While “fresh is best” is, for many of us, a guiding principle in selecting food, there’s a case for taking a fresh perspective, say David Evans and Peter Jackson.
To say that something is fresh is usually to recommend it. When applied to food, it conjures images of produce that is wholesome, natural and inviting – food that tastes good and is good for us. However the pursuit of freshness carries significant environmental and social burdens. They range from the working conditions of seasonal agricultural labourers to the demands placed on energy, water and other scarce resources. A good example is the orange juice retail market in the UK. Orange juice that is considered fresh on the grounds that it is not made from concentrate and is sold in refrigerated cabinets commands a price premium. It also has nearly triple the carbon footprint of orange juice that is reconstituted from concentrate and sold at ambient temperature.
Perhaps, then, fresh isn’t always best. Given the challenges confronting current and future food systems, it is time to ask: What exactly is freshness? Why is it so important? And can it