Letters to the editor, April 2008
This article was originally published in April 2008
Ingredient integrity, animal cloning
Regarding the Seattle Times article about a new PCC policy, “PCC says no to cloned animal products,” this is a bold and dramatic move by PCC. By taking a stand on this issue, you are not only protecting your customers but sending an important message to the public, the government and the industry. I send my thanks and appreciation.
— Russ Hamerly, Seattle
I want to commend PCC and all the staff involved for taking action on some vital concerns. One was asking manufacturers to stop using the terms “artificial flavors” and “proprietary blend” on product labels (March Sound Consumer).
At the fall PCC membership meeting, I provided a letter and articles about some of the chemicals I’d found in our products for human consumption. I mentioned “artificial flavors” and “natural flavors,” which I equated with chemical additives and poisons. PCC’s action amazed and made me happy, of course.
We should be proud of PCC for what it’s doing to make this a better world.
— Tracy Karon Wright, Seattle
Global warming and food choices
The February cover story, “The Organic Advantage” (March Sound Consumer), says local, seasonal produce is best and that buying frozen items might be better than buying produce transported long distances. But I would be interested in knowing the energy footprint of frozen foods.
At some point, I wish it would be possible to compare (nutritional) contents of some food grown at Cal-Organic (California) and shipped up here with things grown locally. I just haven’t seen enough quality post-harvest handling on the part of any organic farms in the Northwest to believe the food they take to market is superior to what’s grown on larger farms operated by growers who often have vastly more experience than many “local” growers and use superior handling techniques.
I may be completely full of it on this one, but I think a high proportion of the product harvested off local farms is exposed to enough heat before it reaches a consumer’s refrigerator, that it’s no better than items cooled rapidly and held correctly within the cold chain, coming from greater distances. It is ALL about arresting the metabolism of produce that is ripe or will fully ripen before consumption, however that is done.
— David Lively, Marketing Director, Organically Grown Company
Editor: The Organically Grown Company is PCC’s premier organic produce provider.
Wanting to do my part of low-carbon eating, I looked through the Fremont PCC produce section, determined to buy only local this time. I saw a myriad of kale and chard, all from California. I saw acorn squash from Mexico and potatoes from California. Well, I thought, I’ll try carrots but these “highly nutritious root vegetables” were from California as well.
I grabbed a cabbage grown in Oregon and after that was at a loss until I saw, tucked into a corner, mustard greens labeled “grown in Washington.” At last, I thought, and picked up a leafy bunch, only to notice it was held together with a tag reading “Cal-Organic.” Grown in Washington, or did PCC get the sign wrong? I bought the greens anyway, and then some Washington-grown apples.
Where have all the local winter vegetables gone? I’m thinking of subscribing to vegetable delivery from a Washington farm.
— Noel Catharine Allen, Seattle
Editor replies: PCC absolutely, at all times, sells all we can get of quality, local organic produce. When the article was written, we did still have local greens and root crops. But by the time the March paper was printed, sent to the mailhouse and delivered, several weeks had passed and most of the local produce was diverted by the producers to winter farmers’ markets.
Understand that since winter farmers’ markets have sprung up in the last couple years, local growers have decided to cut off their supply of local produce to retailers at some point. The reason is that they need to keep their workers employed year-round and having them sell at farmers’ markets is a good way to employ them, especially since farmers get a greater share of the food dollar if they sell direct to consumers.
It’s hard to predict when our local supply line will be cut off. You’re likely to continue seeing an array of local produce at farmers’ markets for awhile.
I enjoyed your article on “Global warming and food choices.” I already have made a conscious effort to eat local, organic, sustainable food in season. In the article the writer refers us to a Web site to find out how efficient our refrigerator is, and when I went to that Web site, it requires a $75 per year subscription fee. Can you recommend a free site? Thanks for a great, informative newsletter!
— Fiona Jackson, Seattle
Editor replies: Yes, there’s a free site to determine your appliances’ energy efficiency. Visit www.energystar.gov.
In the March Sound Consumer, letter writer Alan Cheetham suggested that “people should review the historical climate data for our state … at www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/
RS_Washington_usa.htm.” For those who, like me, were dismayed to find that the site dismissed the reality of climate change, there are answers at http://gristmill.grist.org/skeptics.
