Life Eat & Drink How your food changes between paddock and plate
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How your food changes between paddock and plate

egg
Free range egg prices have been slashed up to 40 per cent. Photo: Getty
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Eggs have joined a growing list of produce manipulated to meet high standards of consumer quality.

Earlier this week, it was revealed egg yolks were being artificially brightened by manufactured food dyes added to chicken feed.

It is the latest epiphany in our ongoing hunt to pick perfect produce.

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One poultry farmer said consumers were particular when it came to the appearance of their yolks, which naturally vary from lighter to vibrant shades.

“Early on we had a bit of experience with lighter egg colours, we had some feedback that the yolks were a bit light,” Caravan Eggs’ Oliver Warner told The New Daily.

“We changed that naturally through the feed and now feed more grasses.”

But the search for flawless food doesn’t end with the egg. We discovered the secrets behind producing perfection.

Garlic

garlic
Chinese garlic (left) and Australian garlic appear different.

Not all garlic is equal, especially at particular times of the year.

The Australian growing season means fresh local garlic is available between October and April. Outside of this time, it is “unlikely” you will find domestically-grown bulbs, Australian Garlic Industry Association chair Leon Trembath told The New Daily.

Outside of these times, it is likely garlic on offer will be imported – about 95 per cent of imports come from China.

It looks chunky and flawlessly clean, but unlike the local product the fresh appearance isn’t natural.

The inviting stark-white appearance is actually due to a chlorine bleaching process, while other chemicals to extend its shelf-life and prevent it sprouting on the shelf may also be applied. Australian laws require imports to be fumigated with methyl bromide to kill any bugs lurking inside.

Mr Trembath said although local produce varied, typically it would have a “strong purple or pink colour”, a “more pungent perfume”, and about 5mm to 10mm of root system attached.

Bananas

The short shelf-life of bananas means if they were transported in the form we are most familiar with, they would likely be mush by the time they arrive.

Mainly grown in tropical north Queensland, they are transported green to withstand a few days’ travel, and meet quarantine restrictions.

bananas
In Victoria, bananas must be transported green to get through quarantine. Photo: Getty

To push along the ripening process, they are gassed with food-grade ethylene, a man-made compound copied from the same maturing agent bananas naturally produce, and warmed for up to a week at about 16C to 18C.

Ethylene may also be used on kiwi fruits, mangoes, citrus and avocados and is not known to have any harmful health effects.

Tomatoes

Like bananas, tomatoes ripen quickly with naturally-occurring ethylene, so they are transported green to stop bruising.

They are chilled and chemicals, like synthetically produced compound 1-MCP which works in opposition to ethylene, are used to stop them ageing. Before they make it to the grocery showroom, ethylene is used to coax them to ripen.

Citrus

mandarin
Imperfect citrus is now getting a run in the supermarkets. Photo: Getty

After it is picked, citrus is washed with a disinfectant solution at the packing house, before it is dried and covered in wax.

The wax extends the shelf-life, retains moisture so the fruit doesn’t dehydrate and prevents rot, according to Citrus Australia chief executive officer Judith Damaini.

She said the uniform size, shape and colour begins at the farm.

“A lot of consumers are surprised when I say there is a lot of research on farm management to get consistent fruit,” she told The New Daily.

“Of course we have to use agri-chemicals on farm and in the packing house … we are always looking at our chemical use … can we use less or softer chemicals, what else is being used around the world.”

Apples

Australian greengrocers and supermarkets stock apples all year round, despite a harvest season lasting just five months, from January until May.

Before they could be refrigerated, they were eaten seasonally.

Cold storage, chemical treatment, with products like 1-MCP, and atmosphere control sees the life of some apples extended for up to a year.

But they don’t come out entirely unscathed, apples stored for three months have lower levels of antioxidants and can lose flavour and aroma.

The video below shows what 1-MCP treatment does to fruit:

Salmon

Major fish farming company Tassel recently revealed the enticing pink colour of farmed salmon was anything but natural, The New Daily previously reported.

Without the help of a man-made additive, most of the salmon would appear unappetisingly grey, unlike the flesh of their wild counterparts which is deep red.

Tassal head of sustainability and fish health Linda Sams said at the time that as well as changing the colour, the “nature-identical” nutrient was also important for fish reproductive and general health.

The additive has no known health risks.

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