No post last night because I got back from Chicago much later than I’d planned. I left Chareva’s parents’ house in the morning and made good time all day … then hit a dead-standstill traffic jam in southern Kentucky that lasted for hours. Chareva told me later there had been an accident involving a semi. Good thing I had the trusty audiobook player. I don’t like being parked for hours on an interstate highway, but I treated it as extra reading time.
The original motivation for my trip north was a reunion of “The Schmat Guys,” a.k.a. the four of us who have been in the same football pool for 25 years. (One of the Schmat Guys is Dave Jaffe, whose very amusing Write Good! blog I’ve quoted here a few times. I’m the current holder of the Mista Schmat Guy trophy, but not doing so well this season.)
Back when we all lived in Chicago, we met every Sunday at the Red Lion pub to watch the games, drink pints, and insult each other’s bad picks. Now we’re all old married men (one divorced), and only two of the old married men still live in the Chicago area. It had been at least 15 years since we were all in the same room at the same time. We fixed that with a gathering at the Red Lion on Sunday. The owner remembered us by name, so I guess we probably spent more time there than we should have.
Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, it occurred to me that Dr. William “Wheat Belly” Davis lives near Milwaukee, so I checked to see if he might perhaps be in town and available for an on-camera interview. He was. So I spent pretty much all of Saturday with him. Interview first, then we went out for an early dinner and a long conversation at a restaurant in Milwaukee.
I got to know Dr. Davis a bit during the 2012 cruise (we were at the same dinner table), but this was the first chance I had to talk with him one-on-one for an all-day stretch. It turns out he’s as fascinated with the whole Wisdom of Crowds effect as I am. Given what’s happened with the national dietary guidelines, bad advice from organizations like the American Heart Association, all the drug-pushing doctors out there, etc., etc., Dr. Davis believes seeking advice from the crowd is a necessary form of self-defense.
When I opened my menu at the restaurant, I saw the Wisdom of Crowds effect right there in front of me. I’m paraphrasing from memory, but printed above the list of burger combinations was something like this:
All our hamburgers are freshly ground from 100% grass-fed beef!
Was anybody demanding grass-fed beef five years ago? If so, I wasn’t aware of it. But I’m seeing more and more restaurants meeting what is obviously a growing demand.
At the BMI office where I work, there’s something called Food Truck Wednesday, which means employees can patronize a food truck in the parking lot during lunch hour. I recently noticed that one of the vendors, Hoss Burgers, also brags on their menus that the burgers are made from 100% grass-fed beef.
A lot of us have very legitimate complaints about the food supply, with all its processed garbage and meats that come from grain-fed animals raised in what amount to meat factories. A question I’m asked now and then is How do we change this horrible system?
We don’t have to change the system. All we have to do is buy foods that enhance health and help spread the word to the crowd. You can complain all you want about the evils of capitalism, but even the greediest capitalist can only sell you what you’re willing to buy — the exception being when government takes your money and does your buying for you.
Remember when every damned thing on the grocery shelves was labeled low-fat or zero cholesterol? That was the market responding to consumer demand. Yes, the federal government helped create that demand with lousy dietary advice, but it was nonetheless consumer purchases driving what was produced.
That’s still how it works. But now the Wisdom of Crowds effect is kicking in and changing what people demand. When food trucks are offering grass-fed burgers, it means somebody in management noticed a change in consumer preference. When restaurants add a new Gluten Free section to their menus, it means somebody in management noticed a change in consumer preference. As more and more people choose grass-fed meats and other healthier foods, that’s what the producers will produce.
The burger I had in Milwaukee (a half-pounder with Havarti cheese, onions and mushrooms) was excellent, by the way. So was the dinner conversation with a brilliant doctor I believe is responsible for making the crowd a bit wiser – and probably for some of those Gluten Free sections on menus.