go from A to Z

I would love to think that I only post when I feel I have something to say, but the reality is that life and work get in the way of having enough brain space to think about what I want to say. It is a luxury for me that I have had a week day off work, how is it, that the fact it is a weekday and not a weekend day makes all the difference?

I have recently completed ” Leading beyond Sustainability”, through MindLab ( a N.Z based Tertiary learning provider). I am a big believer in constant learning, there is so much information out there, so many interesting people to know more about, so many approaches to thinking and new skills to learn. As a Food Design Coach I think it is important to keep up with latest thinking and ideas, its more than just a “nice to do” but integral to the value you bring to your clients. The best part of learning is not always what you learn but the way your brain makes new connections, a kind of stealth learning, which alters the way you have previously thought about something, sets you off on a new path or makes you think more deeply about one aspect of what you do.

I chose this course as I felt it aligned with the direction I want my work to go in, and yes I learnt a lot about all types of sustainability. I learnt about the financial and human costs of countries ignoring or paying lip service to sustainability issues, and I learnt more about possible solutions plus people actively working in the solutions area, these are all important things to know more about. All of this thinking fed back into the circular mapping project I have been developing for use with start up food businesses, this is the “leading beyond” part of the course. As I said earlier, sometimes it is the stealth learning that can alter your focus. We were encouraged to look deeper into the concepts behind sustainable issues and possible solutions. In all the research and reading I was doing I came across one quote which became personally impactful.

“…maintaining cultural beliefs, cultural practices, heritage conservation, culture as is own entity and attempting to answer the question of whether or not any given cultures will exist in the context of the future.”

I came across the above quote on Cultural Sustainability from, the end of that sentence is, frankly scary… “whether or not any given cultures will exist in the context of the future“. Wowsers, that’s a biggie.

Food is the thing that powers humans, it is the way we interact with our environment, it is the medium we use to connect to others. Food holds memories of place and time, it can link us to our ancestors or create new futures . Food can be ritualized, it can reflect shared values and can be a political tool. Food is also the soil crops are grown into, the land and water that animals grow from, the seasonal planting and harvesting. Food in its entirety is Culture.

For me, as a person whose lineage comes from generations of cultural and religious refugees, whose culture has been wiped from history and replaced with untruths, this acknowledgement of foods importance in retaining and building culture is important to me. A deep ancestral connection to land is one of the most held values among indigenous peoples of the world. In Aotearoa/New Zealand we have the word, turangawaewae, it is one of the key principals of Te Ao Maori, it is about your connection to place. All other guiding principals and values flow from this point. The phrase of culture no longer existing became a catalyst for me to recognize a kernel of thought that had been there from my early food design days but I hadn’t known how to express it.

When I work with a start up business I want to know about their product idea, how they came up with the it, what is the history of their product or ingredients and where they sit on the continuum of that product, the focus has been more on what innovation they are bringing to the product. I feel now I want to understand the manakitanga or respect through acknowledgement they bring to their product. Food is an evolving language, you take an idea from here and substitute a ingredient and make a personal tweek but all food contains a part of its origin story.

There is an episode of Ugly Delicious were chef David Chang delves into this cultural issue through the medium of Fried Chicken . Just watch Season 1 episode 6 Fried Chicken as Chang explains the complexity of food histories in a far better way that I could. Please watch it.

I would love to hear your thoughts.