Without agriculture, food processing industries may never exist because their major source of materials is gotten from agriculture. Food processing is the transformation of agricultural products into food, or of one form of food into other forms. Food processing includes many forms of processing, from grinding grain to make raw flour to home cooking to complex industrial methods used to make convenience foods.
There are three Stages of Food Processing
Some foods require little or no processing, like most fruits can be picked from the tree and eaten immediately. Others are inedible unless they undergo some type of processing, and almost all foods must be “processed” in some way to make them edible. Food processing methods fall into three categories: primary, secondary and tertiary.
Primary Food Processing
Primary food processing is the process of turning raw farm produce into foods that can be consumed. In some cases, the food is ready to be consumed once primary processing is finished. In other cases, primary processing turns the agricultural/farm product into an ingredient that can then be made into a consumable food, such as milling the grain to create flour. This category includes ingredients that are produced by ancient processes such as drying, threshing, winnowing, and milling grain, shelling nuts, and butchering animals for meat. It also includes deboning and cutting meat, freezing and smoking fish and meat, extracting and filtering oils, canning food, preserving food through food irradiation, and candling eggs, as well as homogenizing and pasteurizing milk.
Secondary Food Processing
Secondary food processing is the process of using ingredients produced through primary food processing to create ready-to-eat foods. An example of this include fermenting grape juice with wine yeast to create wine or using ground meat to make sausages. Sausages are a common form of secondary processed meat, formed by comminution (grinding) of meat that has already undergone primary processing. Most of the secondary food processing methods known to human kind are commonly described as cooking methods. Anyone can engage in secondary food processing, whether it’s done in a commercial factory, small bakery, or at home
Tertiary Food Processing
Tertiary food processing is the large-scale manufacturing of ready-to-eat foods, like frozen pizzas and packaged snacks. The term “processed food” typically refers to food products manufactured through tertiary food processing. For example, corn is grown, then harvested and nixtamalized – the process of soaking it in an alkaline solution – before being made into dough. Then, the dough is used to create tortillas, which are then cut and either baked or fried into chips. When this process is done at an industrial scale and sealed in airtight bags, it includes tertiary food processing methods after the food has gone through primary and secondary processing.
Tertiary food processing has been criticized for promoting over nutrition and obesity, because they’ve been stripped of their nutrients, containing too much sugar and salt, too little fiber, and otherwise being unhealthful.
Impact of Food Processing:
- Increase in the availability of food globally
- Ensuring food safety
- Increasing diversity and variety of meals
- Decreasing the price of foods generally
- Changing flavor and texture
- Reducing wastage of food
- Generate more income
- Preserving nutritional quality