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Marketing Faux Sustainable, Locavore, Blah Blah Blah


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Authentic, Artisan, Sustainable Cattle

I get "unsustainable" and I kind of get "non-artisan" in this context (assuming it means the ranch hands don't all roll their own cigarettes, don't ride horses all day, don't wear Stetsons and so on) but will someone please explain to me how the heck you make cattle "inauthentic"?

I'll wait a few years before chiming in with my opinion on this topic.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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associated with the term "holistic" but doesn't it boil down to treating the system as a whole rather than treating the component parts? Wouldn't that more or less define the type of organic farming going on at Polyface farm as discussed in Omnivore's Dilemma? Or, is mysticism inherent to the definition?

Though you don't often see holistic used in purely scientific circles, I don't think mysticism is inherent. However, I think that there are very few if any complex systems (like a farm) that can be treated as a whole. Paying attention to all parts of a system is not the same as treating it as a whole. The BDA prescriptions I have mentioned (buried cow horns and deer bladders) are generally the ones noted by proponents as treating the whole. In this case, I'd say that much of the scientific regimen treats components (e.g. irragation, crop rotation, fertilization). It may be inherent in complex systems that something would have to be supernatural to treat the whole system.

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...but will someone please explain to me how the heck you make cattle "inauthentic"?

I'm guessing the same way you could have inorganic food (other than salt)?

By applying a artificial synthetic compound (pesticide, herbicide, antibiotic) to it.

However, I'll agree with Dakki. Whether your cattle has any street cred or not, I believe a cattle is still a cattle.

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By applying a artificial synthetic compound (pesticide, herbicide, antibiotic) to it.

However, I'll agree with Dakki. Whether your cattle has any street cred or not, I believe a cattle is still a cattle.

My point is that all food other than salt is organic material. Application of something inorganic does not remove the carbon atoms from food. The food itself is still organic.

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I guess we use a lot of nonstandard definitions in the food business. There's organic salt for sale, which has nothing to do with this organic salt.

This is my skillet. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My skillet is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it, as I must master my life. Without me my skillet is useless. Without my skillet, I am useless. I must season my skillet well. I will. Before God I swear this creed. My skillet and myself are the makers of my meal. We are the masters of our kitchen. So be it, until there are no ingredients, but dinner. Amen.

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The use of "sustainable" is a well known marketing ploy of impyling a negative of your competition by making use of a positive word to describe your own product. The marketers are implying that their competition is somehow producing "unsustainable" goods without actually saying so.

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By applying a artificial synthetic compound (pesticide, herbicide, antibiotic) to it.

However, I'll agree with Dakki. Whether your cattle has any street cred or not, I believe a cattle is still a cattle.

My point is that all food other than salt is organic material. Application of something inorganic does not remove the carbon atoms from food. The food itself is still organic.

This is egullet. This isn't eChemistry. Carbon atoms aside, the term organic has a specific legal meaning when used in reference to food (egullet, not eChemistry). So, it most certainly is possible to have "inorganic" food even though all of their cute little carbon atoms are still there.

What is organic?

"USDA Definition and Regulations:

The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA), enacted under Title 21 of the 1990 Farm Bill, served to establish uniform national standards for the production and handling of foods labeled as “organic.” The Act authorized a new USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to set national standards for the production, handling, and processing of organically grown agricultural products. In addition, the Program oversees mandatory certification of organic production. The Act also established the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) which advises the Secretary of Agriculture in setting the standards upon which the NOP is based. Producers who meet standards set by the NOP may label their products as “USDA Certified Organic.”

USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, April 1995

“Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.

“‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.

“Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.

“Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”

CFR Regulatory Text, 7 CFR Part 205, Subpart A — Definitions. § 205.2 Terms defined

“Organic production. A production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.” USDA National Organic Program. http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/DefineReg.html'>http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/NOP/standards/DefineReg.html

USDA Consumer Brochure: Organic Food Standards and Labels: The Facts

“What is organic food? Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled ‘organic,’ a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.” Consumer Brochure, USDA National Organic Program, http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html'>http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html

The final national organic standards rule was published in the Federal Register on December 21, 2000. The law was activated April 21, 2001. The rule, along with detailed fact sheets and other background information, is available on the National Organic Program's website, http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/

Full regulatory text: Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR): http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/

text-idx?c=ecfr;sid=11fd57b422b6314d866dc4b02f1a101d;rgn=div5;view=text;

node=7:3.1.1.9.30;idno=7;cc=ecfr "

There are no legal definitions for "all natural" or "sustainable," though there is a legal definition for "sustainable agriculture:"

"Legal Definition of Sustainable Agriculture

The term ''sustainable agriculture'' (U.S. Code Title 7, Section 3103) means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will over the long-term:

-Satisfy human food and fiber needs.

-Enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends.

-Make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls.

-Sustain the economic viability of farm operations.

-Enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole."

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The use of "sustainable" is a well known marketing ploy of impyling a negative of your competition by making use of a positive word to describe your own product. The marketers are implying that their competition is somehow producing "unsustainable" goods without actually saying so.

