No time to realize how busy we are

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Time for true confessions: I often buy those bags of the fresh baby carrots instead of the normal-sized carrots in the produce section. And I can’t tell you the last time I planted carrots in my garden.

I know, I know. They’re more expensive and it really doesn’t take that much time to peel and clean and cut the other, bigger carrots. But I have fallen prey to the weakest excuse of them all – and I’m not the only one – “it’s just easier and so much quicker.”

No doubt, Farm and Dairy readers are the last to succumb to the “convenience factor.” We are still the canners and preservers of produce, the gardeners, the “u-pickers,” the bakers and the “from scratch-ers.” But we are the exception, not the norm. And I dare say more than one reader has whipped up Kraft Macaroni and Cheese in a pinch.

“Time is the new money,” says author and trend spotter Faith Popcorn. “People would rather spend money than time.”

Popcorn estimates 80 percent of Americans are looking for ways to simplify their lives and 78 percent want to reduce stress – and that’s probably why home meal replacement is now a $100 billion business.

You read that right: a $100 billion business.

Convenience is why we have 1,000 Wal-Mart Supercenters in this country. Food convenience is playing a major role in that Wal-Mart growth. Grab those steaks while you buy shoes for the kids and you’re out the door and back home.

Can agriculture wrap its arms around this trend? Will produce and fruit growers, will meat producers push to find new uses, new forms for their products to keep them moving into consumers’ carts?

“The consumer is going to continue to demand more convenience, and that will come in the forms of precooked, ready-to-cook and meals ready-to-go,” said marketer Tim Straus in the October issue of “Meat Marketing & Technology.”

“Our daughters haven’t learned how to cook because our wives are not cooking and a knowledge of how to cook meat wasn’t passed on,” Straus said. “To many younger ‘homemakers,’ cooking is something that is assembled from the frozen food department. Many raw cuts [of meat] are a real question mark to these younger consumers.”

You may take offense at the notion that your wives or daughters don’t know how to cook, but there are people out there who buy boneless chicken breasts because they don’t know how to bone chicken or don’t want the hassle.

“Convenience foods aren’t just a convenience,” the magazine quotes Straus, “they are a necessity.”

Food producers, convenience is driving the sales of your products. What is your industry association, your commodity group, your checkoff dollars doing about it?

Are you listening to your customers?

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