By Joe Romano,
Today, only nine percent of family farm income comes from farming.
— Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture
What if thousands of trucks barreled through your hometown every year, drove into your fields, and pumped a mixture of water and chemicals into the ground? Then what if more trucks came back to extract from your soil a product that would be used as a source of polluting energy? What if, in the process, land that once had been used to grow healthy food would be so tainted that healthy crops could not grow there for many years? Would you want that to happen? I am not talking about fracking. I am talking about the process of growing heavily subsidized GMO corn — not for food, but for ethanol.
Do you care about GMOs? The obesity epidemic? Poverty? The plight of farm workers? Organics? The environment? Renewable energy? How about your food?
Every five or so years, a piece of legislation comes around that addresses all of these issues, and nobody pays it any mind. Initially put in place during the Dust Bowl era to help out farmers and the unemployed, the Farm Bill instead has become a handout to major agribusiness. This one bill also determines land-use policy, nutritional guidelines, and environmental issues while enacting what will become the nation's agricultural and food policies for the next five years.
For over 10 years, Council and staff have endeavored to provide GreenStar's customers and member-owners with various forms of augmented product education in our stores. Our goal has been to assist shoppers in making product choices that match up with their personal values and reflect some of the loftier values of the cooperative itself. The major obstacle to providing substantial product information is the amount of time it would take to do the necessary research and then maintain a database and labeling system on a routine basis. A bustling, independent store like ours simply cannot afford to dedicate the labor to an ongoing project of this magnitude. Which is why it was so intelligent for the founders of How Good to create a product-rating service designed for retailers in our very position. GreenStar Co-op has partnered with How Good to bring this rating system to our own shelves.
How Good seeks to move beyond ambiguous labeling, such as "all natural," and instead examine the actual footprint a product has on multiple levels, including social and environmental. To do this, their team of researchers look into a product's impact using a variety of criteria that align with our Co-op's values: Does the company employ fair-labor practices? Are ingredients locally sourced? What level of processing does the product undergo? Are the ingredients of high quality? What are the growing practices for the ingredients? And the list goes on...
Every product considered is then given a rating from 0-3 — 0 being "not good" and 3 being "excellent." This shows up as a simple, non-invasive symbol adjacent to the product's shelf tag. Because so much research results in only a simple symbol rating, How Good understands that many shoppers will want to know the details about how a product received a particular rating. To this end, How Good provides further information in two ways. People who own smartphones can make use of an app that will allow them to access a database of more than 100,000 products, along with all the details of their ratings. Those without smartphones will soon be able to use an in-store tablet kiosk equipped with this same How Good app.
By Joe Romano,
Warren Buffett, the man who heavily backed President Barack Obama's reelection bid, recently made the largest transaction in food industry history, when he and other investors made a leveraged buyout of H.J. Heinz and Company for 23.2 billion dollars in cash. While this is a massive merger, the trend toward consolidation of giant food companies may not stop here. According to Michael Balaban of Forbes magazine and other industry sources, "Heinz is a stepping stone to a larger food conglomerate ... up next for a mega-deal could be the Campbell Soup Company, or even Kraft." Likewise, CNNMoney is reporting that "merger activity has been hot this year" signaling "that other companies will now want to follow Buffett's lead and look to the grocery shelves for merger opportunities."
We are not talking about farmers or chefs who are toiling to deliver the best quality food possible, instead we are talking about mega-moguls who view food solely as a source of profit. "Big Food merits a fresh look," declares Reuters and New York Times financial analyst, Quentin Webb. "Companies that are purveyors of meals, sauces, and spreads may offer better value than is immediately obvious."
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New in Grocery
New pork products from The Piggery are now in our fresh meat case. Vegetarian? Try some new vegan Benevolent Bacon.
It's finally here (again)! We've dotted the I's and crossed the T's and finished our rigorous farm-inspection procedure for the Piggery family of farms. That's right, we're finally selling those local cuts right here at the Co-op! The Piggery has teamed up with Interbrook Farms to raise pigs that adhere to our bylaws, producing these cuts exclusively for GreenStar. Heather, owner of the Piggery, has created a wonderful, thriving business and farm whose impeccable reputation is spreading far and wide all across New York state. We're very excited to join the grocery stores, cafes, and markets selling their goods throughout the area, all the way down through the Hudson Valley and into New York City. Support your local farmer and try some fresh Piggery cuts today! For those of you who aren't celebrating this new addition, there's a new vegan alternative in the cooler — Hickory & Sage Benevolent Bacon from Sweet Earth! It's GMO-free and 100-percent vegan.