Yeah, that's kind of the way marketing works. When Ford says they're "Number 1" they're implying that all of the other car manufactures are inferior (as in not number 1). And when a company indicates they are "the best" it would imply everyone else is inferior (as in not "the best").

Amazingly no one markets themselves as being "good enough" or "slightly above average" or "most likely won't break before you get it home."

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This is egullet. This isn't eChemistry. Carbon atoms aside, the term organic has a specific legal meaning when used in reference to food (egullet, not eChemistry).

I'm wholly (holistically? ;-) with you semantically, Florida, and thanks for quoting the legal definitions.

Since this thread concerns marketing hype and consumer susceptibility, it's proper I think to mention a crucial flip side of "organic" farming, often overlooked or underpublicized. As BadRabbit aptly mentioned, some of the nastiest health hazards are 100% natural. UC-Davis, for my occasional quips about its scientific winemaking (influence of Paul Draper, who is local), has a leading Food Science faculty that includes a food toxicology group. For years it has studied both manmade and natural toxins in food plants (plants produce some of these to deter insect predators or respond to insect stress) with remarkable findings including increased net toxicity in some crops grown organically. They stress that this is extremely plant-specific and precludes generalizing about the subject (including dismissing organic farming). From researching a few years ago I summarize and quote some of this below, fine print to save space but you can copy/paste, or magnify in your browser, if desired. (Authors are all at UC-Davis.) Finally a biochemist friend sends me some disturbing research papers and has, himself, abandoned eating any US-produced processed peanut or corn products. He says the plants employed for processed uses (peanut butter, tortilla chips, etc) tend more to be the cosmetically damaged pieces and they often get that way from fungal infestation, and that the US, perhaps reflecting industry lobbying, has lax limits on mycotoxin content compared to other countries.

"Natural is often equated with safe and wholesome. ... That pesticides may prevent the development of hazardous natural toxins was new information and not believed by some consumers (Bruhn et al., 1998). Consumer education is needed in this area." --Christine Bruhn in Jackson, Knize, and Morgan, Impact of Processing on Food Safety. Advances in Medicine and Experimental Biology series, volume 459. Springer, 1999, ISBN 0306460513.

From Carl K. Winter and Sarah F. Davis, Journal of Food Science, November/December 2006, a broad survey paper citing both positive and negative effects of organic cultivation:

"Glycoalkaloids are naturally occurring toxins produced from plants such as potatoes and tomatoes, and they provide insect resistance." Levels increase in potatoes under stress. Attempt to breed "an insect-resistant potato variety was abandoned when it was determined that glycoalkaloids were detectable at levels that could potentially cause acute toxicity in humans." Linear furanocoumarins in celery develop at elevated levels "under stressful conditions such as fungal attack ... Linear furanocoumarins are known for their ability to cause contact dermatitis and are considered possible human carcinogens." Breeding to enhance pest resistance in celery also caused "10- to 15-fold increases in linear furanocoumarin levels, which can cause photophytodermatitis in grocery-store workers."

"Mycotoxins are another example of naturally occurring toxins" thought to be affected by pesticides. "Development of mycotoxins in food crops could be altered through the use of fungicides as well as through the use of insecticides to prevent primary insect damage, thereby minimizing the opportunities for secondary fungal colonization of damaged plant tissue. Aflatoxins are frequently detected in several food products, including corn and peanuts, and can be potent mutagens, carcinogens, and teratogens. Fumonisins have been implicated epidemiologically as mycotoxins that could cause human esophageal cancer and have been shown to cause cancer and liver damage in rats, pulmonary edema in pigs, and leukoencephalomalacia in horses. Tricothecene mycotoxins frequently contaminate grain products, and low to moderate consumption of these toxins, particularly deoxynivalenol, may cause immune-system problems and gastrointestinal toxicity in animals (Murphy and others, 2006)."

Winter/Davis summary:

"While many studies demonstrate qualitative differences between organic and conventional foods with respect to pesticide residues and nutrients, it is premature to conclude that either food system is superior to the other. Pesticide residues [and] naturally occurring toxins, nitrites, and polyphenolic compounds exert their health risks or benefits on a dose-related basis, and data currently do not exist to ascertain whether the differences in the levels of such chemicals between organic foods and conventional foods are of health significance."

(Edited because typesize "1" is really too small)

Edited by MaxH (log)
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I'd say this really isn't eLaw either. I guess I just think that the idea that legal definition changes both language and reality is a little Orwellian. It seems to me the only thing a legal definition is evidence of is which ag lobbyist was the loudest (read: most generous ) to the authors of the bill. I was never disagreeing that there was/was not a legal definition. I am just disagreeing that whoever happens to be in power can change what words like "sustainable" or "organic" mean (words that have been around a lot longer than a 10 year old bill) regardless of their context.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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Since this thread concerns marketing hype and consumer susceptibility, it's proper I think to mention a crucial flip side of "organic" farming, often overlooked or underpublicized. As BadRabbit aptly mentioned, some of the nastiest health hazards are 100% natural.

Somewhat apropos of this, my mother in law recently was at my house and brought over some blueberries. I went to wash them and she said "They're organic, no need to wash them." To which I responded "You do realize that means they were likely grown in shit." She allowed me to wash them.

