The question of whether or not you get the exact same food that is on the menu has persisted in the restaurant industry. What guarantee is there that you will get exactly what you ordered? Are there checks and balances to ensure the integrity of businesses that source food available in restaurants? There can be many questions surrounding the idea that the food you order is not exactly as listed on the menu. But rest assured, there are little to no legal loopholes in the big food distribution chains, so there is no widespread panic and I’m not trying to stop you from going to your favorite restaurant. On the contrary, most restaurants operate in an ethical manner, as the success of a restaurant is based primarily on its reputation, level of service and the quality of its food. We are about to uncover some of the biggest scams in the restaurant industry and as a consumer you must be familiar with the old practice of “bait and switch”. Hope this article helps you become a more educated consumer so that you can make better restaurant decisions.
Mass produced processed foods or factory foods have been available since 1910 and have grown in popularity ever since. Some of America’s most iconic food brands were first created in laboratories and produced in factories before becoming part of our daily kitchen. Some of the processed foods that have hit the main market and have been popular since 1910 are Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Aunt Jemima’s Syrup, Hellman Mayonnaise, Oreo Cookies, and Fluff Marshmallows to name a few. Advances in technology have led some food factories to focus their efforts on canning and bottling everything from vegetables to soda.
Today, the fast food industry is the world’s largest distributor of processed foods, but it’s certainly not the first to introduce factory-made foods to people. However, the fast food industry has been instrumental in improving the delivery of factory food and has accomplished a major change in the way we eat by conditioning us to accept factory processed foods as a substitute for real food. Americans consume epic servings of pre-made foods every day. It is estimated that the fast food industry serves 50,000,000 Americans per day. There has been such a massive infiltration of factory foods into our everyday cooking that it’s hard to determine what’s real and what’s transformed when you choose to eat at a fast food restaurant.
Fortunately, fast food is not our only option when choosing to go out or stay home for a meal. The majority of casual restaurants serve higher quality food than fast food restaurants, but still inferior to the quality of food you might find at a fine dining establishment. There have been a lot of reports of not having exactly what the menu suggests, especially when ordering seafood at a restaurant. For example, there are 61 species of tuna and only four species are of major commercial importance. Big Eye, albacore, yellowfin and skipjack are the 4 main species of tuna that you will find served in restaurants.
The yellow fin is also known as the Ahi tuna and often mixes with the Big Eye tuna because they have a similar texture and color. Albacore, a cheaper tuna, is often mislabeled as regular tuna because it has similar characteristics and can be easily disguised on a bed of rice, surrounded by vegetables, and covered in sauce.
Shrimp, scallops, oysters and other seafood come in varying degrees of quality and can be easily changed without raising too many eyebrows. Closely related varieties of seafood species generally have a similar color and texture and the difference is undetectable unless you have access to scientific genetic DNA testing. The majority of big restaurant chains rarely sell mislabelled fish, but reports suggest that the seafood you ordered may be a closely related DNA cousin to the seafood listed on the menu. In one case, one of the largest gourmet restaurant chains in the United States served up Yellowfin and listed the dish as Albacore on the menu, a more expensive fish than listed on the menu.
How could I discuss food fraud without mentioning the massively deceptive scam that occurs at all levels of food distribution and created by the popularity of Kobe beef? What I’m going to tell you is clear and simple, if you’ve bought Kobe beef in the past, it probably wasn’t Kobe beef at all! Until a few years ago, the FDA banned all meat imported from Japan. This means that until a few years ago, there wasn’t even an ounce of Kobe beef available in the United States. Thousands of people have become unsuspecting victims of a crime that affects the entire restaurant industry. From large distributors, celebrity chefs, bar owners and restaurant managers, the Kobe Beef Scam is one of the biggest scams in the restaurant industry to date.
According to the Kobe Beef Council in Japan, in 2016, less than 5,900 pounds. of certified Kobe beef was exported from Japan to the United States. Now 5900 pounds. Sounds like a lot of meat if you made the world’s largest burger, but to put it in perspective in 2016, we ate 18,020,960,000 pounds. of beef in the United States. Food for Thought, 29,494,738,000 books. of chicken made its way onto our plates in 2016. Compared to the amount of chicken and beef consumed in the United States, the amount of Kobe beef available in 2016 was incredibly minimal. I guess, as rare as Kobe Beef was in 2016, there hasn’t been a waste of burgers, sliders, or any other Kobe-like product. Counterfeit Kobe is so profitable that it has spread to another Japanese variety of beef, Wagyu beef. Wagyu Beef is the other half of the meaty blueprint for making more money from innocent customers.
Wagyu is a Japanese word and translated into English means “Japanese cow”. There are four types of Japanese cows that can be considered Wagyu (Kuroge Washu, Akage Washu or Akaushi, Mukaku Washu, and Nihon Tankaku Washu). American farmers imported a small number of Japanese Wagyu cows to be raised and raised in the United States, creating a new category of beef, “Domestic Wagyu”. Domestic Wagyu is the new ultra-beef, not as expensive as Kobe. There are a handful of farmers who work hard to keep the domestic Wagyu lineage pure, but most Wagyu will eventually be crossed to suit American palates and sold at your local butcher or grocery store. The quality of Wagyu beef is somewhere between Kobe Beef and USDA Prime, but how can you be sure it’s a real thing.
I went to a restaurant and ordered the Wagyu steak and it was good but a bit like USDA Prime is good too. Have I been the victim of the meat barons taking money? I don’t know, but it was a fantastic meal nonetheless. Let me explain my Wagyu experience this way, if you were to open my fridge right away you would find USDA Prime New York strips, rib eye or t-bones and not Wagyu beef. So that doesn’t happen to you and to keep away at least until this controversy is gone, order or buy a USDA Prime steak, have a great cook cook it up and enjoy it. You will not be disappointed!
The point is, only a small fraction of the people in the food industry are willing to lie for profit, but their careers are usually cut short and the train of fraudulent money is immediately cut off. The worst abuses take place in small local restaurants that don’t have much of a reputation to protect. For the most part, big chains and well-known restaurants need to maintain a high standard of food quality, service and overall reputation or we just wouldn’t give them our business.
Health to you!