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Where Our Food Really Comes From

From faraway fisheries to fine dining restaurants, dive into the modern food industry to better understand how food is grown, transported, processed, procured, and prepared.
Where Our Food Really Comes From is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 10.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from US Centric Discusses product development and marketing as well as sourcing and distribution. Very US-centric, with little discussion of global supply chains. There is a realistic description of how the system is profit-driven. The figure of 72 billion pounds of food in the US discarded before reaching the consumer usually because of visual appeal and not nutrition, is given without making it clear if he means because of USDA grading. He then talks about consumer lobbying without pointing out USDA is a government agency. Only by applying prior knowledge do I think I understand his point. There are some other areas I think prior knowledge is required. His discussion of the number of family farms does not seem particularly relevant, I suggest percentage of arable land or amount of food produced as a better statistic. Lesson 2 strongly advocates for knowledgeable consumers, without assessing what knowledge is required and deciding how the US education system is failing. There is a great deal of excellent information for neophytes, but little new for knowlegeable consumers. With only 8 lessons, there is plenty of room for a second edition to expand on topics such as nutrition, USDA grading standards, international aspects of seasonality, and genetic variation within the standard GC format. Not to mention true cost accounting (advocated in Lesson 7), consumer educational standards (implied throughout) and lack of political will (only stated in Lesson 7 but implicit throughout).
Date published: 2023-08-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview I was born in 1946 and I still have vivid memories of walking to the corner store owned by the Pedrotti family. Frank was always behind the counter, welcoming everyone as they entered. There were very few canned goods, no processed foods but lots of fresh, farmer-delivered produce, wheels of "rat" (cheddar) cheese, and freshly-butchered meats. If I wanted a pound of hamburger, Frank ground it there and then--nothing pre-packaged. Pedrotti's has long since closed and I walk into my local grocery store and am confronted with an entire aisle--from the front of the store to the back and both sides of the aisle--of chips! The logistics of running such an operation have long eluded me. Enter Chef Brad Barnes and "Where Our Food Really Comes From"--what an eye-opener. My consternation over that chip aisle was nothing compared to the ways and means by which the food gets to the store. While this course is by no means as exhaustive as it could have been, the information it delivers is excellent. The sheer number of the players in the food chain boggles the mind. And Chef Barnes even included the manufacturers of packaging materials, containers, labeling--things we don't think of. And as he reminds us, everyone along the chain is making a profit. At only eight lessons of less than a half-hour each, it's an easy-watch over the weekend. But I dare say that after watching this course, you will never look at your local store and its contents in the same way again.
Date published: 2023-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent and Very Interesting Big Picture Topics As an Engineer, Conservationist, and Food Lover I found the course and the instructor to be engrossing. I appreciated the scope and organization of topics as well as the depth of coverage. Very relevant and attention-holding information and presentation highlighting connectedness. Highly recommend.
Date published: 2023-05-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Wondrium Course our family has viewed We have watched numerous Wondrium courses over the last three years, and this was probably the best. Because most families no longer live on farms, it's easy for us to be disconnected from the source of foods, unaware of farming issues, delivery processes and issues, food safety issues, etc. The lecturer is most knowledgeable and speaks in a clear, articulate and engaging way. I also appreciated his references to the sources he cited. One of the things he mentioned is that while many of us grew up knowing that certain food items were "in season" or out of season, today people expect everything to be available year round. And while we may think that "fresh" is always better, items that are "flash frozen" might be even better by the time they get to our table. A great course for the whole family!
Date published: 2023-05-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent. I have been in the foodservice industry for over 50 years and I truly enjoyed this program. While much of the information was not new, much was and I totally agree with Brad on his assessment of our overall industry.
Date published: 2023-05-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tremendous, though limited, overview I didn't expect such a wide-ranging perspective on food, especially in America. This is a wonderful overview of the food industry and how we, the eating public, need to take the initiative in reshaping the industry to better reflect the values many/most of us claim to have: better nutrition, diversity, impact upon the environment, true cost accounting, animal welfare, etc., etc. 8 lectures are far too few to explore any, let alone all, of these areas in depth, but kudos to Barnes for attempting to at least bring these issues to our attention. As one of the other reviewers comments, perhaps some of the content reflects Barnes' biases. 8 lectures can barely touch on any of the subjects, let alone review all the different and conflicting opinions we have. Nonetheless, I applaud Wondrium for offering such a course. I would love for the course to be shown to middle-school (and older) students, in order to give them information about the current state of food in America - when that information has the possibility to impact the students' choices while they are still young enough to modify their eating habits.
