If you asked me to show you a label on our meats, eggs, dairy and most of our produce to show you it was "organic," I couldn't do it. Truth is, most of the farmers whom we source our foods from are not registered as "organic" and don't care to do the paperwork or pay the fees for a largely "name-only" mark. I know from a handshake, or a farm visit, that the food we buy is raised with care. As I learn more about food regulation and issues, the "organic" label is beginning to mean far less. Even if it is not less at the cash register.
Take, for example, the recent legal complaints that The Cornucopia Institute has filed with the USDA against Aurora Organic Dairy. The USDA found 14 violations by the company including confining animals to feedlots and the mixing of conventially-fed and -raised dairy cattle with the organic operation. Thus, charging consumers more for a dairy product that was not organic. The USDA failed to penalize Aurora for any of the violations. The milk produced by Aurora can be found under the private labels for stores such as Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Wild Oats, and Safeway.
Another interesting item regarding Big Organic is just who owns those quaint-sounding farm names that you find on the "organic" packages. Names like Seeds of Change, Odwalla, Back to Nature? Follow the corporate ownership on most of these labels will land you at the doorstep of companies like Heinz, Cargill, ConAgra, Kraft and even M&M Mars. In fact, many popular organic labels are owned by the top 25 food processing companies in the nation. See for yourself.
In fact, as more and more mass retailers hitch their profits to the organic wagon, it leaves us consumers with even less ability to blindly trust the "organic" label as we rush through the store trying to buy decent food amidst bagged lettuce and meat recalls, new research on food additives and high-fructose corn syrup. We can't just blindly trust organic as this slide show of a mass retailer demonstrates.
I am grateful that I have enough local options that we have cut our grocery store list by half. For the remaining half, I'll be looking at that label and the cost even closer.