This is a bit of a rant about the latest trend in food jargon, as well as a bit of a commentary on why we make the purchases we do. First off, let’s get it out of the way–I’m poor as a country church mouse, but that doesn’t mean I can forgo the luxury of eating or that I am any more comfortable with the idea of consuming massive amounts of carcinogenic pesticides or vegetables that have had fish genes very unnaturally introduced into their genetic structure.
Would I prefer to consume natural foods that are cultivated with a minimum of intervention from the Space Age Lab Coat Club? Yep. Can I afford to pay three times as much for products that are certified “Organic?” Nope. Do I appreciate feeling like I’m being manipulated by companies who label their foods “organic” so they can swindle me into buying half the amount for three times the price? You bet your sweet petunias I don’t. Can you guess what’s also considered organic according to the very hazy standards for using the term in labeling? Plutonium.
To a large extent, we’ve seen this trend with labels used in a number of different ways over the years–it covers everything from the obsessive hatred of natural sugar (see the iniquities committed in the name of “sugar free” and “no sugar added”) to the current fad du jour, gluten-free products. Some individuals actually can’t eat gluten. I know. But because everyone has jumped on the dietary bandwagon, whether they need to go in that direction or not, these individuals must pay seven dollars for a loaf of “gluten free” bread. And it’s full of crap I wouldn’t feed someone I hated, like xanthan gum. (You really don’t want to know what that actually is, any more than you want to know what Aspartame actually is.)
Their pizzas are ridiculously tiny and expensive. Their burritos cost the gross national product of a developing nation for a single serving that wouldn’t satisfy a tea-cup terrier. What’s more, their products are also usually lumped in with the dairy-free and vegan qualities. What if I don’t want soy-cheese-food-product? What if I like to eat meat? Yeah…sorry, your soy allergy and understanding of omnivorous eating habits can suck it. You get soy cheese and soy product that is shaped and processed to look and taste sort of like meat might if you’ve never eaten meat in your life and don’t know what it’s supposed to look and taste like. Why? Because many individuals aren’t eating this way because they have to. They’re choosing these dietary options because it’s culturally fashionable and they’ve bought into the idea that it’s actually better for them. It might be. Then again, it might not be.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll limit my example of the exploitative marketing mechanisms attached to the term “organic” to one. Also, I have to say, I now have all new reasons to despise Wal Mart. Add it to the list. I’d gone out with Mom for the afternoon and she needed a few things from the store, so we went to the Wal Mart near the house. I figured I’d pick up some shampoo and see if they had the frozen peaches I like to eat in the summer in lieu of ice cream. So, I have a revelation as I’m standing in front of the frozen fruit, above and beyond “I hate Wal Mart.” There are none of the regular frozen peaches–a product that is typically acceptable on all counts, including cost, quantity, and quality of the fruit. The only option, should I choose to accept it, are the “organic” frozen peaches. These are in a bag with about half as many peach slices and the price exceeds the acceptable threshold–I am willing to pay a bit more for some organic items, but not that much.
Earthbound Farms is their organic label and the slogan across the top of the bag is “Organically grown. Picked ripe. Frozen with care.” Before I can stop myself, I ask of nobody in particular, “Yes, but are they made with real magic? They’d better be for that price.” Because I was happy with my inorganic peaches. Grown with Radium. On the moon. Picked green and force-ripened. Frozen by people who don’t give a fuck. Because I’ve had a chance to compare the quality of these organic peaches, “frozen with care.” And they actually aren’t any better than the other variety. In fact, they may actually suck more, but that’s a question of taste with other applicable considerations for produce grown without the use of pesticide and herbicide.
As I said, I don’t have a problem with organic produce, but I resent feeling like I’m being jerked around by the purse strings with the use of a single word. That organic is better is kind of a simple thing to understand. That it is being used to wring ever penny from us that the traffic will bear is offensive. It’s understandable that these products cost a bit more–but who’s cashing in on a successfully implemented emotionally-based ad campaign?