Humans are born with the ability to detect five types of taste – sweet, bitter, salty, sour, and umami.
There are three main ways we learn to like or dislike certain flavours.
The first is referred to as “flavor-nutrient learning,” where we learn to form positive associations between the flavor of a given food and what that food does to our bodies.
This can be the sudden burst of energy that comes with eating the orange-flavored dextrosol glucose powder or the euphoria that comes after drinking a cold bottle of beer.
The second one is called “taste-flavor learning,” where we associate a given flavor with one we already like.
Most first-time drinkers of black coffee can’t stand the taste and some have proceeded to describe it as disgusting, but add milk and some sugar, and most will find it palatable.
The third is called social learning, or the idea that we simply like what our friends and parents like. This can be a process that is lifelong but starts in the womb.
Our mothers’ food preferences during pregnancy and infancy stage are transmitted into us through amniotic fluid and breastmilk, respectively.
A 2001 study by Monell Chemical Senses Center found that babies who had previously been exposed to carrot juice through their mothers enjoyed carrot-flavored cereal more.
Breast-fed infants also have an easier time accepting new foods than those fed on formula, signifying the influence a breastfeeding mother has on her infant’s tastes and preferences.
Ever noticed how people from certain countries and cultures immediately take a liking to spicy foods?
Growing up in a Kenyan household, we always heard the phrase “kienyeji chicken tastes better than broiler”.
Social learning has a great impact on how Kenyan households prefer kienyeji chicken, but the question remains, is it tastier?
Kienyeji, or free-range chicken, have extremely tough meat, takes eons to prepare, and can only handle a limited number of recipes. It simply does not have the range.
Kienyeji chickens are raised mainly outside of pens and are allowed to roam free and forage their food.
They consume grass, bugs, and worms in addition to their grain diet.
Broilers are raised indoors in confined cages and are strictly fed just a grain diet.
Chickens confined in shared cages inside warehouses are overcrowded and are not able to engage in their natural behaviors of foraging, dust bathing, and flapping their wings.
This gives them their tender, succulent flesh, while the former’s meat texture makes you think that they do gym workouts.
In general, chickens are great for their high protein content. They are a good source of all B-vitamins and are very rich in selenium. They are also good sources of zinc, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron.
Eggs of kienyeji chickens taste better, and they are also healthier. The meat has higher levels of nutrients and less fat. Free-range chickens have 21% less total fat, 30% less saturated fat, and 28% fewer calories than their factory-farmed counterparts. Moreover, eggs from poultry raised on pasture have 10% less fat, 40% more vitamin A and 400% more omega-3. Kienyeji is healthier.
At the end of the day, social learning has an impact on our taste preferences, and this can be seen in third culture kids, who mostly live in urban areas. They detest kienyeji chicken!