Tricky Joe’s?

The Food Babe has attacked us where it hurts: right in our favorite “unique grocery store.”

There are a lot of issues in her inflammatory article blasting Trader Joe’s, but it does upset me quite a bit that TJ’s won’t respond to her requests to verify its claims to be entirely non-GMO. Whole Foods was third-party verified. Why not Trader Joe’s??

I’m taking back the soy sauce I thought I bought safely last week. Grrrr.

TraderJoesProductsGMOs

Of course, anybody who blindly shops at Trader Joe’s assuming everything is “healthy” is not paying attention. Sadly, we can never stop reading labels, people. Trader Joe’s has plenty of junk food on the shelves; plenty of HFCS, and artificial flavors and colors, and chemicals and additives and generally the kind of thing you’d want to avoid.licorice2

Trader Joe’s deal is that they’re inexpensive for “gourmet” or exotic products. That’s it.

They’re not necessarily healthy, they’re not necessarily organic, and they’re not free-pass shopping.

Sorry.

While you read the article, here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • Her photo shows Joe’s O’s next to Cheerio’s. Even my toddlers knew this wasn’t true. Cheerio’s are more dense and less salty than Joe’s O’s. They don’t look or taste the same. No way that’s the same cereal. So that’s just a mistake right there. Makes you wonder – is there other speculation in the article? Is she just flat out guessing?
  • She lists Barbara’s Bakery as “likely” to contain GMOs. I recently contacted Barbara’s because we buy so many of their cereals, and received written confirmation that they’ve been working imagestowards third party verification of non-GMO status (from the Non GMO Project). Their Shredded Oats are already verified (along with 16 other products – I’ve seen the Non GMO Project seal on several lately), and they hope to have all cereals verified before the end of the year. So she’s vilifies them without bothering to check her facts…wonder how many others in her “bad” list were actually checked out?
  • The whole article is basically a “he said, she said” between Trader Joe and the Food Babe. TJ’s website has a statement about their company policy to be GMO free in TJ label products. Food Babe asked for further verification; TJ’s refuses to pay for third parties to do so. I wish they would, but if you want to just believe Trader Joe’s isn’t hiding anything, you can. She hasn’t proved that they’re hiding anything, she’s assuming they are.

Anyway, check out the article and leave me (or Food Babe) a comment to let me know what you think. Are you a devoted TJ’s shopper? Or are you suspicious?

1044025_690123941014536_1517970690_n

Dinner Win! Mexican Taco Stew from Whole Foods

Here was a big dinner WIN for us the other night! We used ground pork from the ranch (making this veg would be easy, too) and TJ’s organic diced tomatoes w/green chiles.

Since our broth wound up being too spicy for the kids (darn you, TJ’s medium salsa!) we scooped out the solids (that just sounds gross, but I know no other way to describe) and, in a flash of genius, threw it into boxed mac n cheese! The kids LOVED their “taco-roni and cheese” – sure to be a new favorite. They each ate their ENTIRE bowl, even after they’d eaten the bites required to get dessert.

My husband doesn’t like brothy soups either /eyeroll/, so we poured off most of the broth and plan to use it to make delicious Spanish rice to have with tacos tonight. More genius! Somebody get me a MacArthur grant!!

Anyway he & I ate our (innards? solids? meats & vegs?) topped with sharp cheddar and sour cream. One of the easiest and most delish dinners we’ve had in a good long time.

BTW we also made a full pound of meat, adding the onions, garlic & spices (we made up our own taco seasoning – packets are silly when you usually have everything on hand except the weird stuff), then reserved half of that combo for taco night tonight. To go with our Spanish rice. Wow. I can’t wait for dinner time!

Image

image from Whole Foods Market

If you want to find the ridiculous amount of joy I apparently have from this simple recipe, go here: Mexican Taco Stew from Whole Foods

It’s October!

Now there’s a concept…

Time for beer and candy! Plus, my kids are freaking adorable in costumes. What a great month.

Well let me rain on your parade just a little bit. As my thoughts turn to the many, many occasions this month at which my children will be buzzed on sugar, I also think about the realities of the cheap and abundant candy that is thrown at them like so much manna raining from heaven. And those realities suck.

Because sad to say, the whole candy thing – in particular, the chocolate juggernaut – rides on the backs of, you guessed it, slaves. Or at best, sorely underpaid workers. At worst, forced child labor.

I am going to just let a couple of excellent posts from the very much more popular “Rage Against the Minivan” blog speak for me here, because why reinvent the argument?

This one features several clips from a devastating BBC documentary that will hopefully change your mind about those giant Costco bags of chockies.

This one is a helpful list of steps – starting from the most baby all the way up to the most committed & preachy – for making your Halloween more fair (also I am 90% sure that the organic lollipops I’m buying at Trader Joe’s are the very same as those listed in this post).

I hope you’ll read them, watch them, and implement their suggestions.

