Someone Worked Very Hard To Make That “Natural” Piece Of Lunch Meat Look Imperfect

If it looks natural, and its packaging seems sort of natural does that mean it actually is a natural food? Maybe, maybe not: food companies are on a new mission these days to at least mimic natural foods even if their products are processed. It’s the art of imperfection, and it isn’t easy, apparently, to look so rough.

The Associated Press delves into this world of making products appear as if they’re crafted carefully by hand, and not stamped out like so many precisely cut, machine-made shapes.

For example: Domino’s workers are told to not worry about making the rectangular Artisan Pizzas too perfect, so they appear more rustic; McDonald’s eggs whites for its new sandwich are a loose shape instead of the perfectly formed round discs the Egg McMuffin features and at Kraft Foods, well, the Carving Board line of meats had better look like leftovers from grandma’s roast turkey.

“The goal is to get the same action as if you were cutting with a knife,” said Paul Morin, a Kraft engineer, of the two-year process that went into producing those irregular slabs of meat.

This all makes sense, as consumers are increasingly shifting toward more natural or organic foods. But the thing is, we still love the convenience of packaged foods. Solution: Make those processed foods look homemade, even if they aren’t.

“Food manufacturers are adapting by the way they mold the product or the end color or texture they want the product to be,”Michael Cohen, a visiting assistant professor of marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business tells the AP.

However, that could be seen as kind of well, lying. Or at the very least, it’s tricky and could cause some consumers to become confused over which products are actually natural and which aren’t.

It appears to be working.

“It was folded as though someone held a bag under a machine,” said one shopper who opted for a rougher cut of packaged lunch meat over another that was more tightly packed. “I know it wasn’t hand sliced but something about the aesthetic quality appealed to me.”

The lesson here? Looks can be deceiving. If what you’re looking for is natural, or organic or simply not processed, read the label carefully. Seeing doesn’t always have to be believing, and all sorts of other looks-based cliches involving books, judging and covers.

Food companies work to make it look natural [Associated Press]