Package it, slap a label on it and sell it for $4.99 a pound. It’s as simple as that when you’re selling groceries, right? Hardly. Food, meat in particular, is tied to cultural sensibilities about production, cleanliness, family values and a host of other topics. Meat, like Norman Rockwell images of the American farm, is myth. We’ve been conditioned to turn away from the origins of our food and respond to blood and death with repulsion. Or have we? With the emergence of a “foodie” nation and a growing movement interested in eliminating those things we deem bad for us (nitrates, high fructose corn syrup, glutens, etc.) we are learning to appreciate where our food comes from again. But how far are most of us willing to go? Understanding what organic means doesn’t mean we’re ready to embrace everything. Take blood.
Blood is one of the least used parts of the pig and it’s a terrible waste. Not just in resources, but as a culinary experience. And in many cases, it endows the adage “blood is thicker than water” with a wealth of meaning. It, like the butchering, is part of a family tradition — it creates bonds of familial piety, it teaches lessons about the importance of food is the greater social milieu, it pulls people together in a primal understanding of the role of the family bond in survival. It even teaches us about cosmology. It may look like just a bunch of blood and gore, but it is so very much more. But the idea of selling blood as an ingredient at the local grocery, or even a natural food store like Whole Foods, is probably more than most Americans are willing to stomach, literally and figuratively.
With wealth comes the desire to learn about where our food comes from, how it’s produced and what exactly is in it. But in a postmodern world where our food is often more a badge than an actual need or culinary norm, we have limits to what we’ll accept. The point is that shopping for food is an increasingly complex process as has less to do with securing calories than it does with symbols and meaning. And the same can be said for most products. If you’re a marketer, that means understanding layers of complexity that may have gone overlooked in the past and developing strategies to account for that complexity. Anything less and your plan is a bloody mess.