As for us, we’ll be doing those organic lollipops and regiving anything the kids receive. Which, if we go by last year’s haul, will be MORE than enough.

Oh and we buy our beer locally…I really hope I don’t learn there’s a whole hops slave trade going on or I just might lose it.

[another "fun" post by RATM is this satire about non-fairly traded coffee...]

What you can do

Been writing on some heavy stuff this week, so I wanted to end the series on a positive note, with some ideas on how you can help make a difference in the lives of the people who pick your food.

Even I have found myself getting increasingly depressed as I think about my own small ability to change anything. Yeah, I’ve changed my shopping habits, and yeah, I write about it on here and maybe somebody somewhere reads it (though from the number of comments this series has garnered – exactly ZERO – I doubt it). Maybe we’re all just too tired and disheartened to think about changing the world any more.

Well, for what it’s worth, here are some things you can do. And I’m stealing some from other people because frankly I’m spent after reading and writing about this stuff for a week!

Here is the “Take Action” page from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, about whom Tomatoland is written.

From Barry Estabrook’s original article, The Price of Tomatoes:

In the warm months, the best solution is to follow that old mantra: buy seasonal, local, and small-scale. But what about in winter? So far, Whole Foods is the only grocery chain that has signed on to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Campaign for Fair Food, which means that it has promised not to deal with growers who tolerate serious worker abuses and, when buying tomatoes, to a pay a price that supports a living wage. [UPDATE: Trader Joe's has since signed on; CIW's Take Action page linked above has sample letters you can send to your local grocery conglomerate]

When shopping elsewhere, you can take advantage of the fact that fruits and vegetables must be labeled with their country of origin. Most of the fresh tomatoes in supermarkets during winter months come from Florida, where labor conditions are dismal for field workers, or from Mexico, where they are worse, according to a CIW spokesman. One option during these months is to buy locally produced hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes, including cluster tomatoes still attached to the vine. Greenhouse tomatoes are also imported from Mexico, however, so check signage or consult the little stickers often seen on the fruits themselves to determine their source.

And I’m going to steal from myself, too – here’s the little guidelines I wrote earlier this week, in my post about Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating:

  • To start, buy as much produce as you can locally. Cutting out the cost of distribution systems and nation- or even world-wide transportation goes a long way towards keeping prices low. If the farmer’s market seems to expensive, go at closing time – you’ll get great deals on whatever’s left.
  • If possible, join a CSA, which will ensure that your money goes straight into a farmer’s pocket (then get to know the farmer, and ensure he or she is paying a fair wage to fieldworkers).
  • Avoid large farming corporations (even organic ones), as their infrastructure prohibits paying close attention to conditions in the field (most subcontract their labor anyway), and their corporate obligation to profit requires them to cut corners (sadly, it is often easiest to hurt people, rather than product).
  • Avoid huge retailers like WalMart that make plenty of money off other goods but mark up the cost of fresh food (since it spoils and therefore cannot be bought in the huge quantities that are their advantage over smaller competitors). An orange may cost 50% more at WalMart than the local grocery store simply bc it doesn’t fit their pricing scheme (see McMillan, 136-7, for her comparison shopping between WalMart and the local Mexican grocery).

To keep it simple: buy fresh, buy local, buy in season, buy from small farms, and cut out as many middlemen as possible.

And to finish, some hope: things are getting better in some respects. The CIW’s “Campaign for Fair Food”, seeking to raise wages by “a penny a pound” and ensure basic rights for tomato pickers started in 2001 and has successfully enrolled Taco Bell (2005), McDonald’s (2007), and Burger King, Subway and Whole Foods (2008). The next years were spent fighting the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, which initially resisted (even though the wage increase was entirely paid for by the buyers and didn’t affect the Exchange or growers one way or another – except to ask them to treat their workers better). They finally relented in 2010 and now the extra pennies, previously sitting in escrow accounts, are finally reaching the workers for whom they were earmarked.

The CIW’s next target is grocery stores, and from their website I gathered that they have added to Whole Foods’ early participation the signature of Trader Joe’s and several food management companies (e.g. Bon Appetit, food supplier to many of the colleges with which I’ve been affiliated) to the growing roster of companies on board with the Campaign. Sadly, the rest of the major grocery chains – including WalMart, which takes in ONE of every FOUR food dollars in the United States (more than the next three grocery corporations combined) – have yet to sign on. Read more about the Campaign for Fair Food here: http://ciw-online.org/101.html#cff.

Summing up: big campaigns definitely help, but it’s also the choices you and I make every day that eventually will turn around the whole system. So don’t you be discouraged, and I will try not to be either!

If I’m being honest, I prefer Joe Joe’s…

But still, what better way to celebrate kid week on my blog than the 100th birthday of the Oreo cookie! Get dunking or better yet, try out some of these recipes:

Chefs celebrate the Oreo on its 100th birthday.

And btw, Joe Joe’s (from Trader Joe’s) are really just superior for homemade ice cream. Nothing beats a Double Stuf for dunking.