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Tag: cornucopia institute

 

Is your breakfast cereal “natural” or “organic?” Think there is not much difference between the two? You’re not alone. Fancy marketing campaigns specifically designed to trick consumers into believing that these two terms essentially mean the same thing are in play every time you see a cereal box. But the true difference between “natural” and “organic” is huge and one organization took up the challenge of exposing this practice.

A just-released report from The Cornucopia Institute found many breakfast cereals bearing the label “natural” to be loaded with pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and ingredients processed with unnatural chemicals.  To be clear, the report was not looking at cereals such as Lucky Charms or Pops, but rather brands like Kashi, Barbara’s and Annie’s Homegrown; cereals and granola which are specifically marketed as health-conscious and “natural.” In Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label—A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle, the analysis looked at over 45 “natural” cereal brands to determine how natural they really were. They also tested the products for the presence of GMOs. The results of the GMO tests were especially surprising. Even several brands enrolled in the Non-GMO Project contained genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
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Many of our readers have been asking what brand of organic dairy they should be buying. In 2006, the Cornucopia Institute put out a Dairy Scorecard report on US dairy producers. While some things may be a bit different now since it’s a few years old, the report is still a great reference for consumers looking for a more objective and well-rounded look at organic dairy.

The report looks at a wide variety of factors including antibiotic use, hormone use, organic certification process, and acreage of pasture available. Dairy products covered: fluid milk, butter, ice cream, yogurt, kefir, cheese, milk-based infant formula, and cream.

To see the scorecard, click here: Cornucopia Institute Dairy Scorecard

To read the full PDF report which includes interesting background information, history of the organic dairy, and a segment on the largest organic dairy producer, Horizon, click here: Maintaining the Integrity of Organic Milk, Showcasing Ethical Family Farm Producers, Exposing the Corporate Takeover – Factory Farm Production

Note that virtually all private label store brands in the report, receive a 1 or 0 (least desirable) rating since they refused to participate in the survey. This includes: Trader Joes, Costco Kirkland, and Safeway “O” brands.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that dairy from these brands are at the bottom of the pack, but since no information was provided to the Cornucopia Institute, there are no objective measures to compare. I’m a firm believer that if you have nothing to hide and are proud of your farm and business practices, you’d be a bit more happy to share.

Sources:
Cornucopia Institute
Image: Caroline Henri | Dreamstime.com

This video takes a look at the ORGANIC egg industry. Terms like cage free and free range become meaningless when you see how most chickens in industrial farms are raised. The video shows thousands of birds in a huge warehouses and their “outdoor access” is one tiny hole in the wall. 99% of the chicken’s wouldn’t even know the hole existed. So what is an organic egg? The USDA states that organic eggs must be fed with organic feed and use no antibiotics (contrary to popular belief, the USDA does not permit the use of hormones in poultry production. Terms like “hormone-free” are meaningless since no egg producing chickens are given hormones).

After seeing this interesting exposé from the Cornucopia Institute on the organic egg industry, I decided to take a look at their Organic Egg Scorecard where they rate egg producers across the US.  The scorecard rates egg farms based on a 22 different factors including, how much actual outdoor space the chickens have, what their indoor space is like, if they have natural light, chicken’s lifespan, and which agency certifies the farm organic. The farms with the highest scores received 5 eggs and the the lowest, 1 egg.

As many of you know, my family does much of our shopping at Trader Joe’s. Sometimes we buy eggs from farmer’s market, sometimes from Trader Joe’s (TJ’s brand Organic, Free Range Large Eggs). As I scanned the report for my eggs, I was shocked to see that they only received a 1 out of 5-egg score. The main reason for this? An unwillingness to share any information as to which farms the eggs come from and how the hens are raised. I understand that Trader Joe’s has an interest in keeping it’s private label brands private, but this is disheartening. I decided to make my concerns known and sent the following message to Trader Joe’s last week:

“We purchase TJ’s brand organic, free range eggs. I recently read the Cornucopia Institute’s Organic Egg Scorecard and was surprised to see that TJ’s eggs received an extremely low score. I understand that it is difficult to disclose information when you have private label products, but it makes me wonder how “organic” the eggs really are. I would appreciate some sort of response to reassure me that your eggs are produced in the most ethical and best standards. Also, I would like information as to if the eggs are purchased from small farm cooperatives or industrial farms and what sort of access they have to the outdoors. If you are not able to provide any information to counteract the report I read, I will have to assume it is accurate. My family does 95% of our shopping at Trader Joe’s and absolutely love your stores. Thank you in advance. I look forward to your reply.”

message sent to Trader Joe’s via their website “Contact Us” form

I haven’t heard back yet, but I will let you all know what I find out. The moral of this story is to try to buy eggs from farms who are open and happy to discuss their farming practices. This may include getting eggs from a co-op, farmer’s market, or a local family who raises chickens. Another option is to raise chickens yourself. Someday I hope to be able to have fresh eggs from my very own backyard.

For a look at the full report from the Cornucopia Institute, click here: Scrambled Eggs – Separating Factory Farm Egg Production from Authentic Organic Agriculture

Sources:

Cornucopia Institute

USDA