Tag Archives: organic

You Could Be Drinking Beaver Anus

The alternate title for this post, given to me by my brother-in-law Lee, was “Food Marketing is Just That”, but I thought the beaver anus would get more attention.

I started thinking about this issue after my Dad bought ‘all natural’ Hillshire Farms pork and we got into a fight when I wouldn’t eat it. I tried to explain to him that ‘all natural’ isn’t a regulated term and doesn’t mean anything, but he had a hard time believing or understanding me. Dad, this post is for you (and everyone that drinks flavored water).
I’m sure you see Natural everywhere – cereal boxes, pork chops, granola bars – but in short, the label does not mean anything and can mean you are eating/drinking some pretty strange things (both petroleum and beaver anal glands are technically from the earth).
Problem 1: Unlike ‘USDA Organic’ and ‘Non-GMO Project Verified’, ‘All Natural’ is not a regulated term and has no agreed-upon definition. From the FDA website:
“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
Problem 2: Due to not having a strict definition, companies often mislead or lie to consumers about products being ‘all natural’. Kashi, Barbara’s, Cargill, and more have settled class action lawsuits when their products were independently tested and GMO and artificial ingredients were found.
Problem 3: Even if an ingredient is ‘natural’, i.e. it does come from the earth in some way, you still might not want to consume it. Flavored soda water is huge right now. Do me a favor and look on the back of your Hansen’s or La Croix – you’ll see ‘natural flavoring’ listed. It’s hard to tell exactly what that is, but one possibility is that Castoreum is used as the natural additive, which comes from a gland in a beaver butt. AHH! This National Geographic article, Beaver Butts Emit Goo Used for Vanilla Flavoring” sums up my thoughts nicely and one of my favorite lines is, “Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions, and urine.” Delicious!
In summary, don’t buy products marked ‘all natural’ and expect them to be healthy, minimally-processed, GMO- or beaver anus -free. Look for the USDA Organic logo and push back on your grocers and favorite brands to tell you what is in the food and beverages you are putting into your body.
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Where have all the cowboys gone?

My last post about Naked Juice’s $9 mil settlement for false advertising (WTF #1) got me thinking about the brands truly pioneering sustainable products and how a lot of them are no more. These cowboys have mostly been purchased by larger (mostly terrible) companies that change the products, change the ingredients, and change the supply chains all under the guise of reaching the masses. I have no snobbery around my favorite eco-products being offered at Wal-Mart (I have snobbery around not stepping foot in a Wal-Mart but that’s for another day). I actually LOVE the idea of more people being able to buy the products I love and use. More people making conscious choices. Which in theory should add up to more trees saved, less GHGs put into the air, better labor conditions, right?! Unfortunately the reality isn’t quite that rosy.

Since I’m lactose-free soy is part of my diet. When Silk Soymilk was taken over by megatron Dean Foods, they began to use conventional soybeans instead of organic ones WITHOUT CHANGING THE PACKAGING. WTF #2. The same Dean Foods also bought Horizon (what was great organic milk) and now they are being sued by farmers and the Cornucopia Institute for selling fake organic milk, and investigated by the Justice Department. WTF #3.

Colgate-Palmolive bought my beloved Tom’s and surprise surprise they now have an antiperspirant for the first time that contains aluminum (the debated ingredient that may be linked to breast cancer or may just be a lot of chemical to roll up onto your delicate parts). Oh and their mouthwash contains a ‘natural’ ingredient derived from gas and oil, Poloxamer 335 & 407. WTF #4. But they are actually one of the companies doing it the best. While their recent switch to (non-recyclable) plastic toothpaste tubes sent hippies up in arms, they transparently listed customer feedback as the reason for the switch (the aluminum tubes cracked/split apparently) and put a band-aid on the recycling problem by letting you ship them to Maine, where they’ll ship them to Illinois to be made into other plastics. But will you do that? Will I? At least they ditched the cardboard tube box!

Other notable cowboy losses since 2000 include: Burt’s Bees now part of the Clorox manufacturing machine, L’Oreal owns my new favorite The Body Shop, Unilever owns Ben & Jerrys, Coke owns Odwalla and Honest Tea, Danone owns Stoneyfield Farm and Brown Cow, Kellogg owns Kashi, General Mills owns Cascadian Farm, Larabar, and Food Should Taste Good, and Schwepps owns Green & Black Organic Chocolate (this one I was surprised about!). Do you know of others?

