A century and a half ago, when the food industry was first taking root, few consumers trusted packaged foods. Americans had just begun to shift away from eating foods that they grew themselves or purchased from neighbors. With the advent of canning, consumers had to adapt to buying not only meats, grains, and vegetables produced by unknown hands but also foods packed in corrodible metal that seemed to defy the laws of nature by resisting decay.
Since that unpromising beginning, the American food supply has undergone a revolution, from local farm-grown goods to a system dominated by packaged foods. How did this come to be? How did we learn to trust that food preserved within an opaque can was safe and desirable to eat? Anna Zeide reveals the answers through the story of the canning industry, taking us on a journey to understand how food-industry leaders leveraged the power of science, marketing, and politics to win over a reluctant public, even as consumers resisted at every turn.
Anna Zeide is Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Oklahoma State University, where her research, teaching, and community activism focus on food and food systems.