WBEZ | organic http://www.wbez.org/tags/organic Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Premium, Young And Natural: The Turkey Labels We Cluck-Cluck Over http://www.wbez.org/news/premium-young-and-natural-turkey-labels-we-cluck-cluck-over-113931 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/turkeylabel1small-20167402ee4463d2d75a28d16c0e95bed248cad0.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res456509177" previewtitle="&quot;Free-range&quot; turkeys at Maple Lawn Farms in Fulton, Md., in November 2014. In some cases, turkeys labeled &quot;free-range&quot; roam freely on a farm. But in the vast majority spend most of their time in crowded houses, consumer advocates say."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="&quot;Free-range&quot; turkeys at Maple Lawn Farms in Fulton, Md., in November 2014. In some cases, turkeys labeled &quot;free-range&quot; roam freely on a farm. But in the vast majority spend most of their time in crowded houses, consumer advocates say." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/18/freerangeturkeys_custom-29a1348c257ac2d6fcb709339028d89cc25928f6-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 409px; width: 620px;" title="&quot;Free-range&quot; turkeys at Maple Lawn Farms in Fulton, Md., in November 2014. In some cases, turkeys labeled &quot;free-range&quot; roam freely on a farm. But in the vast majority spend most of their time in crowded houses, consumer advocates say. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)" /></div><div><div><p>You&#39;re at the grocery store, shopping for Thanksgiving dinner. You&#39;ve grabbed sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and cans of pumpkin. If you&#39;re from the Midwest like I am, you&#39;re also gearing up for green bean casserole.</p></div></div></div><p>But when you approach a refrigerated section of the store piled high with turkeys, you&#39;re suddenly inundated with labels: natural, fresh, no hormones, young, premium and so on. Pretty soon, your head is spinning, so you grab the nearest one. As you head to the checkout line, you wonder if you&#39;ve just made an ethical choice or been duped.

</p><p>This scenario has become part of the Thanksgiving experience for many shoppers. If you&#39;re like me, you may have told yourself that, someday, you&#39;ll learn what all those labels actually mean. Well, today is that day. Because this is your guide to the utterly confusing world of turkey labels &mdash; a glossary for the wannabe informed Thanksgiving shopper.


What you might think it means:&nbsp;The turkey was slaughtered this morning (or maybe yesterday) and was rushed to my local grocery store, where consumers like me will taste the difference!

</p><div id="res456504555" previewtitle="A Butterball turkey for sale in November 2014, in Centreville, Va. Terms like &quot;premium&quot; and &quot;raised without hormones&quot; tell you little about the quality of the turkey or how it was raised."><div><div><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;&quot;Fresh&quot; has nothing to do with the time between slaughter and sale. Instead, it means that the turkey has not been cooled to below 26 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, it was never frozen. Above 26 degrees Fahrenheit, the meat can remain pliant &mdash; you can press it in with your thumb.</p></div></div></div><p><strong>Young

</strong></p><p>What you might think it means: This bird was killed at a younger age than most turkeys and is therefore more tender and delicious. Maybe it also suffered less.
</p><p>What it actually means: The bird was likely killed at the same age as most other turkeys. According to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.goodfoodjobs.com/blog/daisy-freund-senior-manager-farm-animal-welfare-american-society-for-the-prevention-of-cruelty-to-animals/">Daisy Freund</a>, an animal welfare certification expert at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, most commercial turkeys are slaughtered at 16 to 18 weeks, compared to the roughly 10 years turkeys live in the wild. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not define &quot;young&quot; for turkeys, but it&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/larc/Policies/Labeling_Policy_Book_082005.pdf">requires</a>&nbsp;that turkeys that lived more than a year be labeled as &quot;yearling&quot; or &quot;mature.&quot;</p><p><strong>Natural

</strong></p><p><img alt="A Butterball turkey for sale in November 2014, in Centreville, Va. Terms like &quot;premium&quot; and &quot;raised without hormones&quot; tell you little about the quality of the turkey or how it was raised." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/18/turkeylabel1small_custom-a25017d6d96cd1be0cb4cb26391a66b3e5c31c7c-s400-c85.jpg" style="height: 315px; width: 310px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="A Butterball turkey for sale in November 2014, in Centreville, Va. Terms like &quot;premium&quot; and &quot;raised without hormones&quot; tell you little about the quality of the turkey or how it was raised. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty) " /></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;The turkeys have been raised in a &quot;natural&quot; environment, wandering around in the woods or on a farm, scavenging food and gobble-gobbling their cares away.

</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;According to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/2a9bcae8-ae1e-4248-9ce7-4e752f2f91fc/Turkey_Raised_by_the_Rules.pdf?MOD=AJPERES">U.S. Department of Agriculture</a>, it means no artificial ingredients have been added to the turkey meat, and the meat is only minimally processed. But&nbsp;<a href="http://consumersunion.org/experts/urvashi-rangan/">Urvashi Rangan</a>, director of consumer safety and sustainability for Consumer Reports, says the term isn&#39;t helpful at all. &quot;It has nothing to do with whether the turkeys got antibiotics every day, were living in filthy conditions or were confined indoors,&quot; she says. Her organization is campaigning against the use of the term, which they feel misleads consumers. The Food and Drug Administration also has admitted it&#39;s a challenge to define the term and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/11/455506222/whats-natural-food-the-government-isnt-sure-and-wants-your-input">just asked</a>&nbsp;the public for help.