Check out the infographic below to see Michigan State’s mapping of where our organic brands really come from and do you own research to see if the products have changed, as the packaging likely hasn’t.

Meanwhile, I’m keeping a desperate hold on to my few remaining favorites Amy’s, Arrowhead Mills, Nature’s Path, and Organic Valley.

Michigan State Organic Industry Structure

Michigan State Organic Industry Structure

Make-Your-Own Trail Mix in New Haven!

trailmix

Greetings from the East Coast! As I head into the woods for a week of pure happiness at camp, I’m finding lots of GREEN back in my native CT. New Haven has always intrigued me as a city. Slightly ghetto, pretty small, but with a ton of local spirit, educated people, and even a startup scene. My Dad and I had the pleasure of feasting at Green Well where he commented ‘Woah, this is a hippie SF/Sarah restaurant’. Right he was!

Green Well’s mission is to bring happiness, energy and fulfillment to others through lifestyle and consumption habits (side note: I think this also might be my mission!). There the organic, responsibly sourced food and drink is the norm, and it’s not more expensive (Dad was into the prices and he listens to Rush Limbaugh).

All sandwiches are served on freshly baked/homemade vegan bread, and sandwiches come with kale chips. I’m still dreaming of our breakfast sandwiches, and the glorious trail mix and cereal bar where I tried my first goji berry (16 varieties of dried fruit, veggies, nuts and granola!).

Coming home is going to be much more fun with great places like this popping up. Way to go CT!

San Francisco is the coolest.

In addition to municipal composting, vegan options on many a menu, and bike lanes gallore, SF is home to incredible for-good start-ups like Bicycle Coffee Co. They not only serve delicious organic, hand picked (more sustainable than machine ruined), fair-trade coffee from farmers they have met and visited, BCC also only delivers this coffee to grocery stores and retailers by bike! And, because of their super low-overhead / efficient business model, the prices of their coffee bags are the same as the non-organics sitting next to them. Woah, serious changemaker on our hands here.

This is pretty much my dream, and I continue to allow SF to inspire me to find my for-good venture.

If you live in the bay area, consider switching out your regular cup of joe and instantly make a difference. What a wonderful world we live in, where drinking a cup of coffee can truly make change; in the lives of the Central American farmers, in the air as no-CO2 is added, and as a vote towards making all coffee organic, fair-trade, and sustainable.

A very vegan Christmas

I’ve been pretty adamant about not getting candy in my stocking for the last few years (it’s hard enough to keep those holiday lbs off!), and this year Daddy Guder Santa got my stocking just right! Well, almost just right. In it were delicious vegan, organic, and gluten free power bars Bumble Bars, ThinkThin bars, and an unbelievably yummy Oskri Coconut Chocolate bar. He also added Sunflower butter cups (like peanut butter cups but even better) which are Rainforest Alliance certified, meaning the company has been certified as focusing on environmental protection, social equity and economic viability. Check out the certification list for exact requirements. He also through in some SeaSnax seaweed which was surprisingly good and dry roasted and wasabi edamame – an all time fav. So the only miss? Primal Strips hickory smoked vegan jerky. GROSS. It tasted like straight vomit and no matter how much you miss meat (I actually am usually ok except for the occasionally bacon and eggs or pepperoni pizza desire), this will not fill that void. It was pretty hilarious though seeing fake beef jerky, and the whole family got a laugh, and a gag, out of trying it. Way to go Daddy Guder Santa on a sustainable stocking!

Loca-Organic-Vega, What? Eating made Simple.

Sustainable food. Is it better to buy a local organic apple? Well there are no chemicals used (+1 health) and it takes less fuel to get that apple to you (+1 emissions saving). What about the apple from Fiji though? It had to travel thousands of miles to get here (-1 emissions), and who knows what the organic standards are like over there (we’ll give it a 0 for health), but are you also helping to create jobs and livlihoods for developing economies? With the global food trade, some countries are getting themselves on the map. In parts of Africa only fruit grows. Should they just eat fruit all year because it’s local or should they bring money into their economy and give people a living wage by exporting them?  Continue reading

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