As an undercover hidden camera investigation recently revealed, not every bearded and overall-wearing guy behind the stand at farmers markets is selling food he grew himself. Some of them just load up a local produce warehouses and sell it to you at a feel-good-about-saving-the-earth premium. So how do you tell who’s real and who’s shoveling you fertilizer?
If you’re in California and need to make a little extra cash, why not buy a bag of baby carrots from the supermarket, throw some potting soil on them, and sell them at your local farmers market as fresh-from-your-farm organic treats? Okay, maybe technically that’s not permitted, but who’s going to stop you? An NBCLA investigation found vendors at several farmers markets were lying to customers about their produce, and sourcing it from local warehouses instead of their own farms.
There’s a burgeoning artisanal market in the U.S., where goods made by hand or in small batches–and marketed with lots of footnotes and descriptions of quality–are growing increasingly more popular. But why, and is it just a hipster lifestyle ingredient or an actual shift in the larger population?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has banned one of the biggest food inspector groups in the nation from operating in China, reports the New York Times, because of conflict of interest concerns. It turns out the Organic Crop Improvement Association (OCIA) was using employees of a Chinese government agency to inspect Chinese government-owned farms, which sort of misses the point of independent certification entirely.
If you want a good deal on a high-end bottle of wine, a new study suggests you should look for wines that clearly indicate they’re made from organic grapes. An economics professor and an environmental science Ph.D. candidate compared wines made with certified organically grown grapes to conventional wines, looking at both price and taste rankings, and found that the organic ones scored on average one point higher on Wine Spectator’s rankings. For some reason, telling that to consumers seems to devalue the wine: high-scoring bottles that advertised their organic nature sold for less at retail, while bottles that withheld this info scored just as high on taste but also were priced higher than average.
Global fast fashion retailer H&M and European chains C&A and Tchibo have been caught selling misleading “organic cotton” products to consumers. Independent testing done by Germany’s Financial Times showed that 30% of the samples contained genetically modified strains of cotton. Oops.
A group of farmers in the Seattle area are testing out a new $300,000 “Mobile Meat Processing Unit”—a 45-foot stainless steel trailer that comes with its own USDA inspector and a butcher—in an attempt to see whether they can make a profit selling their meat locally instead of shipping livestock off to a feedlot “hundreds of miles away.”
Are America’s spending habits becoming more… gasp… sensible?? Time magazine has a list of things we’re spending our money on during this recession, and it might surprise you. We’re not buying tinned soup, we’re buying organic veggies! We’re finally getting that root canal we’ve been putting off! We’ve stopped boozing and whoring! And we’re learning to survive without painting our nails.
We don’t blame the Mid America CropLife Association (MACA)—
a pesticide an agribusiness trade group—for promoting its interests, but we still think it’s funny that they’ve asked the first family to not grow organic vegetables in the White House vegetable garden. MACA’s Executive Director Bonnie McCarvel sent a long letter to Michelle Obama reminding her of the importance of technology in modern farming, then publicized the letter via an email where she noted, “While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder.”
The Lansing State Journal has put together a list of 5 marked-up retail categories to be aware of when you’re making purchasing decisions, most of which you hopefully already know. If you can’t find wholesale sources or DIY replacements, then at least make sure you do a lot of comparison shopping to get the best deal.
Want an extra $1,000? The Wall Street Journal has a list of seven things that you can easily stop buying without making drastic changes to your lifestyle.
Here are 11 fruits and vegetables that typically have low amounts of pesticides. Now we just need to find a recipe for asparagus pineapple onion salad. [The Daily Green]
While shopping at Safeway today I noticed something odd about the “O” Organics Milk. After I listened to a mom tell her daughter she buys “whatever is on sale” I went to purchase my own milk and realized that’s not such a good plan. A half gallon was on sale for 2 for $7. Or if your a savvy shopper you could buy a gallon for $6.59. The Safeway website confirms it.
The New York Times reports that more and more people are buying shares of small farms, mostly on the coasts and around the Great Lakes region, which guarantee them a percentage of the season’s harvest. This “community-supported agriculture” model has exploded from fewer than 100 farms in the early 90s to nearly 1,500 in recent years. Helping out is optional, although we’re not sure the real farmers would appreciate our constant bitching about being in the sun. (I worked summers hoeing cotton fields in Texas, which is partly why I moved to NYC.)
A test of 47 “natural” and “green” labeled soaps, shampoos and other consumer products show that they contain 1,4-dioxan, which has been shown to cause cancer in lab rats. [LAT]
Here at the Consumerist we’re not trying to tell you that you need to buy organic soap, but if you do want organic soap… we think you should get what you’re paying for.