</p><div id="res456504590"><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>On that note, let&#39;s pause for a minute to answer a basic question &mdash; how exactly are most turkeys in the U.S. raised?

</p><p>&quot;The vast majority of turkeys are living in crowded houses &mdash; football field-sized sheds that are entirely enclosed &mdash; by the tens of thousands,&quot; says the ASPCA&#39;s Freund. 

She says the 30-pound birds typically have their beaks cut to prevent them from injuring or killing one another, and are allotted an average of two square feet of space. &quot;It&#39;s like living your entire life in Times Square on New Year&#39;s Eve,&quot; she says.</p><p>Meanwhile, Freund says, manure often piles up beneath the birds, and ammonia hangs thick in the air. Many turkeys are routinely given&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2013/11/26/247377377/did-your-thanksgiving-turkey-take-any-antibiotics">antibiotics</a>&nbsp;to prevent them from getting sick. Plus, modern turkeys have been selectively bred to mature quickly and have extremely large breasts (for more white meat). Many have trouble standing and are incapable of having sex &mdash; their large chests get in the way, Freund says.</p><p>To be clear, turkey producers must still meet basic safety standards and the meat should be safe. But terms like &quot;natural&quot; may be misleading consumers about how the birds are actually raised.</p><p>Let&#39;s look at a few more dubious labels.


</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;These turkeys roam freely on a farm, pecking at the lush grass and getting more exercise than I do.

</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;In some cases (on some small farms), it does mean what you&#39;re picturing. But Rangan says in the vast majority of cases, &quot;free-range&quot; turkeys are raised in the standard, crowded houses. The only difference, she says, is that these birds must have &quot;access to the outdoors.&quot;</p><p>But the word &quot;access&quot; is broadly used. &quot;If the animal never even went outdoors, but you sort of opened and closed the door every day, that would suffice to label the bird as &#39;free-range,&#39; &quot; she says.</p><p><strong>Cage</strong>-<strong>Free

</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;This turkey had a better life than most, because at least it wasn&#39;t stuffed into a tiny cage.

</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;This turkey&#39;s life was probably the same as most, because turkeys are not raised in cages. The conventional practice &mdash; which accounts for well over 95 percent of all commercial turkeys, according to ASPCA &mdash; is to raise them in open houses. So, calling a turkey cage-free is sort of like calling a cantaloupe cage-free.

</p><p><strong>Premium</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;This turkey is a higher grade of meat, and is more delicious and healthy.

</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;Basically, nothing. The USDA grades beef cuts with words like &quot;prime,&quot; &quot;choice&quot; and &quot;select,&quot; but premium is not one of their designations and these graded terms are not used for poultry anyway.

 A company can label any kind of turkey as &quot;premium.&quot;</p><p><strong>No Hormones Added</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;This bird is healthier than most because it wasn&#39;t pumped full of the hormones that turn some turkeys into the Incredible Hulk.
</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;Once again, this term is misleading. By USDA law, turkeys (and other poultry) are not allowed to be given growth hormones.</p><p><strong>Humane/Non-Certified Humane

</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;Finally, a bird that has been raised according to an ethical set of principles. It was probably treated fairly and lived a decent life. Maybe it even got to kiss its loved ones goodbye.

</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;If there is no certifying agency, which there isn&#39;t for this term, the label is probably meaningless, says Rangan from Consumer Reports. That&#39;s because the USDA allows companies to come up with their own definition of &quot;humane&quot; and it gives its seal of approval if the company meets its own standards. In these cases, &quot;it probably just means they met the conventional baseline,&quot; says Rangan.</p><p>That&#39;s most of the virtually meaningless terms. Let&#39;s move on to some labels that have at least some significance.</p><p><strong>Kosher

</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;The turkey was raised according to a stricter set of hygiene standards. It was probably kept cleaner and healthier. 

</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;The turkey was probably raised in the same crowded house conditions as most turkeys. The only difference is that it was slaughtered according to a set of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.growandbehold.com/index.php?page=Kosher">kosher principles</a>.</p><p><strong>Vegetarian-Fed/Grain-Fed

</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;This turkey enjoyed a lush supply of greens and grains, replicating its natural diet.

</p><div id="res456504560"><div>&nbsp;</div></div><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;The bird probably ate what most turkeys eat: corn. But these birds have not had their diets supplemented with animal byproducts, which does happen in some settings. The irony, though, is that turkeys are not natural vegetarians. In the wild, they eat a variety of bugs and worms, along with grass and other plants.

