I didn’t realize this until two days ago, that there exists a whole world of “infographics” on the internet. Pretty cool stuff. When you read facts in a paragraph it’s easy (the average American eats almost 11 pounds of mozzarella cheese annually) for facts to get lost in the clutter of ideas. But a talented graphic designer armed with statistics can do more than inform. They can sway.
Two days ago I was emailed a link to this infographic about pizza consumption in the United States. On the one hand, I love seeing such proof of pizza's popularity. But viewing statistics in this way causes me to worry some.
Because what is the pizza that Americans eat? Is it fresh food pizza made with unprocessed materials and no corn (unless the topping is kernels of corn)? Or is it previously-frozen stuff made with long lists of (4 in 10 people list pepperoni as their favorite topping) chemical ingredients?
Graphic appears courtesy of ONLINECOLLEGECOURSES.COM - accessible here or via graphic above.
The graphic cites Cici’s Pizza as “America’s favorite pizza chain.” A quick look to Cici’s website list reveals flavoring and chemicals in many (but not all) of the ingredients deployed. My favorite is the sausage, which is made of “Pork, Water, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP, Soy Flour, Caramel Color), Mechanically separated Chicken, Seasoning (spices, salt, garlic powder, sugar, onion powder, disodium insinate, disodium guanylate, flavoring), soy protein concentrate, sodium tripolyphosphate, salt” I wish that a chain like Cici’s -- which has its central offices in Texas -- could figure out a way to make sausage from straight food.
But hope also lies alongside my worries. Sixty-five percent of the 70,000 pizzerias in the US are independently owned. That's 45,000 independent pizzerias in the USA. This means that, despite the massive marketing efforts and pricing strategies employed by the chains, people want pizza made by independent shops.
The question is: what ingredients do independent shops use? I wouldn't know how to assemble statistics on this. I have observed that many of shops in New York (and other cities) use wholesome ingredients: sausage that comes from a butcher shop down the road, mozzarella made from curd within 24 hours of use, and even solid state beef pepperoni. If a place doesn't even have a freezer: that's good!
You can ask your favorite pizzeria what they use. They may or may not tell you. But one thing's certain: when a place uses good fresh foods, you can taste the difference. Order a pie each from your local joint and from Domino's. See what you think.