Organic Food Shopper: The Expanding Scene

It's a great time to be an organic food shopper, whether you're new to organics or a veteran devotee.

| April/May 2004

It's a great time to be an organic food shopper, whether you're new to organics or a veteran devotee. Since 2002, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations for organic foods, which set production and handling standards that all food labeled "organic" must meet, went into effect, the organic food business has been booming. Growing concerns about toxic pesticides, inhumane treatment of livestock animals, E. coli outbreaks and mad cow disease continue to fuel the growth, as does people's desire to support a more eco-friendly food chain. 

More and more supermarkets are expanding their organic sections and moving those products to more prominent store positions. Local food co-ops are featuring a wider range of products than ever before, and they are buying from local producers whenever they can. There are even growing chains of natural foods supermarkets: Whole Foods has 146 stores in 27 states and Canada, and Wild Oats has 101 locations in 25 states and Canada.

Food industry giants, including Mars and General Mills, have purchased smaller organic companies and introduced their organic brands to many mainstream shoppers, while additional small producers in this country, and many others, are starting new organic companies, often dedicated to artisan-style, high-quality organic production on a modest scale. In either case, everybody wins — more wholesome, flavorful organic products are being produced and sold, more land is being farmed sustainably and more livestock animals are being raised humanely.

Many of these new, premium organic products offer extraordinary tastes. A few months ago at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we tasted several kinds of organic soybeans and discovered how much better black soybeans taste than the more-common yellow types. And our favorite cookie now is the Newman's Own Organics Fig Newman.

Some items are more expensive than standard fair, but you get what you pay for, right? Foods bringing that rare, homegrown flavor back into our favorite recipes are worth a premium price whether they're available in our supermarkets, online or at a local farm. Some of these products come from just down the road and others come from half-a-world away. Although we normally encourage you to buy as locally as you can, we've found that some of the topnotch imports remind us of how good our U.S. food can, and should, be.

A great example is the certified organic Bionaturae tomato paste we also tasted recently here at MOTHER'S office: It had the richest, sweetest tomato taste we've ever encountered short of homemade. According to the company, the paste is made from heirloom tomato varieties vine ripened and handpicked on a network of Tuscan family farms in Italy. The tomatoes are milled to an ultra-smooth consistency and packed in glass to preserve the fresh taste. This stuff is perfect with fresh herbs atop a dish of steaming pasta, or on a pizza crust ready for the oven, or for stirring into some soups and fish dishes. And like many European products, this paste has no added sodium, so the tomato flavor isn't overpowered by extra salt. Bionaturae also makes olive oil and fruit nectars, and we're eager to see if these products are as exceptional as the tomato paste.

Tom Rubino
3/2/2011 9:12:42 AM

don't forget about the old-fashioned milkman! I am the owner of The Hudson Milk Co. in NY ( we have been delivering local dairy,(yes, glass bottled milk) local pastured eggs, produce and meats for 17 years throughout NY and Ct. Don't be fooled by some larger supermarkets who claim they have all natural etc. They may be all natural but that doesn't mean they are LOCAL! We have spoken with farmers and artisan food producers who were approached by some of these larger natural food chains who want their product BUT they want them to buy their meats and produce from farms out in Colorado and California!! (we are on the east coast!) That doesn't make sense at all! Tom

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