</p><p><strong>Raised Without Antibiotics/No Antibiotics Administered</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;These birds were never given any antibiotics of any kind.</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;These birds were given drugs only if they were sick, but not for growth promotion, feed efficiency or to prevent disease.&nbsp;That means their producers are contributing less to the risk of antibiotic resistance and to &quot;superbugs&quot;&mdash; a serious health concern. However, Rangan suggests that consumers look for the USDA label with this term, to verify that the companies have been inspected. And she points out that the label does not mean the birds were raised in more sanitary conditions &mdash; only that they were not given routine antibiotics.</p><p><strong>Organic

</strong></p><p>What you might think it means:&nbsp;These turkeys were raised on a steady diet of organic vegetables, green smoothies and Bikram yoga.</p><p>What it actually means:&nbsp;To meet the requirements for the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ams.usda.gov/about-ams/programs-offices/national-organic-program">USDA&#39;s Certified Organic program</a>, animals must have some access to the outdoors (though there&#39;s debate about whether or not most organic turkeys actually go outdoors), be fed only organic feed (non-GMO and grown without chemical pesticides) and must not be given antibiotic drugs on a routine basis. Rangan says organic conditions are &quot;significantly different&quot; from conventional conditions. And yet, she says, organic lags behind the conditions enjoyed by humanely raised birds.</p><p>Which brings us to the final section.</p><p>

There are three main organizations that have publicly available standards for &quot;humane&quot; treatment. Birds bearing these labels typically are granted real access to the outdoors, eat a diverse diet and have the opportunity to behave as they would in the wild. You can read more about the specific criteria by clicking on each name.</p><p><strong><a href="http://animalwelfareapproved.org/">Animal Welfare Approved

</a></strong></p><p>Turkeys with this label come from farms that have been audited at least once a year, and have met criteria for animal welfare, environmental protection and community well-being. According to its website, &quot;Provisions are made to ensure [the animals&#39;] social interaction, comfort, and physical and psychological well-being.&quot;

</p><p><strong><a href="http://certifiedhumane.org/">Certified Humane

</a></strong></p><p>This is also a label with clearly defined parameters for animal and environmental care. Its website says, &quot;The goal of the program is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices.&quot;

</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.globalanimalpartnership.org/">Global Animal Partnership, or GAP
</a></strong></p><p>This is a rating system with six different levels, ranging from less crowding (level one) to animals without clipped beaks spending their entire life on the same farm, with enhanced access to the outdoors
 (level five-plus).</p><p>To summarize, here&#39;s a cheat sheet:

</p><p>Labels that mean very little:&nbsp;Fresh, Young, Natural, Premium, Cage-Free, Free-Range, No Hormones Added, Humane (not certified or USDA certified)
</p><p>Labels that mean something specific:&nbsp;Kosher, Raised Without Antibiotics/No Antibiotics Administered, Vegetarian-Fed/Grain-Fed, Organic