— Jennifer Stein Barker, Canyon City, OR
Value in PCC membership
Thank you for all the good work that you do. I am so proud to be a member of such an incredible co-op.
Joining PCC was a “no brainer” for me when I moved back to Seattle in 1997. I had been a member of the co-ops in Bellingham and Corvallis, Ore., prior to that. I knew PCC would have the food that I wanted to eat but I didn’t realize then what a great community it would offer to me.
I learn so much from the Sound Consumer. I’m always moved by Goldie’s columns. Thank you for all the research you do, too. PCC employees always are helpful and friendly. I always feel good about what I purchase at PCC knowing it’s fresh and fairly traded. You’re making a huge difference.
— Amy Hobson, Seattle
Batteries and plastic bottles
While shopping recently, I noticed PCC sells batteries. Near as I could tell, they are all (or mostly all) alkaline batteries. Recently developed rechargeable batteries (low self-discharge NiMH batteries) can hold their charge for months, come pre-charged from the store and still be recharged over and over, without the waste generated by single-use alkaline batteries. Could they be considered instead?
In addition, I had to wonder why PCC still is selling water in plastic bottles. I do purchase bottled water in glass occasionally, but I’m wondering if plastic or glass is more environmentally friendly. With the recent demise of plastic bags, will plastic bottles go away soon too? Or are plastic bottles less wasteful than glass?
— Adam Morley
PCC’s Grocery Merchandiser Stephanie Steiner replies: PCC sells four rechargeable battery options but sales of the highest seller are only 15 percent of the alkaline option. I’ve followed up with stores and the vendor to ensure they’re stocking all of these despite the poor sales, but consumers really aren’t supporting the rechargeable options we have. All are NiMH.
Regarding water in plastic bottles, I wish I could say they’ll disappear soon. But first, we have to educate shoppers, manufacturers and distributors to support alternatives to plastic. Currently, few manufacturers are producing in glass because it’s heavy (increasing shipping costs), difficult to source (challenging all producers, not just water), and requires recycling or return and sterilization systems. What is available in glass isn’t terribly well supported by consumers, so distributors aren’t inclined to support the items.
Water producers who’ve been willing to invest in corn-based “plastics,” unfortunately, so far have put what’s essentially tap water in GMO-corn bottles, so they really haven’t solved anything. In our new Edmonds store (opening this summer), we’re looking at placing packaged water next to bulk water and merchandising reusable bottles in between to encourage consumers to shift.
We’ve already begun conversations with brokers about sourcing water in glass and we discussed it with vendors at a national expo in March. We’re looking not just at plastics in bottled water but communicating with all vendors that the world does not need more plastic — it doesn’t matter what category it’s in. We need to reduce our reliance on this packaging material everywhere, not just water. This is an extensive conversation that probably will continue for years.
Country life unhealthy?
In the February issue, you published the News bite, “Country life can be unhealthy.” This conclusion seems to be based on faulty logic. 1) It assumes that the prevalence of convenience stores (nearly 75 percent of all stores in the county studied) indicates a lack of “healthy” foods; 2) it didn’t report on the purchasing patterns of residents in that county, who could be buying their groceries at stores considered too far away for regular shopping; and 3) it didn’t factor in homegrown produce, foraging, hunting and fishing, home-preserved foods, or other lifestyle factors that affect health.
I grew up on a farm and my parents rarely bought groceries at the store in town (about 1.5 miles away) but instead would go to a bigger town about five miles away. When a warehouse grocery opened in a city 30 miles and two counties away, my parents drove there and loaded up because the prices were substantially less than the grocery stores in our county seat.
Our garden produced corn, potatoes, beans, apples and other foods, which we froze or stored in the cellar, which lasted well into winter and sometimes spring. My dad went ice-fishing in the winter, butchered cows from his herd, and occasionally would shoot deer and pheasant. To say our country life was unhealthy because the “convenience store” near us didn’t sell fresh produce would be totally absurd.
— Evelyn Roehl, Seattle
Editor: You were very fortunate growing up but what “was” decades ago isn’t necessarily the dominant model today in rural areas. The University of South Carolina’s research in Orangeburg County focused on commercial food shopping options, not home gardens or hunting habits.