Letters to the editor, November 2015

This article was originally published in November 2015

Instacart home delivery

We’ve been a car-free family since October 2014 and really have missed being able to do a full grocery shop at PCC. We just wanted to take a moment to say thank you for partnering with Instacart to make home delivery possible.

We used the service last week and we were extremely pleased with the quality of produce our personal shopper chose, as well as the text messages to let us know when something wasn’t available and to get the okay for a substitution.

Your website ordering system was impressive (especially over Safeway.com!) and we are excited to be able to get the great products we’ve come to know and love from PCC delivered to our door. Also, thank you for pricing your goods online the same as in store. It’s really wonderful.

— Krista S.

Heirloom apples

I am writing for the third year in a row to thank you for having heirloom apples. My favorite this year is Ashmead’s Kernal. Tied for second are Orleans Reinette and King David.

These apples are so indescribably beautiful, special and delicious that my heart aches a bit when I eat them.

— Ann

Vegetables on a budget

I’ve been a member for 20+ years and still am trying to get a handle on eating more vegetables. Can you please point me toward some general information about how to get organized with vegetable prep and storage?

I can’t seem to find the time every day and think I’d like to prep vegetables for a week at a time but then I worry about them losing nutrition if they are stored after being washed and cut. Also I’m not clear on how many nutrients are lost when I cook them but drink the cooking water.

I’m a huge fan of PCC although I can’t afford most of your products other than bulk products and fruits and vegetables when they are on sale. I live on about $500 a month and must go for low prices where I can find them. I do buy most of my meat at PCC because I know that you check out the living conditions of animals raised for meat. Can’t express how much I appreciate the integrity of PCC. Your deli food is the best in town as far as I’m concerned (I buy mini portions from time to time).

— Ruth

PCC replies: A great resource for how to prep and store vegetables to extend their shelf lives is here. For tips to reduce food waste, including innovative ways to use vegetable scraps, see here. For more info on shopping on a budget at PCC, see here.

Regarding the loss of nutrients associated with cooking, yes, it’s true there is some loss of vitamin C and water-soluble B vitamins with cooking. These losses are not huge and you can minimize nutrient losses by steaming, oven roasting and baking rather than boiling. These methods reduce the leaching of vitamins into the cooking water. You won’t recover 100 percent of the nutrients by drinking the cooking water because cooking also degrades (breaks down) some nutrients.

Fracking wastewater on crops?

With what I’ve been hearing about California farmers, even organic ones using the water left over from fracking for irrigation, I’m wondering if PCC inquires or investigates as to whether any of its produce and/or meats are grown using this water.

I’m buying organic to avoid toxic chemicals. It sounds like the water doesn’t have to be tested to comply with organic standards — there is nothing in place for that — so I’m quite concerned.

— Diana Law

It recently came to my attention that some California-grown organic produce might be irrigated with fracking wastewater despite being organic.

Can PCC look into this and like with Horizon dairy from a few years ago, give those products the boot if true? Looks like Sunview Raisins, which I regularly buy, might be one of the key culprits?

— Kevin Orme

PCC replies: We also are very worried about this emerging issue and have been asking Sunview — and its organic certifier, CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers) — some aggressive questions, but we don’t yet have the information we need to address the obvious concerns.

To comply with existing organic rules, growers must “manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops, soil or water by plant nutrients, pathogenic organisms, heavy metals, or residues of prohibited substances.”

The Residue Testing Rule in organic standards authorizes organic certifiers to test the finished product, specifically for heavy metals, which independent lab tests found in the irrigation water for Sunview. CCOF did not give a straight yes or no answer when we asked directly if it had tested the raisins, as authorized.

We encourage you to read PCC’s comments to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and National Organic Program on our website. We have asked NOSB to consider a moratorium on use of recycled fracking wastewater within the context of its work on contamination in farm inputs. We also asked the NOSB Crops Committee to prepare an updated document on use of this recycled water for the public to review, since the concern involves not just Sunview but also nearby table grape, citrus and pistachio growers — and every region with sustained drought and fracking. A report from Beyond Pesticides indicates ordinary irrigated water also is contaminated from intensive conventional agriculture. This is a complicated issue requiring short- and long-term solutions.