</p><p>Labels that mean the birds were raised humanely: Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, GAP</p><p><em>Want more info? Check out Farm Forward&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://buyingpoultry.com/">poultry buying guide</a>&nbsp;released Nov. 18. Enjoy this story? Check out our&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/12/23/370377902/farm-fresh-natural-eggs-not-always-what-they-re-cracked-up-to-be">guide to egg labels</a>.</em></p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/11/18/456414257/premium-young-and-natural-the-turkey-labels-we-cluck-cluck-over?ft=nprml&amp;f=456414257" target="_blank"><em> via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 16:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/premium-young-and-natural-turkey-labels-we-cluck-cluck-over-113931 Organic farmers struggle with stigma of 'dirty fields' http://www.wbez.org/news/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields-112765 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://www.wbez.org/" alt="" /><p><p>While consumers might seek out organic food for its purity, organic farmers have a reputation for being anything but.</p><p><a href="http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&amp;context=gers_pubs">A study</a>&nbsp;conducted by Southern Illinois University Carbondale found that farmers who go organic are often subject to a &ldquo;weedy field bad farmer&rdquo; mentality in their communities, a social stigma organic corn and soybean growers face for having mare&rsquo;s tails and pigweeds poking their raggedy heads up through the neat rows of cash crops.</p><p>Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that the judgment can be so harsh,&nbsp;<a href="https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstream/handle/11299/123677/Ch8.Transitioning.pdf?sequence=7" target="_blank">it&rsquo;s an actual risk factor</a>&nbsp;conventional farmers who are interested in transitioning to organic should consider before making the switch.</p><p>Organic farmers are a rare breed. Nationwide,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/organic-production.aspx" target="_blank">fewer than 1 percent of all farm operations</a>&nbsp;are certified organic. In the Corn Belt, they&rsquo;re even fewer and farther between. In Illinois, for example, of the state&rsquo;s nearly 20 million acres of cropland, only a smidgen -- 0.15 percent -- of it is USDA certified organic.</p><p><img data-interchange-default="/sites/kunc/files/styles/default/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/large/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/small/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4406.JPG" title="Juniper Lane sips sweet tea at the second annual Organic Fest hosted by the Illinois Organic Growers Association. (KUNC/Abby Wendle)" /></p><div>For corn and soybean farmers,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards/organic-standards" target="_blank">being certified organic</a>&nbsp;boils down to avoiding a laundry list of synthetic materials - like pesticides that kill bugs and weeds - and not planting genetically modified seeds.</div><p>Dane Hunter, a conventional corn and soybean farmer from southern Illinois, said the social stigma of having a &ldquo;dirty&rdquo; field is a big obstacle.</p><p>&ldquo;A lot of organic fields, compared to conventionally herbicide-managed fields, just have a lot more weeds in them, which is kind of a faux pas for the agriculture community,&rdquo; said Hunter, who is interested in transitioning part of his family&rsquo;s 1,200-acre grain farm into an organic operation.</p><p>Hunter said it&rsquo;s especially a barrier for older farmers, like men in his father&rsquo;s generation, who base their merit not on the success of the farm business, but on having, weed-free, pretty fields.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of behind-the-scenes chastising of organic fields,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>&ldquo;I used to be that way, too,&rdquo; agreed Tom Yucus, an organic farmer who grows 480 acres of grain in the center of the state. &ldquo;If I&rsquo;d see weeds in somebody&rsquo;s field, I&rsquo;d say, &lsquo;Oh, what&rsquo;s wrong with him?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Yucus turned to organic farming for a number of reasons, including money. Organic grain typically sells for anywhere from two to three times as much as a conventional crop, which means organic farmers don&rsquo;t have to farm as many acres to make a decent living.</p><p>But Yucus, whose farm has been certified organic for more than a decade, said now he&rsquo;s committed to farming organic grain for more reasons than economics.</p><p><img alt="IOGA was founded in 2011 to bring organic producers together to exchange information and offer each other support. (Harvest Public Media/Abby Wendle)" data-interchange-default="/sites/kunc/files/styles/default/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-large="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/large/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-medium="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" data-interchange-small="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/small/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" src="http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/kunc/files/styles/medium/public/201508/IMG_4334.JPG" style="float: right; width: 400px; height: 267px;" title="IOGA was founded in 2011 to bring organic producers together to exchange information and offer each other support. (Harvest Public Media/Abby Wendle)" /></p><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s just a change in mindset,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Everything you do affects the land and your food, so you know, keep it simple and don&rsquo;t add synthetic, non-natural stuff.&rdquo;</div><p>Colleen Yucus, Tom&rsquo;s wife, struggled to adopt her husband&rsquo;s new mentality, especially when it came to her weekly trip to the grocery store.</p><p>&ldquo;I think I was like a lot of other people that had the mindset that if food was on sale at a chain grocery store, that was wonderful and that&rsquo;s what I was gonna buy,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The differences in opinion led to a few minor marital disputes, but in the end, Tom managed to convince her.</p><p>&ldquo;My husband had a good point,&rdquo; Yucus recalled, with a smile. &ldquo;When I didn&#39;t want to buy organic potatoes that were $2 a pound, he came to me and said, &lsquo;Look at this bag of chips. How much did you pay for this bag of chips?&rsquo; And I said, &lsquo;$3.58.&rsquo; And he said, &lsquo;How much per pound would that 8-ounce bag of chips be?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>The answer is $7.66, which means she could buy nearly four pounds of potatoes. When doused in olive oil and fried, that amounts to a lot more potato chips than you&rsquo;ll get in an 8-ounce bag.