Letters to the editor, March 2018
This article was originally published in March 2018
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Thank you, PCC Advocates
Thank you very much for the nudge to speak out to save the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic Animal Welfare rule. Don’t underestimate the power of your advocacy.
With all that I am, I believe every animal has a right to a life where they can thrive, and thanks to you I just submitted my opinion on this matter to the USDA regulatory committee.
Stay strong! All the best!
— Laura Steckbauer
Comment to USDA
Here’s our comment to USDA regarding the withdrawal of the animal welfare rule:
“We oppose USDA’s withdrawal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule. This rule matters to us as shoppers and consumers!
Withdrawing the rule goes against the public will — expressed in more than 65,000 comments — with 99 percent of them from farmers, businesses and consumers that support the rule becoming effective as written and without further delays.
One of us, Karen, has had cancer; as a result, we have been eating organic since 2001 when we learned from her chemotherapy M.D. that was the only viable way to nourish ourselves organically while not ingesting more pesticides from our foods and thereby putting her at greater risk for a reoccurrence of her cancer. The respectful treatment of animals is essential to the value structure of the clean food philosophy, USDA!
Please respect the citizens of the USA and do NOT follow through with the dissolution of the standards!”
Thank you for your help with this significant endeavor concerning our food. We so very much appreciate PCC’s stellar activism in that it enhances our lives and protects us all.
— Bob and Karen
Climate change strategy
Your announcement in January’s Sound Consumer about PCC’s commitment to the Climate Collaborative is great news! I try to do what I can on a personal basis and always am looking for ways to increase that effort. PCC’s efforts outlined here track nicely with Drawdown.org, a collection of solutions that cross sectors; a source I recently discovered. Thank you for working on solutions. My personal efforts include the choices I make in where and how to buy food. PCC’s efforts keep it top of mind for me.
PCC replies: Thanks for your support of our climate change commitment! In fact, much of our focus is derived from the goals of Project Drawdown. In Project Drawdown, top climate scientists and researchers agreed on a ranking of the most impactful strategies that can be mobilized to address climate change. The top strategies are, in order: refrigeration, wind energy, reduced food waste, promoting plant-rich diets and protecting tropical forests. At PCC, we are actively working on all these issues.
We are upgrading our refrigeration systems to use more environmentally friendly refrigerant chemicals and are monitoring equipment to reduce the possibility of leaks. We have been a leader in renewable energy for decades — the energy we purchase is currently 55 percent renewable and we have committed to moving to 100 percent renewable energy.
We are reducing waste by improving processes in the deli and diverting more than 74 percent of our waste out of the landfill and into recycling or composting facilities. We actively promote plant-rich diets, providing vegan and vegetarian-focused classes in our PCC Cooks program, and offer an abundance of vegetarian protein products. Finally, we are active and strong supporters of sustainable palm oil, which helps to protect equatorial rainforests.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges we face as global citizens today. Thank you for your commitment to be a climate conscious consumer. We are grateful to have you on our team.
I’ve been a member of PCC since my early 20s — nearly three decades — and as a Pacific Northwest native and vegan of 23+ years, your stores continue to be a reliable source of healthy vegan food in my life for which I’m grateful.
I noticed that the January Sound Consumer’s focus was all about the intersection of our modern-day food system and climate change. While I did appreciate the veg-friendly nutrition picks on page four, more prominently encouraging people to eat plant-based should be what all of us are doing, on both the micro and macro levels, to address climate change in our food system. If we’re eating animals or their byproducts — or selling and promoting them — we are actively contributing to the biggest problem in our food system bottom line. Addressing enviro-friendly practices in other regards, like reducing packaging and food waste (goals of mine, please know) and using more responsible refrigerant chemicals are all laudable, but these promotions shouldn’t supersede promoting and pursuing an increasingly plant-based food system.
I understand that some consumers still demand animal products and that PCC isn’t in a position to “go vegan” overnight. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that you owe your readers and customers the truth about the horrors of animal agriculture. Until we all come to terms with this searing truth, we’re going to continue to lose the war against climate change no matter how much packaging we reduce or food waste we offset. I’d love to see companies like PCC be more proactive and forthright on these points.
With respect and gratitude,
— Stephanie Bell
PCC replies: You are correct that animal agriculture, in the context of total agriculture sector emissions, is a large contributor to climate change. We can (and do) continue to promote plant-rich diets through our outreach and community education, via the Sound Consumer and our website.
In addition, you may be interested to learn that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the transportation and electricity sectors each have three times the footprint of agriculture. According to the EPA, as our energy use and transportation needs have increased, the percentage of global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture have actually decreased. Thus, at PCC we prioritize purchases from producers who reduce their carbon footprint with efficient, cleaner forms of transportation. We also are working hard to promote renewable energy and have committed to moving to 100 percent renewable energy in the future.
It is also interesting to note that, according to the EPA, manure management accounts for the majority of emissions from animal agriculture. “Manure management” is necessary for animals who are kept in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and are not pasture-raised. At PCC, much of our support for pastured animals stems from a need to protect animal welfare as well as to reduce our carbon footprint.
Thank you for your attention and action on these important issues.
I read your reply to the question about live cultures in the January Sound Consumer and I wanted to say that your answer was great, except you left out wild fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi or other functional ferments that do not rely on lab cultured strains but rather the naturally occurring, and often multitudinous, strains present in our environment.
These foods do not typically list their strains but usually contain far more than the one to four lab cultured strains added to yogurt or a supplement. Suggesting consumers purchase only fermented foods with specific strains listed is sort of like how buying only foods with a good nutrition panel would exclude all fresh produce.
Other than that omission, I totally agree with the rest of your answer and am happy to see folks interested in, and talking about, probiotics!
— Sash Sunday
I believe that hydroponically grown produce is nutritionally inferior to soil grown and I would like to know what produce is produced by that method. Can you label your produce ‘hydroponic’ or ‘soil grown’? I believe this is particularly relevant and have had conversations with many other PCC shoppers who would like to know so I am writing on behalf of us all.
PCC replies: We advocated label transparency on hydroponically grown produce in 2017 and will continue to do so before the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) at its April meeting. We believe consumers deserve transparency and full disclosure in how a food is produced and labeling hydroponic foods should be no exception. There is, however, no clear statutory definition for hydroponics quite yet; as an NOSB vote on a compromise definition failed last October and debate is ongoing within the NOSB over the precise way that hydroponics are defined. This lack of definition clarity makes it challenging for us to accurately sort or label our produce as hydroponic now. It appears that most NOSB members support and will likely recommend labeling hydroponics at the April meeting, but USDA may, or may not, approve NOSB recommendations. We’ll have a much better idea of what is fair and what we can do once we have a definition and statutory clarity.
Regarding hydroponics and nutrition, this is a fascinating and emerging topic without too much data so far. From what we have found, study results on nutrient quality between hydroponic and soil growing conditions are inconsistent. Some studies show higher levels of some nutrients in soil-grown produce, and some show some higher levels in hydroponic. Most research to date shows no significant differences in what was measured, yet only a handful of nutrients have so far been studied.
Researchers have also noted that variations in different study models are problematic, explaining that, “although many of the studies indicate differences in hydroponic or soil-grown produce, comparison between the studies can be problematic because of the variation in experimental designs.”