Friday, July 2, 2010

My crisis of faith in organic foods

I'm having a crisis. My faith in organic food has been shaken, and I'm doing some soul searching as I try to figure out what's right for my family.

The setup: I'm a strong believer in buying locally, and I think that, in theory, the benefits to buying organic food are so obvious that it would take an act of willful ignorance to deny them.  I want to buy food that is free of added hormones and antibiotics, free of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.  I don't want the animals that provide our family's food to have been fed a steady diet of trash (no, worse than trash) their whole lives.  I want to support farms that don't add to our mounting environmental problems.

Yet I've been running into problems on a near-weekly basis with what I'm buying.  I have to question the intelligence of purchasing food that just ends up being thrown away.  I don't have money to waste.  Who does?

Let's take this week's purchases:  broccoli and organic milk.  The broccoli was locally grown, and cheaper than grocery-bought broccoli.  The milk is from a local organic dairy, and much more pricey than grocery store skim.  I bought the broccoli on Saturday and attempted to cook it Sunday night, but it was already bad.  All of it.  When I purchased it, I knew that I would have to use it soon, but within a 36 hour period it went from quite acceptable to completely unusable.  I tried to cook up the nicest parts to see if any of it was salvageable, and it was terrible.  The entire purchase went unused.

And then the milk.  I'm actually a little post-traumatic stressed about this.  I had previously bought milk from this dairy three times, with good results.  But last week's milk was terrible immediately.  It was...chunky.  I poured a glass, saw that it was bad and poured it out.  I poured a second glass and realized it was the same.  Then I smelled it.  It was absolutely bad.  I tried salvaging it by using a little as cream in my coffee and even that was totally unpalatable.  I poured it all down the drain.  This week I bought skim milk instead, from the same dairy.  The expiration date on the milk is still ten days away, but as of today the milk was absolutely bad.  I noticed it when I poured some in my coffee and it came out like a big dollop of slime.  Slime - I've never seen milk do anything like that.  I poured a little into a glass, and it looked fine so I took a sip.  The taste and smell were unmistakable:  vinegar.  It tasted and smelled like vinegar.  I don't even know how that's possible.  I poured the entire bottle down the drain.

Why am I buying organic when I keep having these experiences?  Is better living through science really a better concept than sustainable living through organics?  What do I do?

I know the short term answers:  I'll ask about the milk tomorrow when I return the bottle and see what they suggest.  As for the broccoli, I can certainly do a better job of checking for freshness, but I don't know that I would have chosen any differently - that broccoli looked very good on Saturday.  Maybe I'll avoid that seller altogether - his wasn't the only broccoli at the market.  The short term answers aren't what I need here, though.  In the long term, do I continue to buy organic, local food and hope that I have more "hits" than "misses?"  Do I have that kind of money to waste on the "misses?"

I know what I want to do:  I want to continue to buy local, organic food.  I also know I don't want to waste more time and money than I already have.  Organic foodies, do you have advice?



Miranda said...

I'm not a completely organic foodie. I'd like to be, but, quite honestly, I just don't have the funds to support it. (And in general, I just don't think about it...horrible, I know.)

There's only ONE market near me that has anything even remotely like what you suggested and it's only open on Saturday mornings and it is very, very small. So my solution is to buy frozen from the grocery store.

If you have a Trader Joe's near you, they have a wide selection of frozen organic produce. And I've never had anything from there that I didn't love. Even my regular grocery store has a large variety of frozen organic produce.

As for the milk, that's really, really strange because I often notice that the sell-by date on the organic milk is much, much longer than that of the non-organic milk.

Anyway, there's my perhaps unhelpful $.02.

stash mama said...

yuckkk that sucks!!! try organic soymilk! Hello I am now following you! And glad I found you! I would looove a follow back ;) And come by and link up for Playdates Friday Follow! Stash Mama

Eco-Friendly and Frugal said...

It is sometimes hit or miss, unfortunately. I find that most places are very nice about replacing spoiled produce if you had just purchased it, so be sure to talk to the dairy and the brocolli guy and see what they say. I've never had this experience myself and buy mostly local/organic so I'm sorry this has been your experience! I hope it's just a bad, bad fluke!

*Michelle* said...

Hello! I'm your latest follower-- found you through Green Follow Friday! Hope you have better luck with your milk & produce next week. At my house, we pick & choose what we pay premium prices for. We buy grocery store milk & cheese, but buy almost all of our meat in bulk from local farmers who produce their meat in a wholesome manner. I buys some organic produce & some not-- and we get our eggs from our own chickens. We couldn't afford to be purists with four kids in the house!

CoconutPalmDesigns said...

I'm really sorry you are having such problems with your organic purchases lately. The milk smelled and tasted like vinegar? Ewwww. Sorry I don't have any suggestions for you.

I have an award over at my blog for you.

Cheers :-)
- Rainforest Mommy