</p><p>&ldquo;The healthier eating, the non-processed foods, has just become so much more a part of our lives,&rdquo; Colleen said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m really happy he chose to start being an organic farmer and I&rsquo;m really proud of him.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.kunc.org/post/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields#stream/0" target="_blank"><em>Harvest Public Media</em></a></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/organic-farmers-struggle-stigma-dirty-fields-112765 Whom do you trust when it comes to nutrition advice? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/FOOD SCORES_picmonkeyed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Whom do you trust when it comes to food and health advice?</p><p>This is the fundamental question underlying the latest food skirmish between health activists The Environmental Working Group and &ldquo;big food&rdquo; represented by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.&nbsp;</p><p>Last week, the EWG released its<a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores" target="_blank"> Food Scores</a> database rating 80,000 foods on a variety of criteria that encompass nutrition, ingredients and processing. Foods like <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=organic+kale" target="_blank">organic kale</a> score 1 (the best) while <a href="http://www.ewg.org/foodscores/products?search=flamin+hot+cheetos" target="_blank">Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto Puffs</a> get a 10 (the worst).</p><p>But today, the <a href="http://www.gmaonline.org/news-events/newsroom/grocery-manufacturers-association-statement-on-environmental-working-group/" target="_blank">GMA responded</a> by calling the Food Score database &ldquo;severely flawed&rdquo; and predicting it will &ldquo;only provide consumers with misinformation about the food and beverage products they trust and enjoy.&rdquo;</p><p>The GMA, which represents some of the biggest food manufacturers in the world, accused EWG of using &ldquo;isolated studies&rdquo; to penalize foods containing artificial sweeteners and added sugar. It further questioned the group&rsquo;s algorithm for weighing certain factors too heavily in its final scores.</p><p>The Association said that the best advice for health and nutrition comes from the Nutrition Facts Panel and the U.S. Department of Agriculture&#39;s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Critics, however, argue that it is those very guidelines--which, for decades, have emphasized fat reduction over sugar and carbohydrate restrictions--that have led to a in tripling in American obesity over the past 40 years.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Additionally, EWG says information on packaging is limited.</p><p>&ldquo;When you think about healthy food, you have to think beyond the Nutrition Facts panel,&rdquo; said Renee Sharp, EWG&rsquo;s director of research. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t always tell the whole story. EWG&rsquo;s Food Scores shows that certain foods that we think are good for us may actually be much less so because they contain questionable food additives or toxic contaminants.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Tuesday, the Alliance for Food and Farming, a produce industry group, <a href="http://safefruitsandveggies.com/blog/ewg-gives-top-scores-produce" target="_blank">trumpeted the high ratings</a> the EWG gave to produce. It also noted that the EWG encourages consumers to eat plenty of fresh produce.</p><p>But the AFF, which represents both conventional and organic produce growers, once again called on EWG to stop its &ldquo;Dirty Dozen&rdquo; and &ldquo;Clean Fifteen&rdquo; lists. These popular lists rate produce based on pesticide residues as measured by the USDA, but the AFF finds them misleading.</p><p>&ldquo;If EWG doesn&rsquo;t stop, the AFF will happily remind consumers about the &lsquo;1&rsquo; scores and EWG&rsquo;s new consumption message every single time the &lsquo;dirty dozen&rsquo; list receives attention. Every single time.&rdquo;</p><p>So which organizations or agencies do you trust to provide balanced nutrition information? Tell us in the comments.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng" target="_blank">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p></p> Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/whom-do-you-trust-when-it-comes-nutrition-advice-111003 Chicago's urban farms have yet to harvest sustainable jobs, better health http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 <p><p>On a recent hot summer day on the city&rsquo;s South Side a group of farmers and reporters gathered to tour a new two-acre farm enjoying its first harvest in the shadow of the old Robert Taylor Homes.</p><p>Safia Rashid is growing a diverse crop of kale, chard, tomatoes, onion, zucchini and several peppers in hopes of selling the produce to the local Women Infant and Children feeding program.</p><p>She&#39;s one of the new agriculture entrepreneurs benefiting from a $750 thousand, three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It&rsquo;s aimed at putting graduates of The Botanic Garden&#39;s Windy City Harvest training program on track to start their own small farming businesses. &nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s urban farming movement has always held out the promise of sustainable employment. But more than a decade after it first took root, why aren&rsquo;t there more well-paying jobs? &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Thats not realistic,&rdquo; says Angela Mason the director of Botanic&rsquo;s Windy City Harvest, which trains ex-offenders in agricultural skills as a path toward employment. &ldquo;Our intention in launching the incubator program, and what most family farms do now, is [provide] supplemental income. It&rsquo;s not their only income. A lot of people romanticize farming but that&rsquo;s very challenging in this day and age. We don&rsquo;t support local food in a way that makes it economically viable for a person to go out and only farm for a living.&rdquo;</p><p>The fact is, most of these programs can&rsquo;t survive without outside funding.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so much more you need to do than put fresh produce in a grocery store,&rdquo; Mason says. &ldquo;To get people interested in even buying the produce, you need to get people excited about it and learning how to prepare food with it. There are &nbsp;a lot of people who&rsquo;ve never seen kale grow or seen Swiss chard grow and don&rsquo;t know what to do with it.