Letters to the editor
Sound Consumer July 2019
Letters must be 250 words or less and include a name, address and daytime phone number. We reserve the right to edit. Please email letters to email@example.com.
Watchdog thank you
Thank you for your front page “Dirt Alert” (May Sound Consumer). I was all set to buy a bag of compost for my spring vegetable garden (pots on a balcony!) when I saw your warning. “Continually careful and watchful” is a tiresome task these days. Thank you for the heads up and for your watchdog diligence to protect. I truly am grateful for PCC.
Grocery stores have a huge amount of power to shape our dietary choices and beliefs, and also to shape our agricultural system. PCC should use that power to fight climate change by instituting some form of “Meatless Monday.” There is abundant evidence from the United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization, World Resources Institute, Oxford University and other highly respected organizations that animal agriculture is an enormous contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that animal agriculture contributes up to 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and the world’s growing demand for beef will only add to that. If PCC is truly committed to its “triple bottom line” of economic, social and environmental impact, it is imperative that our cooperative reduce the amount of meat it buys and sells. There is a long history of grocery stores not selling meat on certain days for religious reasons, as well as resource conservation reasons during wartime. Next year, 1.1 million students in the New York City school system will practice Meatless Mondays. I have faith that PCC, the largest food cooperative in the nation, can implement a meatless day in a way that educates consumers on the importance of reducing meat consumption. I’m grateful that I grew up shopping at PCC and had my beliefs shaped by its values, and I hope that PCC leadership will take this request seriously in educating consumers on this simple step we can take to tackle climate change.
— Adam Houston
PCC replies: We appreciate and share your commitment to combating climate change, one of the biggest challenges we face as global citizens. At PCC we actively promote plant-rich diets, offering an abundance of vegetarian protein products and providing vegan and vegetarian-focused classes in our PCC Cooks program. That said, we have not instituted Meatless Mondays, as our role as a grocer is also to provide the most ethical options for the omnivores among us. This would be true even if we could overcome the logistical challenges of a weekly meatless day.
We believe that efforts to address climate change must take place on many fronts and are actively supporting many other practices to assist in the fight. Some of efforts include setting several five-year goals within our own stores and business, such as providing electric charging stations, achieving zero waste (90% diversion rate), decreasing our energy use by 10%, eliminating petroleum-based plastics from our deli packaging, reducing carbon emissions associated with refrigerant leaks by 50%, and purchasing 100% renewable energy (or equivalent energy credits) for our stores. We also continue to support organic farming methods shown to sequester more carbon in the soil and promote sustainable palm oil production.
PCC’s members do include many people who practice Meatless Mondays, and we suggest recipes to mark it on our website here. As we say there, it’s a simple move that can improve personal health along with the health of the planet. Thank you again for your commitment to finding climate change solutions.
Humanely killed fish
I learned from a recent article in High County News that a Seattle-based fishing company, Blue North, is pioneering a method for minimizing fishes’ stress before they’re killed. Cod are stunned unconscious shortly after their arrival on the boat, and only then are they killed. Blue North Fisheries’ owners are using methods developed by animal welfare scientist Temple Grandin.
My husband and I eat responsibly sourced wild fish every week, and I’m grateful for PCC’s ongoing efforts to offer responsibly sourced seafood. I’m also concerned about the welfare of fish. Is PCC looking into the treatment of fish and obtaining wild fish that have been well treated?
Thanks in advance,
— Ramona G.
PCC replies: Thank you for writing and for your concern for responsibly sourced seafood. PCC does sell cod from Blue North from time to time, although the company is not our exclusive supplier.
Generally speaking, animal welfare guidelines are an emerging concern when it comes to seafood and yes, PCC is looking at this issue. We have raised the issue with animal welfare and sustainability organizations and found no generally accepted consensus on what constitutes a humanely killed fish. Additionally, at this point there are no third-party agencies overseeing these types of claims, though some are being developed.We support the effort for standard development and oversight around the issue and are actively tracking its progress as we work on updating our seafood policies. We have forwarded your letter to team members researching those policies and to our seafood merchandiser—it is helpful for all of us to hear member priorities to help educate future decisions on product standards.
Thank you for your membership and for your support for responsibly sourced seafood.
Chicken fat questions
Let me preface that I have relied for decades on PCC for my food decisions.
I have come to understand that the condition of the cooled fat from a boiled chicken is an indicator of its purity. If it is the consistency and color of paraffin, hard and white, then there are few adulterants present. If it is viscous and yellow, there are adulterants present. Is this correct?
I ask because I found the condition of the cooled fat from your non-GMO chicken to be hard and white. However, I found the condition of the cooled fat from your organic chicken to be viscous and yellow.
Please let me know if I am correct about my assessment of the fat and whether or not something slipped through the cracks of control.
— Robert Roseberry
PCC replies: Thank you for writing, and for your long connection to PCC. We’re honored to contribute to your decisions about food.
Your question on chicken fat is an interesting one. We have not heard that there is any connection between color, viscosity and purity. We’re interested in learning more about this potential connection if you would like to send us more information.
After consulting with our PCC staff nutritionist, with the supplier of PCC’s private-label chicken, and with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s consumer help line, the general consensus is that chicken fat qualities are most affected by the color of the chicken’s food, with genetics also playing some part.
Our supplier noted that it’s a complex topic, but that “the biggest effect on fat composition and color is the corn in the feed. Depending on where the corn is grown and the nutrient makeup of the soil, it will be anywhere from a white to a bright yellow. This color can transfer from the corn into the skin and fat of the chicken. We source our non-GMO corn from one region and our organic from another, so we do frequently see a color difference between the two appear in the birds. This is likely the difference the customer is seeing.”
The USDA consumer contact did not have additional information but did note that the agency’s technical staff members might be able to look into this in more depth at askfsis.custhelp.com.
Thank you again for bringing these questions to our attention and supporting PCC.
Rebates for deliveries?
I’m writing about the upcoming changes to PCC’s membership discount program. I understand you may go to a rebate system and wanted to give some input.
I joined the Ravenna PCC in 1980 and have loved shopping at PCC ever since. In the last four years I have become increasingly disabled and now use Instacart for nearly all my shopping. The largest percentage of my purchases (by far) is from PCC. But because I am shopping through the delivery service, my card rarely gets swiped (unless a friend picks up a few items for me), so PCC has no record of my purchases. But I spend hundreds of dollars at PCC—I love giving you my money!
Instacart said they would be happy to send me copies of my order receipts, which I could give to PCC. So there is a record, but it would take a little extra work to get it to your system. It would be great if I could participate in a rebate program, should one evolve.
— Julia T.
PCC replies: Thanks so much for your email and your dedication to our co-op! We’re glad that you’ve found Instacart so useful, and your feedback is very helpful. We haven’t officially determined that we’re changing to a dividend program, but your comment about including Instacart in a future member benefit program is a topic we are actively considering. Thank you! When we have details to share on a new program we will print them in the Sound Consumer.
Better storage options
I read the letter in the May Sound Consumer (on using plastic containers instead of paper containers that do not hold up well to storage) and have another view.
Some of us just transfer the item to a reusable, sturdier storage container when we get home, such as a glass container with a lid. I don’t quite understand why anyone would store anything for a length of time in coated flimsy paper, or in plastic, an environmental nightmare.
— Claire Richardson