Shopping in my favorite grocery store has gotten very confusing. One counter with the label, “locally grown” offers a grinning farmer backing his pickup truck of what appears to be sweet corn up to the loading dock. Another section is labeled “organic.” Everything else I assume to be “conventionally” grown, whatever that means. How am I to know what to choose? – Bewildered Consumer in Ohio
Dear Bewildered Consumer,
Welcome to the “healthy” food movement. Marketing folks are not necessarily geniuses, but they can discern which way the wind is blowing! For a variety of reasons, Dear Foodie won’t get into in this response, consumers are steeped and obsessed with the “food” movement. We are eating out more than ever but at the same time learning to cook. We are buying cookbooks and learning about the origins of food in an effort to be healthier and if we are believe news reports…getting fatter. Basically, the local food movement in an age of distrust of nearly everything is about knowing your farmer and where your food comes from. Surely, the thinking goes, Farmer Brown won’t put nasty pesticides banned in the US for 30 years known to cause cancer on my broccoli! Organic? Well, studies show we think organic is better for us even if it isn’t – it is supposed to be certified by USDA (our government watchdog) to not have been exposed to artificial pesticides (scarecrow manufacturers are rumored to be rejoicing). Finally, conventional is all about “anything goes” where it is advised that you use industrial strength cleanser to wash off whatever nasty stuff is on the broccoli. But, at the end of the day, use these guidelines: Trust no one and eat nothing but that which is grown in your back yard. As a backup, if you plan to continue eating and don’t like the idea of buying industrial sized poop bags for those pesky cows, plan on knowing as much as possible about where your food comes from and how it is treated in the field whether local, conventional, or organic. And one more thing – if your grocer starts a “kill your own hog department” out back of the loading dock, don’t go there. You might have a stomach for sausage with your eggs but you really don’t want to know where it comes from.