Date published: 2023-04-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Food Delivery from a Bandwagon I especially enjoyed the food service work experience description. When young, my son said he really got basic work ethic training in a pizza place, by staff who cared that the customers got the best experience possible no matter how humble the offering. Chef Barnes describes in detail the joy, creativity, and training involved in food service customer care. (BTW, my son is currently an MD, and got the wake up call he very much needed.) Pros: * Micro-economics and work issues of team member and owner issues are explored, for restaurant and cafeteria venues large and small. The work ethic needed is detailed, and great information for all those in food service in any capacity. * Macro-economics of food delivery and supply chain are covered, informally (non- mathematically). Current markets, market layouts, and food delivery, are explained. Trends in the product investigation and modification, production, delivery supply chain, and customer purchase venue and experience are given. * The fact of AI data driven food markets, dependent on the tech industry in conjunction with unusually faulty regulation, and marketing that has mixed motives, is driven home. * The power of consumer feedback in the current AI data driven food market is explained, and prompts customers to do so. * Food preference categories (taste, texture, color, smell, packaging), and the industry to supply perceived preferences via genetic breeding or GMO is described (in overview). * Food labeling and marketing hype are covered; fad diets, marketing strategies and misinformation and consumer caveats are covered. * The importance and power of menu creation (especially detail searchable, on-line) is detailed. Issues and Caveats: * Although "sustainable", "hidden expenses", "biodiversity", "greenhouse gases", "climate change", deserve consideration, Chef Barnes seems (to me) out of his expertise and provides very little alternate opinion or narrative, balance, or realistic micro- or macro- economic action proposals. * The prime sources of information used include Harvard School of Public Health, Rockefeller Foundation, and various sources that could easily be accused of having a lopsided political narrative (and that often find statistics to match just that narrative). So, major parts of this presentation feel like a left-wing political bandwagon. * I grew up in a family farm situation. The farm statistics Barnes presents are way different from what I've observed over time (and I verified from, search "Farming and Farm Income"), the important one being the number of family farms, and the population percentage on farms. The family farm numbers peaked in the late 1930's and were still at 50% into the 1950's; while Chef Barnes states it was in the late 1800's. (Do the Amish I grew up with count? How was that data obtained?) I would encourage the reader to recheck much of the stats (and the basis) provided throughout this offering, as needed. I used "ChatGPT". * In describing "food deserts", statistics are given for White, Black, and Hispanic, but not Asian? Why many communities do not have food outlets within walking distance is frequently due to community choice issues, however sad or deliberate, that are not addressed by Chef Barnes. * In describing the shortage of truck drivers, Chef Barnes did not mention actually talking to a truck driver. I have kin who are, as well as folks in delivery logistics. Trucks that run on solar, lithium, wind, may never be affordably available, as various thoughtless mandates sometimes immediately require. Fuel price volatility, and regulation driven by recent mandates, has driven many to the economic edge. Again, Chef Barnes seems out of his expertise here. * The college cafeteria as a trend setter (as suspected by Chef Barnes) is not credible to me. Academic establishments are in play, as many students prefer a remote (from campus), less costly, more expert, more targeted and productive "wake up" (not "woke") experience. * The pandemic "final mile" in food delivery (restaurants, cafeterias, sports bars) has been disrupted, habits broken. As Chef Barnes notes, "Food Halls" that combine markets and social encounter, could be a more likely trend, if safety is assured. * However, Chef Barnes notes the "heat at home" with microwave computer readable gourmet instructions is also a real trend. Uber Eats and Grub Hub are taking off. AI search for exactly what you desire for food or ingredients, and how to make it come to you, are happening. Safe at home, indeed! * My major take-away is that the "final mile" in food delivery is in play again, and more information presented without opinionated narrative is needed. Opportunities: A dirth of "on-line", social media, and "Open AI tools" nutrition comparisons seems apparent, so "Methods to Find and Engage the Food Delivery On-Line System" would make for a great follow-up. How does ChatGPT compare to Bard for food delivery and consumption topics? Specific to food delivery, what are the resource tools, training, issues? In the March 2023 Journal of New England Medicine, transcription of a young woman with eating disorders is transformed into Physician's encounter notes, suggestions for encounter opportunity discussion, and treatment suggestions (and ICD10's and HL7 data as needed). A new age in public health may be lurking, which directly could improve public health nourishment. Conclusions: I feel on the basis of this presentation that adaptation has always been a part of the business, and I will have the best food a free market economy with suspicious regulation has to offer, by whatever means. The issues mentioned should be discussed in an open balanced forum that does not rely just on the narratives Chef Barnes puts forward. I wish Chef Barnes and his compatriots in service the best, however the encounter happens. There should be nourishment for all of us available, with balanced competitive narrative. Other similar TGC and Wondrium offerings: Ormsbee, "Changing Body Composition through Diet and Exercise". Any of the Mayo Nutrition, Diet, and "Integrative Medicine" offerings. Various food preparation, nutrition, exercise offerings are available.
Date published: 2023-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A great perspective This course not only gives an overview of the massive food supply and distribution system but also shows the real power of an individual consumer and our responsibility to use that power wisely. I'd love to see more from this teacher.
Date published: 2023-04-24
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What do you really know about that tub of strawberry yogurt in your fridge, that canned soup in your cupboard, that pizza you ordered last night? Whose hands did it have to pass through—farmers, bakers, truck drivers, retail workers, recipe developers, graphic designers, chefs—to get to you in its current form? Answer these questions and more with Where Our Food Really Comes From, an eight-part course focused on the ins and outs of our commercial food system from its design and history to the people, economics, and technologies that make it work.


