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Food and Beverage Production


Business and organizations that produce, manage, regulate, and distribute food and beverages comprise the food and beverage production industry. They are an essential part of society.

As a fundamental human need, food and beverages always have played a central part in our lives. Our ancestors lived or died according to their ability to grow food, hunt for food, or fight for food. People have always sought out new sources of food. Throughout history people have identified the plants, insects, fungi, and animals in their region capable of sustaining them. In time, agrarian cultures were able to trade or sell their surplus food supplies for other goods and services, and food became an important part of the commerce of a society. As societies came into contact with each other, they also learned of different types of foods available in different parts of the world.

Similarly, although people always tried to assure a source of fresh water, an important change partially connected to the rise of agrarian cultures was the development of beer, a drink associated with the dawn of civilization when people began planting and harvesting wheat and barley. Stone Age beer jugs dating back to 10,000 B.C. have been found. Research indicates that the builders of the pyramids were paid in beer and bread. Wine dates back almost as far as beer. Images of wine use appear in Egyptian pictographs dating to 4,000 B.C. Spirits, especially rum and brandy, came into favor beginning sometime during the 1400s. Alcoholic beverages were not the only drinks of choice beyond water. It is believed coffee beans were first roasted and brewed around 1000 A.D. and coffee drinking had spread throughout the Arab world by the 1400s. Brewing tea leaves into a beverage was first noted in China sometime in the third century. In 1886, Americans had their first taste of Coca-Cola, a sweet, fizzy beverage developed by a pharmacist.

Some of the earliest methods of processing foods developed out of a direct need to assist people in surviving long winters. Because there was no chance to harvest fruits and vegetables in winter, it was important that people find a way to store enough food for the entire season. Drying and salting meats preserved it for months, as these methods removed or otherwise made unavailable the water needed by microorganisms that might spoil the food. Pickled vegetables and fruits could be stored for long periods, because the high acid content of the pickling solution killed off microorganisms. Apples packed in coal would not ripen as quickly. Smoking foods was another preservation method, because smoke contains chemicals with both antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

Early societies also produced and used beer, wine, and other fermented drinks as a source of nutrients, such as the juice of grapes and other fruits or honey used to make wine, and the grains used to brew beer, as well as for their medicinal and antiseptic properties.

Today, food and beverage processing and manufacturing is one of the largest employment industries in the United States, providing jobs for nearly 1.6 million workers annually.