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Indeed, lack of demand and knowledge about what to do with the produce still hampers sales in these communities. In the produce business margins are slim and product that doesn&rsquo;t move can go bad very quickly. Even one of the nation&rsquo;s biggest retailers has run into snags.</p><p>At a White House meeting in 2011, Walgreens promised to build 50 &ldquo;food oasis&rdquo; stores in Chicago by summer 2013. &nbsp;By July 2014, the retailer had only installed fresh produce in 26 local food desert stores, according to Crain&#39;s Chicago. In the last month, however, the store finally met its original goal, according to a Walgreens spokesman.</p><p>Smaller projects have also run into problems. The much praised Farmers Best Market in Bronzeville opened in 2008 but was closed within a year. The Englewood Farmers Market on 63rd called it quits after a few tough seasons. And, last summer, the Fresh Moves buses that brought fresh produce markets to the people <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/advocates-say-whole-foods-may-struggle-find-customers-englewood-108608">turned off their engines indefinitely</a>.</p><p>So why has it been so hard to successfully sell produce in Chicago&rsquo;s food deserts? Mari Gallagher is a researcher who specializes in food access.</p><p>&ldquo;You can have a great idea and you can put your whole heart into it, but you still have to figure out how to make it viable,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;So there are lots of different reasons why some of these programs fail. But unfortunately, because people feel so closely tied to these outcomes, it&rsquo;s hard to get at the truth [to analyze what lessons can be learned].&rdquo;</p><p>Although they rarely speak about it on the record, several urban ag experts across the city confided that the demand for full-priced, high quality produce isn&rsquo;t strong enough to support the businesses that sell it. As Whole Foods prepares to open its Englewood store in 2016, it&rsquo;s counting on building that demand. But today, observers say, it&rsquo;s just not there.</p><p>So does that mean inner city farmers markets, mobile produce programs and viable urban farming jobs are doomed for now?</p><p>&ldquo;When we talk about [greening] the food desert we&rsquo;re really trying to keep costs down and quality high and that&rsquo;s tricky,&rdquo; Gallagher says. &ldquo;But I wouldn&rsquo;t write off any of these options. I would say that the market conditions need to be right and the operators need to be very, very good on a number of fronts to pull it off successfully.&rdquo;</p><p>One of the only urban farmers who seems to have figured it out, is the the tall, lanky and perpetually muddy Ken Dunn. The founder of the Resource Center and City Farm has practiced urban ag in Chicago for more than 40 years. The philosophy PhD also operates what he says are four profitable farms in Englewood.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to start with what has always been the food cycle,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;We have a process where food scraps go back to the production of the next crop. We&rsquo;ve tapped into selling two-thirds of our crop to high-end restaurants, picking up the food scraps from all of their product and turning them into compost to bring back to the field.&rdquo;</p><p>Got that? First Dunn sells his vegetables to fancy restaurants. Then the restaurants give him back food scraps which are used to make compost. This ultra-rich growing medium, he says, produces 10 easy crops a year, and food so tasty that restaurants are happy to pay his high prices. And these premium prices, Dunn says, make it possible to pay a living wage, and sell cheaper veggies from kiosks on the farm.</p><p>Dunn believes this model could expand up to three times and still not saturate the high end restaurant market. But he hopes that by the time we reach that saturation, there will be other funding models in place.</p><p>His dream is for municipalities to recognizes the larger public benefits of urban ag on crime, health and education and to fund them as part of local budgets. These less tangible benefits are part of the reason Safia Rashid is out working on her quarter-acre plot nearly every day. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When the children are eating properly, guess what happens?&rdquo; she asks. &ldquo;The violence goes down. So if we continue to feed them whole foods without the pesticides and GMOs, we will continue to see real change in our community. So it&rsquo;s just really that simple.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DJ%20Cavem.jpeg" style="float: left; width: 161px; height: 206px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="DJ Cavem travels the country preaching the gospel of organic urban farming to inner city youth. (Photo Courtesy of DJ Cavem)" />While Dunn sells mostly to restaurants and Rashid hopes to sell to WIC, DJ Cavem has a different plan. &nbsp;He wants to grow food<em> in</em> the community<em> for</em> the community. He&rsquo;s a rapper, educator, midwife and urban farm advocate based in Denver. He stopped in Chicago earlier this year to spread his gospel of home grown organic produce for all.</p><p>&ldquo;The same way gangsta rap promotes drug dealing, I am an environmental hip hop artist, eco hip hop artist who promotes gardening,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have been teaching for 11 years now. I teach young people how to grow food, how to prepare the food, how to create a green job. I&rsquo;m setting up gardens in inner city communities and showing people how to keep the nutrition in their food.&rdquo;</p><p>He says that urban youth have largely lost touch with their grandparents&#39; food and growing skills. Still, he knows that history can cut both ways.</p><p>&ldquo;Because of slavery and Jim Crow, a lot of inner city African Americans do not want to talk to young people about growing food,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;They really think that &nbsp;going to the grocery store is the best for them. And they felt that they were forced to have to do this work. So there is that neglect of young people having access to the inter-generational dialogue that needs to happen around food preparation.&rdquo;</p><p>DJ Cavem&rsquo;s goals may be lofty, but he claims his message can reach these young people. Last year he got a whole summer camp of urban youths to remix the popular ode to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7YLy4j8EZIk">&ldquo;Hot Cheetos and Takis.&quot;</a> They dubbed their version <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO3zE2XqEUo">&ldquo;Brown Rice and Broccoli.&rdquo;</a></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/MO3zE2XqEUo?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;You can watch the video on YouTube and Tweet it and let your friends know that that&rsquo;s what young people really want: Healthy food, foods that are fresher than the shoes on their feet.