Edit: Typo

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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As if to contribute to our discussion here, Will Lyons at the Wall St Journal has an entire article devoted to biodynamic wine:

I make no claim to understand how biodynamics works. According to the "Oxford Companion to Wine," non-believers consider biodynamics an "unscientific and disturbingly irrational cult." A view, I have to confess, for which I once harbored a slight sympathy. It's not that I now have the fervor of the convert, far from it, and there are still some principles associated with it I find a little odd. It's just that having tasted numerous wines made using some of the practical aspects of biodynamics I have found they are marked with a purity, silkiness and concentration rarely found in other wines.

Then follows a description of his "epiphany" of wines with greater "energy" and a brief overview of Steiner's biodynamic principles. Those looking for science aren't going to find it; "energy" is a metaphor. I think.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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As if to contribute to our discussion here, Will Lyons at the Wall St Journal has an entire article devoted to biodynamic wine:

I make no claim to understand how biodynamics works. According to the "Oxford Companion to Wine," non-believers consider biodynamics an "unscientific and disturbingly irrational cult." A view, I have to confess, for which I once harbored a slight sympathy. It's not that I now have the fervor of the convert, far from it, and there are still some principles associated with it I find a little odd. It's just that having tasted numerous wines made using some of the practical aspects of biodynamics I have found they are marked with a purity, silkiness and concentration rarely found in other wines.

Then follows a description of his "epiphany" of wines with greater "energy" and a brief overview of Steiner's biodynamic principles. Those looking for science aren't going to find it; "energy" is a metaphor. I think.

I don't doubt that there are many biodynamic wines that are world class wines. I just deny that planetary alignment and burying "preparations" have anything to do with that. I'm a scientific skeptic and understand that the end product does not necessarily prove efficacy of individual practices.

I would suggest anyone interested in the practice to read about Steiner. He described his own philosophy as a synthesis between science and mysticism. I have no problem with his scientific practices just the mystic ones.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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The use of "sustainable" is a well known marketing ploy of impyling a negative of your competition by making use of a positive word to describe your own product. The marketers are implying that their competition is somehow producing "unsustainable" goods without actually saying so.

Yeah, that's kind of the way marketing works. When Ford says they're "Number 1" they're implying that all of the other car manufactures are inferior (as in not number 1). And when a company indicates they are "the best" it would imply everyone else is inferior (as in not "the best").

Amazingly no one markets themselves as being "good enough" or "slightly above average" or "most likely won't break before you get it home."

I think the using of a newer marketing word like "sustainable" is a little more effective in this regard. People are numb to claims like "the best" and "number 1." I once lived on a street that had three restaurants with signs claiming "the city's best hamburger."

Sustainable (implying others are not sustainable) is a little more subtle and probably not as obvious to the average consumer.

Edited by BadRabbit (log)
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I think the using of a newer marketing word like "sustainable" is a little more effective in this regard. People are numb to claims like "the best" and "number 1." I once lived on a street that had three restaurants with signs claiming "the city's best hamburger."

When there's a "sustainable" joke in a Hollywood film like the "world's best coffee" gag in Elf, we will know we have triumphed.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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  • 1 month later...

We were just at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey and up front there was this huge display "Farmer Joe's Locally Grown Produce." The tomatoes were from Virginia.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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We were just at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey and up front there was this huge display "Farmer Joe's Locally Grown Produce." The tomatoes were from Virginia.

:laugh:

although... I live in Vancouver, BC., and "local" could also include items from Washington state (still within 100 miles of my place!)

Maybe TJ means "local" in contrast to (internationally) "imported". But, still...

I'm being "local" this week... 10 mile diet, for 10 days :smile: except for coffee, rice, salt, organic-regional dairy products, and olive oil. Oh, and red wine from BC grapes :raz:

Karen Dar Woon

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We were just at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey and up front there was this huge display "Farmer Joe's Locally Grown Produce." The tomatoes were from Virginia.

It's appalling, though not too surprising. US commercial culture has a cherished tradition of Orwellian euphemisms: Labeling things not just appealingly, but perversely.

US red wines from indifferent and variable grapes were long labeled "Burgundy," and even today some US sparkling wines have "Champagne" on the label. (That's considered outrageous, as well as illegal, in many countries, with good reason -- like labeling random oranges "Florida" oranges because it sells better. Valuable names of respected European wine-making regions are reserved for use within those regions.) Some US food product I bought boasted on its label of "Real Parmesan cheese;" no suggestion anywhere of ingredients from Italy (where real Parmesan comes from). Characteristically, this implies a glaring open question of what then might "unreal" Parmesan cheese possibly be.

A corollary is thin-air euphemisms, generally disclaimers of something popularly perceived bad, but that no one ever associated with the product anyway. Like advertising fruit juices as fat-free. This venerable US practice was highlighted some years ago in an Atlantic Monthly article on cholesterol misconceptions ("The Cholesterol Myth"), illustrated by caricature cartoon advertisements for things like low-cholesterol light bulbs. An incisive parody because it exaggerated actual advertising practice only slightly.

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