It is so fantastic that Americans are becoming more concerned about the source of our food. Whether you see it this way or not, food production is a massive keystone supporting our national security and wellbeing. Truth.
We Americans have a natural talent and enthusiasm for industrialization, and branding, which is a fabulous thing, to a point. Sadly, at the moment, we have travelled far into the negative, deceptive side of branding, well away from the energetic, enthusiastic, positive end of the spectrum.
Like that legendary frog in water, not noticing the incremental increase in temperature until it is too late, we continue to be captivated by shiny new things, packages, and ideas. In our excitement for fresh and new, we fail to care about the facts behind the glittery squirrels.
Organic, once the hippie ideal of truly natural, soil regenerative, happy animals, and compatible with natural ecosystems, has now gone undeniably Corporate.
So, understand why, when I see your proud posts tagging this ingredient as Organic, and that as all natural, my heart sinks just a little bit lower in my chest.
Not that there are not good and professional people in Organic, but that the now-government owned National Organic Board has allowed corporate interests to take over, and compromise not only the allowed ingredients, but the underlying philosophy.
Yet, the sticky branding success of the green and white label is undeniable. Often we seek that label out as a quick identifier of superior product, and a sign of superior animal welfare. Sadly, that iconic logo has become a false marker, very nearly a lie.
The tempting amount of dollars generated by our appetite for more holistic products was far too enticing for corporate interests to allow small, indie producers to own. Which is okay, but like all capitalistic ventures, enough is never enough. We must always have more.
Therein lies the rub. There seems to be a limitation of size baked in to most truly healing enterprises. Pretty much without exception, once something genuine and healing gets sucked into the Superstore system, consistency of supply becomes the new pressure, tempting standards to be altered to accommodate.
Truly organic foods are dependent upon the season, and it is only right and proper for supply to run out. They should be anticipated when they are out of season, celebrated when they are abundant, and carefully preserved for off-season enjoyment. They are special because they are rare, and making them everyday diminishes the quality of the item, and leads us into unsavory environmental practices.
So, a pastured turkey raised by a farmer you can talk to, has his/her hands on the birds daily, and actually allows you to see the turkeys being turkeys outside in all their rustic, weird glory, is the more healthful and environmentally superior choice.
The Commodity “Organic” turkey sporting the iconic government-owned Organic label is often raised without freedom to graze, ’cause corporate attorneys seek out loopholes in the organic standards, ironically, making certified Organic seem to be a bargain when compared to independently raised birds living on true pasture.
And, all these commodified organic products are skewing the data in comparisons of organic and non-organic, as the new army of faux-folksy bloggers and marketers love to flaunt. Know this: none of the studies conducted comparing Organic to non-organic are comparing small, independently produced organic products to their to big, commodity produced counterpart.
Small, independent producers are pretty much excluded from the conversation.
Organic sales have increased tremendously in the United States, but the number of newly certified organic farms has not. Which means much of our organic purchases are being imported, and admitted by short-staffed government inspectors with good intentions, but not enough time to ensure that your Organic is actually organic.
And do not even get me started on the commodification of the varieties of Organic produce and livestock. From a flavor standpoint, certified organic is no more special than non-organic. Thick walled fruits and veggies, bland flavor, ability to be shipped and stored for weeks; there are so many tricks, smoke and mirrors in the food industry, one could fill books and books.
No longer do I believe the green and white label is a guarantee of superior product until I can look the farmer in the eye, and hear from the horse’s mouth the detailed story of how my food came to be.
My point is this. I know you love your favorite supermarkets, and the word “organic’ is something you value and use often on Instagram and Facebook as an identifier when describing your recipes. Your intentions are great, just don’t stop asking questions. We aren’t there yet, and it is likely we will never be.
Because marketers will never let grass grow under their feet, each win for transparency only lasts a second before the loopholes are discovered and exploited.
Safe, healthy, soil regenerative food is a battle front we can never assume has been won. Keep on fighting friends, ask questions, and take part in building your local food shed as best you can.
Don’t let them steal our words.