Food is any substance normally eaten or drunk by living things. The term food also includes liquid drinks. Food is the main source of energy and of nutrition for animals, and is usually of animal or plant origin.
The study of food is called food science. In English, the term food is often used metaphorically or figuratively, as in food for thought.
Western food law recognises four categories of object as food:
- any substance or product, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, intended to be, or reasonably expected to be ingested by humans whether of nutritional value or not;
- water and other drinks;
- chewing gum;
- articles and substances used as ingredients or components in the preparation of food.
Human eating habits
Humans are omnivorous animals that can consume both plant and animal products. We changed from gatherers to hunter gatherers. After the experience of the Ice Age it is probable that humans wanted to create some feeling of security by controlling what plants were growing and which animals were available. This led to agriculture, which has continually improved and altered the way in which food is obtained.
A selection of different complementary foods eaten together comprises a meal. People often choose to eat meals together with other family members or friends and this is seen as an important social occasion. Food eaten in smaller quantities between meals is regarded as snack food.
The number of meals in a day, their size, composition, when and how they are prepared and eaten vary greatly around the world. This is greatly dependent on the local climate, ecology, economy, cultural traditions and industrialisation. Meals also plays an important role in the celebration of many key cultural and religious festivals.
In societies where the availability of food has risen above subsistence levels and beyond staple foods, food is also sold pre-prepared for immediate consumption in restaurants and other similar retail premises. In industrial societies, meals often contain a higher proportion of food of animal origin.
- See also: Appetite, Buddhist cuisine, Eucharist, Fast food, Fasting, Gault Millau restaurant guide, Halaal, I-tal, Kashrut, Michelin restaurant guide, Muslim dietary laws, Potluck, Totemism.
Food production or acquisition
Food is traditionally obtained through farming, ranching, and fishing, with hunting, foraging and other methods of subsistence locally important for some populations, but minor for others.
In the modern era, in developed nations, food supply is increasingly dependent upon agriculture, industrial farming and fish farming techniques which aim to maximise the amount of food produced, whilst minimising the cost. These include a reliance on mechanised tools which have been developed, from the threshing machine, seed drill, through to the tractor and combine harvester, etc. These have been combined with the use of pesticides to promote high crop yields and combat those insects or mammals which reduce yield.
More recently, there has been a growing trend towards more Sustainable agricultural practices. This approach - which is partly fuelled by consumer demand - encourages biodiversity, local self-reliance and Organic farming methods.
Major influences on food production are international policy, e.g. the World Trade Organization and Common Agricultural Policy, national government policy or law and war.
Food for livestock is fodder and traditionally comprises hay or grain.
- See also: mariculture, horticulture, agribusiness, gardening.
- Grasses and their grains, including including barley, cereals, couscous, corn or maize, oats, rice, rye, sugarcane, wheat
- Fruit, see also list of fruits
- Herbs, see also list of herbs and spices
- Legumes, including beans, peas, lentils, jicama
- Spices, see also list of herbs and spices
- Vegetables, see also list of vegetables
- Dairy products, including milk
- Insects, including honey
- Meat, including beef, frogs' legs, gaegogi, goat, horse, kangaroo, lamb, mutton, pork, veal, human (i.e. cannibalism)
- Offal, including blood
- Poultry, including chicken, turkey, duck, goose, pigeon or dove, ostrich, emu, guinea fowl, pheasant, quail
- Seafood, including mollusks and crustaceans, which are collectively known as shellfish
- Game, this includes all animals hunted for food.
From neither animals or plants
Whilst some food can be eaten without preparation, many foods undergo some form of preparation for reasons of safety, palatability, or flavour. At the simplest level this may involve washing, cutting, trimming or adding other foods or ingredients, such as spices. It may also involve mixing, heating or cooling, Pressure cooking, fermentation, or combination with other food. Most food preparation takes place in a kitchen.
The preparation of animal-based food will usually involve slaughter, evisceration, hanging, portioning and rendering.
- See also: Barbecue, Eating utensils, Frankfurt kitchen, Hangi, Oven, Microwave oven, Refrigeration, .
Human knowledge of cooking and preparation methods is often taught by parents to their children, largely based on the cuisine within their cultural traditions. Since the development, of mass-produced printing, this has been supplemented by written recipes. Early examples of influential recipe books include De re coquinaria, Le Repertoire De La Cuisine, Larousse Gastronomique and Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.
- See also: Wikipedia cookbook.
Food manufacturing, or food processing, arose during the industrialisation era in the 19th century. This development took advantage of new mass markets and emerging new technology, such as milling, food preservation, packaging and labelling and transportation. It brought the advantages of pre-prepared time saving food to the bulk of ordinary people who did not employ domestic servants.
At the start of the 21st century, a two-tier structure has arisen, with a few international food processing giants controlling a wide range of well known food brands; with a populous number of small local or national food processing companies.
- See also: Best before, Canning, Coloring, Food quality, Cook/chill, Additivess, Flavoring, Enzymes, Genetically modified food, Packaging and labelling, Pasteurization, Preservation, Shelf-life, Ultra-high temperature processing.
Types of manufactured food
- Drinks: beer, juice, soft drink, squash, liquids.
- Bread is a staple food for many nations, being made of risen dough.
- Cheese is a curdled milk product, of which many varieties exist.
- Dessert is a course, usually sweet, and generally served after the main course, e.g. Ice cream.
- French fries
- Snack food: Confectionery, Potato chips, Chocolate, Cracker (biscuit), Hardtack
Food is now traded on a global basis. The variety and availability of food is no longer restricted by the diversity of locally grown food or the limitations of the local growing season. Between 1961 and 1999 there has been a 400% increase in worldwide food exports. Some countries are now economically dependant on food exports, which in some cases account for over 80% of all exports.
In 1994 trade liberalisation began when over 100 countries became signatories to the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which included an agreement to reduce subsidies paid to farmers. This is underpinned by the WTO enforcement of agricultural subsidy, tariffs, import quotas and settlement of trade disputes that cannot be bilaterally resolved. Where trade barriers are raised on the disputed grounds of public health and safety, the WTO refer the dispute to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which was founded in 1962 by the United Nations Source | Copyright
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