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Processed foods are any raw agricultural commodity that has been altered from its natural state. Examples of processing include washing, cleaning, mixing, freezing, or even adding other ingredients such as preservatives, salts, or sugars. Processing is a spectrum with some foods that are minimally processed such as sliced fruits and bagged salads and heavily processed foods include prepackaged meals. Other processed foods in between the spectrum include canned foods and foods with added ingredients.
The goal of processing food is to make it more convenient for the consumers, for example, the consumer doesn’t need to wash the sliced fruit, canned foods preserve perishable foods and help them last longer, and adding sweeteners and other additives add flavor to the food.
 Like everything in life, moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle. A well-balanced diet of processed food is healthy but a diet full of processed food is unhealthy for us. Processed foods are often lower in fiber which slows down the absorption of carbs and keeps us full longer causing consumers to remain hungry and consume more.
They also have high trans-fat levels, high sodium, high sugar content which can cause a variety of diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Many Agribusiness produce and sell processed foods many reasons that benefit them and consumers such as extended shelf life, decreased costs, convenience, safety, and to improve tastes. The most common reason for processing foods is to extend the shelf life of the food to prevent foods from going bad within weeks or even days.
Fresh foods are more susceptible to perishing within days or weeks which leads to a lot of waste because for fresh foods it is much more difficult and more costly to get and keep fresh foods on the shelf. Probably the most important reason why food is processed is to decrease costs. When companies can make a large amount of a product in one place, pack it up and then ship it around the world, they will be significant cost savings. The cutting of costs will increase the profits of food companies, which is always the most important thing for a company. An important thing to consumers because of busy work schedules in the family is convenience and grabbing a frozen meal and tossing it in the oven is a lot easier than cooking healthy and delicious meal using fresh foods. Most people have such busy lifestyles that they are willing to sacrifice health benefits for convenience, which is one of the reasons why processed foods are in such high demand. Some processing of food is done to increase its safety.
For example, pasteurizing and homogenizing milk will mostly eliminate the risk of consuming certain types of bacteria that can make you sick. While this also reduces some health benefits, it is a reasonable concession a consumer should make. Raw milk can be very healthy when collected and stored properly, but that is not always the case. Probably the most important reason to consumers is foods are processed to make them taste better. An example of this today is beef jerky. Beef jerky is typically processed using Chemical preservatives, such as sodium nitrite, salt, and sugar to dehydrate the meat and preserve it which extends its shelf life, but also make it taste great!
Industries are mostly selling food for economic gain over health and processing foods can help them achieve that, as well as consumers who purchase these foods to save money and time. Being able to mass produce these foods and prolong their shelf life is beneficial to both parties as it reduces costs to both the producers and consumers. Consumers also with limited time are more willing to buy the processed foods because they don’t require much preparation. There will always be an influx of processed foods if we are demanding them, so we need to change our eating habits to less processed foods to reduce the supply.
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