Is Kerrygold really grass-fed?

Can you please address this blog regarding Kerrygold? (See: hopecentric.com/why-i-stopped-buying-kerrygold-butter/) She says her research shows Kerrygold is 90-percent grass-fed and can be 97 percent non-GMO with 3 percent (or more) GMO soy and corn feed.

Most consumers of Kerrygold, I believe, think they’re eating 100-percent grass-fed and non-GMO. Although the label doesn’t say it’s organic, many of us have a mistaken belief that GMOs aren’t in Europe and we also have a fantasy that the fields of Ireland aren’t drenched with the herbicide Roundup.

If it’s really not 100-percent grass-fed, I think there should be an indication on the shelf that it contains GMO soy and corn, which would be pesticide-drenched.

— Garth Lien

PCC replies: Kerrygold told us, “Our cows enjoy a healthy grass-based diet all year. During peak milk production in the summer months, cows graze outdoors on green pastures all day. In the winter months Irish cows enjoy a predominantly grass-based diet. They eat silage, which is fermented high-moisture fodder cut from summer grass and stored for winter feeding. To maintain health and well-being, the cow’s grass-based diet includes supplementary feed. The majority of this feed is grown locally with a small percentage imported. Some of this imported feed may be from genetically engineered sources so we cannot say our products are non-GMO.” EU rules allow animals to eat GMO feed without labeling the products.

At PCC we recognize that “grass-fed” label claims on dairy can be misleading. There is no federal definition for “grass-fed” dairy, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is a definition for grass-fed meat, which is regulated by a different agency, the Department of Agriculture (USDA). PCC sent a formal complaint to the FDA in late September, asking it to recognize USDA’s definition. We believe the market needs one uniform definition.

Animal welfare

With all the recent discussion of whether PCC eggs are from cage-free or free-ranging hens, no one is talking about hatchery practices. Last I checked, I was unable to find a single small-farm or commercially produced egg that did not come from a hen purchased through a large-scale hatchery, where the routine practice is to gas male chicks.

I’d like to know if PCC has more recent info about this, or investigates USDA research into alternative methods for sexing embryos, which would eliminate the current methods of male chick euthanasia. Thank you,

— Erika Enright

PCC replies: All egg producers we know of, including the small and large farms that supply PCC, buy chicks from hatcheries. This means yes, male chicks are killed routinely in various ways, depending on the hatchery. Unfortunately, the only way to avoid this practice is to raise your own hens or to avoid eggs altogether. We’re sorry there isn’t a better alternative to this industry-wide practice.

Products for textured hair

My wife and I appreciate and truly enjoy the opportunity to shop for our health and beauty products at PCC. We feel safe using the products at your store for ourselves and our young children. With that in mind, we would be so grateful if your stores would carry more products for black/textured hair. We like the Alaffia line, but we would be so happy to have a few other options.

Thank you for considering.

— Jennifer

PCC replies: We would love to carry more products for textured hair, but almost everything we’ve come across has had ingredients we don’t allow at PCC because of their health or environmental impacts. We do carry Aubrey Chia Mousse for curly/coarse hair. We’ll keep looking for more!

Quality at PCC

This is just a quick note of appreciation and thanks! I recently moved away from West Seattle, and I really miss PCC. All the stores are so welcoming and have such high-quality products! My family and I appreciated the kindness and hospitality of the staff. We’ve also eaten more than our fair share of free fruit for kids! I only wish there was a market so good in the Washington, DC area … So far nothing measures up! Keep up the good work.

— Elizabeth Brandt

Also in this issue

How flavor drives nutrition

We're programmed to seek deliciousness. For thousands of years, flavor gave our bodies crucial information about nutrients. Lately we've turned that system against itself.

Creative approaches to hunger relief

With 49.1 million Americans going hungry at some point in the last year, there's little question our wealthy nation has a moral and social obligation to help those in need.

Quel fromage! A surprising twist in the "French Paradox?"

The latest research on cheese and other fermented dairy, such as yogurt and kefir, suggests the "French Paradox" may not be a paradox at all — instead, we just now may be starting to understand the health benefits of cheese and other fermented dairy.