Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Giant Eagle...

...irked me last week with their new running ad. They claim that they are putting together new labels on the shelves to help customers purchase more healthy food. This will include fat, calories, etc. I'm all about this and think it is just one more way that Giant Eagle is trying to get the edge on other groceries in the area. It follows closely on the heels of their provision of free RDs available for nutrition consulting to people to help them better select food and purchases for their own good. That's all great, but they crossed the line when they said the label would contain facts about what food was healthier... including if it was 'organic'. Now, it's not just because of my research that I'm on an organic interest kick. Organic is a very interesting and misunderstood concept for grocers which I wish more people took the time to take seriously and to better explain.

First off, if your food isn't organic, you're probably poisoning yourself. Organic by definition is carbon based and has grown itself. Simply put, pretty much all food is organic. There's a few synthesized things out there which might be on the edge, but if you as an organic life form can eat it and gain nutrition from it, it's probably organic. So organic foods are totally healthy for you, but if it was this simple, why doesn't Giant Eagle just label everything in the store "organic"?

Instead, they're trying to capitalize on the next big niche market. Organic has been riding the tails of farmers markets right into the fresh produce and protein products at the grocery stores. People have these nostalgic images of organically raised chickens singing with Cinderella in the morning and the organically raised cows being milked out by an 80-year-old farmer in the five stall barn out back. This couldn't be farther from the truth! Organic animals haven't been found to have any better level of living nor are organic farms smaller than conventional farms for any reason other than reduced market demand or start-up capital.

Then there's the notion promoted by Giant Eagle that organic is a healthier form of food. As opposed to what? Recycled steel? Battery acid? Carpet fuzz? When it comes down to it, organic food is really no different than conventional food. I'm sure someone will find a way to stretch the truth and tell you that there's boosted omega-3s or reduced saturated fat, but they're just playing with the numbers to argue their point. If you want a way to change your diet, don't buy organic, buy fresh food and reduce your intake by half. It'll make so much bigger of a difference. A good way to visualize it is when we were out bike shopping. A bike shop tried to sell my friend a bike which was "faster" because it weighed 2 lbs, 10 oz. less than the $800 cheaper version. My friend's response, "I could lose 2 whole bikes off of myself by just losing some weight, why on earth would I pay for the 2 lbs to come off the bike instead?" It's an example of how big of a difference a well-balanced diet can make compared with any minuscule, unproven and imagined gain that might come from organic food.

I've got a list of links up - more to come later including a link to a fantastic article about the myth of meatless Mondays being better for the environment.

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