&rdquo; he says.</p><p>Between Dunn&rsquo;s decades of urban ag experience and DJ Cavem&rsquo;s youth-friendly message, there may come a time when produce from urban farms will not only nourish local residents but also grow their bank accounts.</p><p>Beginner farmer Rashid certainly hopes so. Despite her optimism for her newfound occupation, she knows she&rsquo;s got a tough row to hoe.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a lot to cover,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Especially in my case since I don&rsquo;t have a business partner. It&rsquo;s a lot to do alone. But I know that things are gonna change.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the Chewing The Fat podcast. Follow her at</em><a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng"> <em>@monicaeng</em></a> <em>or write to her at meng@wbez.org</em></p><p><em>WBEZ reporter Natalie Moore contributed to this story. </em></p><iframe width="100%" height="450" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/48706770&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true"></iframe></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 07:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicagos-urban-farms-have-yet-harvest-sustainable-jobs-better-health-110709 Organic foods sold by Walmart create fear among some organic farmers and farm advocates http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/organic-foods-sold-walmart-create-fear-among-some-organic-farmers-and-farm-advocates <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/beans.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a bustling Saturday morning at Chicago&rsquo;s Green City Farmers Market, shoppers fill their canvas bags with organic grains, sauces, pasta and jams. These are staples of the Midwest winter farmers market season.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>But they also make up the bulk of Walmart&rsquo;s new Wild Oats <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/10/business/walmart-to-offer-organic-line-of-food-at-cut-rate-prices.html" target="_blank">organic line of pantry staples</a>--staples the retailer promises to price at about 25 percent lower than its competitors. Several items, including beans and olive oil, have already hit local shelves.</p><p>This kind of affordable organic has been the theoretical dream of the sustainable food community for decades. So then why is the move being greeted by so much suspicion?</p><p>&nbsp;Alice Waters, owner of Chez Panisse and one of the nation&rsquo;s biggest cheerleaders for organic seasonal food, has real questions about who will be hurt in the quest for cheaper organic.</p><p>&ldquo;It definitely scares me,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I really feel like, when we are talking about cheap food, that somebody, somewhere is not being paid. And I am pretty certain that the person who is not being paid is the person raising that animal and tending that farm.&rdquo;</p><p>When WBEZ asked Walmart how it planned to source the organic materials for this discounted line, the retailer responded with a statement that:</p><p>&ldquo;We are working with Wild Oats to create a surety of demand which ultimately helps us pass along savings to our customers. We using our scale to deliver quality organic groceries to our customers for less.&rdquo;</p><p>But this equation of greater demand producing lower prices doesn&rsquo;t add up for folks like organic farmer Harry Carr of Mint Creek Farm in East Central Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s got everybody a bit perplexed,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t make sense. I just can&rsquo;t see Walmart proactively choosing to improve the quality of their food and picking up the price differential because they are nice guys. We know that historically Walmart&rsquo;s strategy has been to price other retailers out of the market with their size and scope and economies of scale. They took away our main streets in exchange for big boxes and I don&rsquo;t think people look upon that very kindly.&rdquo;</p><p>Wild Oats CEO Tom Casey says he understands the confusion about how higher demand could create lower prices. But he says the farmers pay is only a small part of the food equation.<br />He notes the real savings will come from streamlining the now fragmented manufacturing, distribution and retail stages of the organic food chain.</p><p>Author and food journalist Ruth Reichl is also skeptical about sourcing, but she can see some real benefits to the move.</p><p>&ldquo;For all the people who want to eat organic food and don&rsquo;t want pesticides and so forth, it&rsquo;s a good thing,&rdquo; Reichl says. &ldquo;I think for down the road, for making organics mainstream it&rsquo;s a very good thing. But I think for small farmers who are now raising organic food it could prove disastrous. I think they way they are going to end up doing this is industrial organic and probably a lot of imported organic food.&rdquo;</p><p>Casey won&rsquo;t say what percentage of imported organic will go into Walmart&rsquo;s Wild Oats line but he acknowledges: &ldquo;there are certain products that are difficult to source effectively in the US right now. So we have a limited number of products we source internationally, but that would be typical of anybody sourcing organic products&hellip;.The key is that these products are organic certified and they have to meet these requirements no matter who&rsquo;s producing them.&rdquo;</p><p>While some worry that these discounted organics will put small organic family farmers out of business, Casey says that Walmart is simply trying to offer &ldquo;more choices.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jim Slama,&nbsp; president of Family Farmed.org, says he&rsquo;s not worried about the effect on small farmers because he believes they serve a totally different marketplace.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think that someone growing on a family farm is going to be selling at a farmers market or maybe to local restaurants who will pay higher prices or maybe to Whole Foods or Marianos,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;But there is no way they have the scale to sell to Walmart and they are not going to take their price.&rdquo;</p><p>Plus, Slama says, there are real upsides for the environment if Walmart&rsquo;s demand pushes more farmers to adopt organic practices. These would require them to meet standards that preserve the quality of soil and water.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s going to transition quite a bit more land from conventional to organic because its providing new very large markets for organic products,&rdquo; he says.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>Harry Rhodes, who directs a group of Chicago organic farms called Growing Home, also sees pluses in Walmart&rsquo;s new organic push.