Brad Barnes

To transform plants and animals responsibly into the things that feed us and nourish us, there must be a deep and ingrained respect for all the aspects of our food system.

Brad Barnes is a Certified Master Chef and a strategic food business development consultant. He is also the president of Pure Food Consulting, a company focused on innovation in all types of food businesses. He previously was the senior director of consulting and industry programs for The Culinary Institute of America. The American Culinary Federation certified him as a culinary competition judge, and the World Association of Chefs’ Societies certified him as an international judge. He is the coauthor of So You Want to Be a Chef?, So You Are a Chef, and The American Culinary Federation’s Guide to Culinary Certification.

By This Expert

Where Our Food Really Comes From
Where Our Food Really Comes From


From Farm to Table to Feeding the World

01: From Farm to Table to Feeding the World

While cooking your meals with locally produced fruits and homegrown veggies is ideal, it’s not always feasible. Learn about the industry that is responsible for cultivating and producing most of the food you eat from the grocery store tomato to your run-of-the-mill frozen lasagna.

24 min
How Consumer Choices Change Our Food Supply

02: How Consumer Choices Change Our Food Supply

As consumers in the 21st century, we have more power than we realize. See how suppliers approach and make use of personal data in today’s consumer-driven economy. Then, turn your attention to how you can help eliminate food waste and tackle food insecurity, by being more deliberate about what you eat.

25 min
From Farm to Where You Shop

03: From Farm to Where You Shop

And what about the retailer, where most people buy their food? Explore three different types of retail strategies, zeroing in on how each cultivates customer loyalty and encourages purchases. Dissect the anatomy of a supermarket from shelf slots to two-for-one deals. And finish by surveying the manufacturing process.

22 min
From Farm to Restaurants, Slow and Fast

04: From Farm to Restaurants, Slow and Fast

Dive into what food service consists of, focusing on what makes commercial and noncommercial food service establishments tick, by looking at fancy fine dining restaurants; supermarket hot food bars; fast food; and even high-volume, public-school cafeterias.

24 min
Think like a Chef about Food Choices

05: Think like a Chef about Food Choices

Whether we cook much at home or not, we can learn a lot from chefs and how they approach food from the procurement of ingredients to dinner service. See what it really takes to manage a commercial kitchen and discover how chefs craft and prepare tasty but also practical menus.

24 min
Why Your Food Costs What It Costs

06: Why Your Food Costs What It Costs

Start by examining the history of farming from the Morrill Act onward, before looking at the economics of growing and distributing food. What does it take? How does the average farmer fit into the process? And what happens if the supply chain doesn’t—or can’t—reach everybody?

24 min
The Hidden Food Expenses We All Pay For

07: The Hidden Food Expenses We All Pay For

Our modern food industry–efficient, precise, and vast–has some significant costs. Explore how the complex system that feeds America can negatively impact human health and the natural environment. Examine the viability of prospective solutions like true cost accounting, wage hikes, consumer boycotts, and academic research.

24 min
The Global Future of Food

08: The Global Future of Food

At the course’s finale, look forward. With the possibility of a devastating syndemic staring you in the face, take stock of what you learned here to make better decisions about what you eat, and see how others, like Menus of Change and Louisiana food hall chefs, are pioneering better ways to procure and prepare food.

26 min