If your prepackaged deli meat has been looking a little more "authentic" lately, it's not because the meat is getting any tastier or the recipes any more artisanal. Food manufacturers have been hard at work giving processed meats – arguably some of the nastiest stuff in the grocery store – a "deli fresh", "homemade" makeover.
The American company Hillshire Brands, for instance, has altered the appearance of its turkey to seem grainier and "moist but not wet". A coat of caramel coloring on the edges of the turkey slices complete the oven-roasted look. Kraft Foods has gone one step further by inventing a machine that replicates the irregular cuts of a home cook, churning out one-of-kind slices each time. So, rather than tightly-packed, space-age stacks of boloney, consumers can now purchase loosely piled meat that looks like something they might have carved at home. An article at the Huffington Post describes the consumer mindset that these companies are catering to:
Bernell Dorrough, a 31-year-old web marketing coordinator in the Mobile, Ala., area, recently opted for the store brand lunchmeat at the local Publix supermarket in part because the slices came loosely packed in folds rather than in the traditional tight stacks where the meat is peeled off. "It was folded as though someone held a bag under a machine," he said. "I know it wasn't hand sliced but something about the aesthetic quality appealed to me."
This is a textbook example of Baudrillard's late-capitalism simulacra: luncheon meat that pretends to be a faithful simulation of something real, but actually refers only to itself. We no longer care if something is authentic or not, only that it feels authentic. How's that for a irregularly-shaped slice of philosophy?
Story via Huffington Post.