Letters to the editor, June 2017

This article was originally published in June 2017

Aquaculture controversy

The April cover story, “Aquaculture awash in controversy,” about plans to expand aquaculture in local waters prompted many comments on Facebook. Below is a sampling.

We do not have to give up. While we fight we can demand companies do not roll back their practices to the lowest common denominator.

— Kathleen Barry Johnson

Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California need to form an alliance and maintain strict standards of sustainability, water quality control and air pollution. Consumers also need to do their part by creating pressure on the marketplace.

— Wasim Islam

Eat wild seafood, people! Ask when you go out to eat. Make sure you look in the store. It is so important to not support big business fish “farming”! It is so gross.

— Katherine Alejo

Write the governor, or call. Calling is more effective.

— Darcel Sandland

Editor: PCC doesn’t sell any farmed fish from open-ocean systems because of the environmental and human health concerns — we only sell seafood that meets Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program standards for sustainability.

Visit oursound-oursalmon.org to sign a petition asking Governor Inslee to stop the expansion of open-ocean net-pen fish farming in Washington’s waters.

Palm oil-free hair care

I am working to stop purchasing products containing palm oil and palm oil derivatives. The rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, with their populations of orangutans and other wildlife, are under threat from the expansion of palm oil plantations. Palm oil and its derivatives are present in many consumer products under a wide variety of names.

Does PCC sell shampoo and conditioner with no ingredients derived from palm oil?

— Laura Jacobsen

PCC replies: We share your concerns about palm oil production and have a plan in the pipeline to address them. In the meantime, we sell shampoos from Uncle Harry’s Natural Products that are entirely free of palm oil and palm oil derivatives. Uncle Harry’s also offers two palm-oil-free hair conditioning products made instead with coconut oil. Aubrey Organics shampoos and conditioners also are transitioning away from palm oil-derived ingredients but as of now Aubrey is using them intermittently.

In addition to the animal cruelty and environmental destruction from the palm oil industry, we are very concerned about human trafficking and slavery in the palm oil industry, documented by the U.S. Department of Labor and a Bloomberg Business Week investigation. We have prepared a survey for vendors to ask about their sourcing, country of origin and any sustainable certifications to determine current brand practices. More than 1,800 food products and supplements need to be screened under these criteria.

Palm oil companies face little pressure from consumers to change, so many continue to rely on unregulated contractors with unscrupulous practices. We hope our plan can help push our concerns up the supply chain to help effect change.

Palm oil problems

I have been reading about palm oil and its link to cancer. What is PCC’s policy on palm oil? As far as I understand, it can be found in many products and to have a “no palm oil” policy might not be realistic at this time?

We buy almost all our food at PCC and we appreciate the work that you do for us, to keep us safe.

— Karin Miller

PCC replies: Most of the headlines that suggest palm oil may cause cancer cite as a possible cause glycidyl fatty acid ester compounds that are produced when palm oil is heated above 392° F. Reports indicate palm oil is heated above 392° F in processing many foods, but Nutella has gotten most of the negative press.

One source posits another possible reason for the cancer link here. It doesn’t mention glycidyl fatty acid esters but instead says Spanish researchers have identified a protein called CD36 responsible for metastasis (cancer spread). A high-fat diet, or direct stimulation of these cells with a saturated fatty acid called palmitic acid (the main component of palm oil), increased the ability to spread. But palmitic acid is a naturally occurring fatty acid found in a wide variety of foods and also is produced by the human body, so this link may be a stretch. The bottom line: research is very limited. You’re right that a no-palm-oil policy at PCC isn’t realistic at this time but you may be glad to know we’ve taken steps to consider a sustainable palm oil policy in the future.

Fat on meat

I buy most of my meat at PCC and am particularly rankled that all the fat is trimmed off.

I purchased a boneless ribeye recently that was so meticulously trimmed it had to have lost meat in the process. The desirability of grass-fed meats is their fat but what little fat might be on it has been removed! And I am paying more per pound for that “service”?

Now that we all know the fat scare was a big fat lie, can we get back to a nice half-inch edge of fat on our steaks and chops, etc.? If people don’t want fat, it’s easy to cut off and give to their (lucky) dog. What’s my option? Pay more and get less.

— Anonymous

PCC replies: Grass-fed meat is less likely than conventional meat to have half-an-inch of fat, even on a ribeye steak. Animals raised on a grass diet are leaner than animals raised on corn or other high-calorie feed. When grass-fed meats have more fat, we generally follow the industry standard to trim the fat down to one-eighth inch. But most of the time a half-inch of fat just is not there on grass-fed meats.

You always can ask a store butcher for a special order that includes all the fat, untrimmed.

For readers who may not be familiar with the “big fat lie” that you mention, see a 2002 article in The New York Times Magazine, “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” It embraced fat as essential to good health and maintaining a healthy weight. This view has been corroborated by health professionals over the past 15 years.

Honoring Earth Day

Having some institutional memory and involvement in education and the environment, I would like to clarify Denis Hayes’ involvement in the founding of the First Earth Day (“Honoring Earth Day,” April). To be sure Denis was involved intimately in this effort, but the national leadership to establish this day was shared by Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) and Rep. Pete McCloskey (R-CA). This bipartisan effort made it possible to promote and fashion this event throughout the country.

Fact is, in 1970 we had the politicians Hayes suggests we should elect today. Nelson and McCloskey were “leaders who care for the Earth, understand basic science and have the guts to fight for posterity.” Let us remember and celebrate these visionary leaders from the past and encourage and elect their kind again. Clearly, given the threats we face from our current administration, the quality of our environmental future depends upon it.

— Tony Angell

Animal welfare for chickens

In your cover article, “PCC sets the bar for non-GMO and organic meat” (May), you state that Draper Valley Farms chickens are raised on farms in a “reduced-stress environment.” Can you elaborate on what is considered reduced-stress?

— name withheld upon request

Draper Valley Farms replies: Our chickens have approximately 20 to 25 percent more space in barns than conventional poultry. This promotes natural behavior such as dust bathing and interaction with the other chickens. In addition, we have enrichments that allow for perching, hiding and natural foraging in our barns. The chickens have access to the outside, which also promotes natural behavior. These added enrichments all help provide a reduced-stress environment.

Customer service at PCC

I just wanted to share with your team why my family is a new member and will always shop at PCC. Tonight my 4-year-old daughter and I came in and went to the butcher to get some ground beef and chicken apple sausages, which she loves. Your butcher, Dameon, was scrubbing the floors and sinks when we arrived but stopped what he was doing to go in the back to get us the products we came in for.

He also took the time to show my daughter a huge king salmon that just arrived that day. My girl expressed to Dameon how much she loved salmon so he explained to her how he was going to filet it and get it ready for us to take home to cook. My daughter loved it and I greatly appreciated him taking the time to explain to a 4-year-old how a huge fish turns into dinner. It’s that kind of customer care that will keep us coming back as well recommending PCC to friends, family and co-workers.

— Matthew

Also in this issue

PCC Board of Trustees report, June 2017

2017 Board Election, 2017 Annual Members' Business Meeting, Board report, and more

Organic dairy revival

PCC Farmland Trust has conserved another 284 acres in Enumclaw, Washington, where the Mensonides family now produces organic milk. The property was so valuable, at one point it was platted for 59 estate homes.

News bites, June 2017

Eating at home is healthier; Berkeley soda tax results; Diet soda tied to stroke, dementia?; and more