The question of whether or not you are actually getting the exact same food that is listed on the menu has lingered in the restaurant industry. What guarantee is there that you are going to get exactly what you ordered? Are there any checks and balances in place to ensure the integrity of the companies sourcing the food available in restaurants? There might be many questions surrounding the notion that the food you’re ordering is not exactly as stated on the menu. But rest assured there are few if any legal loopholes within major food distribution chains so there is no cause widespread panic and I’m not trying to stop you from going to your favorite restaurant. On the contrary, most restaurants operate ethically as a restaurant’s success relies mainly on its reputation, level of service, and quality of food. We are about to uncover some of the biggest scams in the restaurant industry and as a consumer you need to know the old practice of “bait and switch” still occurs. Hopefully this article will help you become a more educated consumer so you can make better decisions when it comes to dining out.
Mass produced processed food or factory food has been available since 1910 and has continued to gain popularity ever since. Some of the most iconic American food brands were first created in laboratories and produced in factories before becoming a part of our daily cuisine. Some of the processed foods that hit the main stream market and have been popular ever since 1910 are Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Aunt Jemima syrup, Hellman’s mayonnaise, Oreo cookies, and Fluff marshmallows to name a few. Advances in technology lead some food factories to turn their efforts towards the canning and bottling of everything from vegetables to soda.
Today the fast food industry is the largest distributor of processed food but definitely not the first to introduce people to food made in a factory. However, the fast food industry was instrumental in perfecting the delivery of factory food and accomplished a major change in the way we eat by conditioning us to accept a factory processed foods as a substitute for real food. American people are consuming epic portions of prefabricated foods every day. It’s estimated the fast food industry serves 50,000,000 Americans per day. There has been such a massive infiltration of factory food into our daily cuisine that it’s hard to determine what is real and what is processed when you choose to eat at a fast food restaurant.
Thankfully fast food is not our only option when choosing whether to go out or stay home for a meal. The majority of casual dining restaurants are serving food that is higher quality food compared to fast food restaurants but still below the quality of food you might find at fine dining establishment. There have been a lot of reports of not getting exactly what the menu suggests especially when you ordered seafood at a restaurant. For example, there are 61 species of tuna and only four species are of major commercially importance. Big Eye, Albacore, Yellowfin, and Skipjack are the 4 main species of tuna you will find being served at restaurants.
Yellow fin also known as Ahi tuna and often gets mixed up with Big Eye tuna because they are similar in texture and color. Albacore, a less expensive tuna, is often mislabeled as regular tuna since 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 have varying degrees of quality and can be easily switched without raising too many eyebrows. Varieties of seafood species that are closely related cousins are usually similar color and texture and the difference is undetectable unless you have access to scientific genetic DNA testing. The majority of large restaurant chains rarely sell mislabeled fish however there are reports that suggest the seafood you ordered might be a closely related DNA matched cousin to the seafood listed on the menu. In one instance, one of the biggest US fine dining chain restaurants actually served Yellowfin and listed the dish as Albacore on the menu, a more expensive fish than stated on the menu.
How could I possibly discuss food fraud without mentioning the massively deceptive scam that is occurring at all levels of food distribution and created from of the popularity of Kobe beef? What I am about to tell you is plain and simple, if you bought Kobe beef in the past it probably wasn’t Kobe beef at all! Until a few years ago the FDA ban all imported meat coming from Japan. That means until a few years ago there wasn’t even one ounce of Kobe beef available in the US. Thousands of people became unsuspecting victims of a crime that span the entire restaurant industry. From large distributors, celebrity chefs, bar owners, and restaurant managers the Kobe beef scam is one of the restaurant industry’s largest scams to date.
According to the Kobe Beef Council in Japan, in 2016 less than 5900 lbs. of certified Kobe beef was exported to the US from Japan. Now 5900 lbs. does seem like a lot of meat if you were making the world’s largest burger but to put it in perspective in 2016 we consumed 18,020,960,000 lbs. of beef in the US. Food for thought, 29,494,738,000 lbs. of chicken ended up on our plates in 2016. Compared to the amount of chicken and beef consumed in the US the amount of Kobe beef that was available in 2016 was incredibly minimal. I’m going to guess that as rare as Kobe beef was in 2016, there wasn’t any wasted on burgers, sliders or any other Kobe-type products. The counterfeit Kobe is so profitable that it spilled over to another Japanese variety of beef, Wagyu beef. Wagyu beef is the other half of the meaty master plan to high-jack more money from innocent diners.
Wagyu is a Japanese word and translated to 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). US farmers have imported a small number of Japanese Wagyu cows to be raised and bred in the US creating a new category of beef, “Domestic Wagyu”. Domestic Wagyu is the new, not-as-expensive-as-Kobe, ultra-beef. There are a handful of farmers working hard to keep the Domestic Wagyu bloodline pure but eventually most Wagyu will be cross bred to suit American palates and to be sold at your local butcher shop or grocery store. The quality of Wagyu beef sits between Kobe beef and USDA Prime but how can you be without a doubt certain that it’s real thing.
I went to a restaurant and ordered the Wagyu steak and it was good but much like USDA Prime is good as well. Did I fall victim to the meat barons money grab? Not sure, but it was a fantastic meal none-the-less. Let me explain my Wagyu experience this way, if you were to open my refrigerator right now you will find either USDA Prime New York strips, rib-eyes, or t-bones and no Wagyu beef. So this doesn’t happen to you and to keep yourself out of harm’s way at least until this controversy fades away, order or purchase a USDA Prime steak, have a great cook prepare it, and enjoy. You won’t be disappointed!
The fact is that only a small fraction of people in the food industry are willing to lie for profit but their careers are usually cut short and the gravy train of scam money immediately cut off. The worst abuse is taking place in the smaller local restaurants with not much of a reputation to protect. For the most part, large chains and well known restaurants have to maintain a high level of food quality, service, and overall reputation or we simply would not give them our business.
Cheers To You!