<br />&ldquo;The more organic options everywhere lead to healthier food choices,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;So I think it&rsquo;s a win-win. I don&rsquo;t think it&rsquo;s competition or danger to anything we&rsquo;re doing.&rdquo;</p><p>Sean Shatto is the CSA manager for Tomato Mountain Organic. He was at Green City Market last weekend selling tomato sauces, CSA shares and spinach. For now, he takes the long view.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;It might turn people on to paying more attention to their food---maybe,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;And if that happens, then they might say, &lsquo;well I got this organic spinach at Walmart, maybe I&rsquo;ll go down to the farmers market to see what they&rsquo;ve got.&rsquo; Their jaw will drop the first time they walk by and see that my spinach is $10 a pound. But then I will hand them a leaf and it will taste 10 times better than what they are getting for a $1 a pound at Walmart. And then hopefully they&rsquo;ll come back.&rdquo;</p><p>With so little information about how the food will be sourced and how consumers will react, it&rsquo;s hard, even for critics, to draw firm conclusions. But Reichl says that one thing is certain.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to change the landscape for organics enormously,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Being an optimist, I would say that in the future, this is going to be good. But for right now it scares me.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><em><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></strong></em><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>&nbsp;or write to her at&nbsp;</em><em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 24 Apr 2014 14:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/organic-foods-sold-walmart-create-fear-among-some-organic-farmers-and-farm-advocates Morning Shift: Digging in to organic gardening http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-10-07/morning-shift-digging-organic-gardening-108861 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/flickr toddheft.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Organic gardener and educator, Jeanne Nolan, is in studio to talk sustainability, food awareness and growing good things on rooftops and backyard plots. Plus, Chicago Tribune launches a new &quot;plan for Chicago&quot;. What&#39;s needed to make the city great?</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-35/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-35.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-35" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Digging in to organic gardening" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Mon, 07 Oct 2013 08:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-10-07/morning-shift-digging-organic-gardening-108861 Palestinian organic farmers gaining access to global market through fair trade http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-04/palestinian-organic-farmers-gaining-access-global-market-through-fair-tr <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-04/palestine1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Palestine has a small but strong community of sustainable farmers who harvest olive oil, honey, almonds, tahini, cous cous and more. But year after year, politics complicates the harvest. Palestine’s isolation from the world makes it hard for these farmers to fully take part in the growing organic food movement.</p><p>Vivien Sansour represents the <a href="http://www.palestinefairtrade.org/" target="_blank">Palestine Fair Trade Association</a>. She's also the promotions manager for an olive farmer’s collective in the country called <a href="https://www.canaanusa.com/" target="_blank">Canaan Fair Trade</a>. She tells <em>Worldview</em> what life is like for Palestinian farmers.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 04 Jan 2012 17:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-04/palestinian-organic-farmers-gaining-access-global-market-through-fair-tr Chance to win organics delivered to your door (for a good cause) http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/chance-win-organics-delivered-your-door-good-cause <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//vegetables.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img width="274" height="184" alt="" title="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2010-December/2010-12-04/images-1.jpeg" /></p><p>I can't tell you how many times we get pitches to cover a restaurant or business. &nbsp;Just about everyday, a marketing rep or a business owner is telling me about such-and-such product and how I should really do a story on it or include it in a blog post because it's so &quot;unique.&quot; &nbsp;One of the really sad byproducts of Food TV these days, is that too many restaurants are coming up with bogus ideas, trying to see how &quot;over the top&quot; they can get, just to grab a share of the press' attention. &nbsp;Hey, <a href="http://www.southtownstar.com/news/2938546,120210bigmeat.article">sometimes it works</a>. &nbsp;But the people making 10 pound meatballs and five pound sandwiches are just trying too hard, in my opinion, and it's kind of sad.</p><p>Something that does catch my eye, however, is when someone not only offers a freebie (to the public) but includes a charitable component that can do some real good. &nbsp;My example this week is a new company, called <a href="http://chicago.doortodoororganics.com/">Door to Door Organics</a>. &nbsp;The name is self-explanatory. &nbsp;The company delivers different organic items to your door each week; kind of like Peapod, but healthier. &nbsp;Beginning today, and running through the 17th, they're holding a food drive, picking up items from their customers and delivering them to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. &nbsp;The service differs from CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in a few ways:</p><p>They deliver to your home or office, and every delivery is customizable, so no more getting a hunk of kohlrabi if you didn't order it. &nbsp;There is also no commitment; you can put your deliveries on hold or cancel at any time.</p><p>Today, the company is offering my readers a chance to win a <a href="http://chicago.doortodoororganics.com/boxes?session_id=&amp;user_id=&amp;">Bitty Mixed Produce Box </a>($27 value), delivered to your door, for the most original poem, sonnet or haiku, telling me why you dig organic produce. &nbsp; Deadlilne is Tuesday, Dec. 7, at 3 p.m. &nbsp;You can submit your entries right here, in the comment section. &nbsp;Good luck, and please support the Chicago Food Depository this holiday season.</p></p> Mon, 06 Dec 2010 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/steve-dolinsky/chance-win-organics-delivered-your-door-good-cause