Eat, Drink and Know Your Organics

In an ideal world, organic food would be the norm. But, really, what does that mean? In my graduate class this past week, our readings focused on the consolidation of the organic food industry. I've always been turned off by organic processed food because, well, it's a contradiction to what organics should stand for: promotion of environmental and human health. Despite the saturation of products on the organic market, it wasn't until I saw the graphics by Michigan State University professor Philip H. Howard that I realized how many few options consumers really have.

It's terrific that you've chosen to buy organic, but before you go to the store to stock up, I strongly suggest you look at these data charts. Or you can just print them out and have them at the ready for your next get-together or grocery store invasion (not that I did this or anything...):

This is just one image that provides a glimpse into mergers and "stealth acquisitions," a term used by Howard in his article to describe major transactions made by industry processors unbeknownst to consumers. I like to refer to Unilever's buy-out of Ben & Jerry's, but you'd never know it if you look at the label on the popular ice cream pints.

Prefer to spend your disposable income and calories in liquid form? Microbrews (a white person tenant) offer us a glimpse into the consolidation of the food industry into the hands of a few, even when you think you're supporting local brewers. If food doesn't get the point across, maybe beer will:

So, let's regroup; how are you feeling? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Thinking, "Well, if organics are bad, what do I do now?" It's daunting information that limit your options, but it serves you well as a consumer. It's up to you to decide where you want to spend your money. And, yes, eating well unfortunately means buying big organic brands to save money for the health of you and your family. For me, it's a matter of investigating and considering the environmental and ethical track records of the larger parent companies. (Do I support a brand owned by a company that also heavily invests in genetic engineering and manufacturers agricultural chemicals?). As mentioned, I stay clear of processed organics; the term freaks me out as a consumer and beginning farmer. And the most obvious solution to ease your anxiety is to support real food, or that grown by your favorite local farmers and producers whom you trust.