Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Food fraud... What are you eating?

Do you know what's in your food? I mean I know what the label says, in fact if it's a package of some non-organic something or other than it says a lot of things, but do you really know what you're eating? Do you know for sure that the package of ground beef is actually beef or that chick actually chicken, or is it some processed concoction of beef or chicken bi-products?

The fact is there is a growing problem with "food fraud" and it reaches clear across the processed food pyramid. A recent article Know what you're eating? Fight against food fraud grows touches on this very subject and it's disturbing indeed, but at the same time it only strengthens the argument for local organic farmers; a subject my wife and I feel very strongly about and support regularly.

The article mentions a number of cases from cheese to honey to sea food... "The expensive "sheep's milk" cheese in a Manhattan market was really made from cow's milk. And a jar of "Sturgeon caviar" was, in fact, Mississippi paddlefish... Some honey makers dilute their honey with sugar beets or corn syrup, their competitors say, but still market it as 100 percent pure at a premium price." It doesn't stop there though; "Food fraud has been documented in fruit juice, olive oil, spices, vinegar, wine, spirits and maple syrup, and appears to pose a significant problem in the seafood industry."

This is where the importance of local organic farming comes into play; it's an experience you can only get with a way of life that is deeply rooted in belief and pride rather than the all might dollar that drives the corporate machine that is our processed food industry.

When we (my wife and I) get our beef or chicken from our local organic grass-fed/free-grazed farmers it's more like stopping over a friend's house rather than a grocery store. You talk a bit; ask them how business is or even take a little walk around the place and see for yourself. Local organic farmers love what they do for a living and are always eager to talk about it and educate you, if you're willing to learn that is. There's been times when I have stopped at the beef farm to stock up on meat and had to wonder out to the barn or to one of the pastures, because everyone was busy making a very respectable living. I've seen the cattle grazing that eventually become my dinner, and I've seen how they are raised and the quality of their life for as long as their alive, and it makes you proud to be a part of something that's much bigger than you or me.

The same goes for the raw organic honey we get from a local organic farmer, or the organic vineyard we frequent, or the organic coffee house, or the organic lavender farm... the list is endless but the end result remains the same.

I'm proud to be a part of this movement and it's comforting and an enormous relief to actually know what it is my family and I are eating.

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