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"Authentic" food


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#1 tanabutler

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 09:46 PM

Having once sat across the dinner table from venerated farmer Eliot Coleman and his wife, Barbara Damrosch, I was delighted today to have come across this:

The label "organic" has lost the fluidity it used to hold for the growers more concerned with quality than the bottom line, and consumers more concerned with nutrition than a static set of standards for labeling. "Authentic" is meant to be the flexible term "organic" once was. It identifies fresh foods produced by local growers who want to focus on what they are doing, instead of what they aren't doing. (The word authentic derives from the Greek authentes: one who does things for him or herself.) The standards for a term like this shouldn't be set in stone, but here are the ones I like to focus on:

All foods are produced by the growers who sell them.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs and meat products are produced within a 50-mile radius of their place of their final sale.

The seed and storage crops (grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, etc.) are produced within a 300-mile radius of their final sale.

Only traditional processed foods such as cheese, wine, bread and lactofermented products may claim, "Made with Authentic ingredients."

The growers' fields, barns and greenhouses are open for inspection at any time, so customers, themselves, can be the certifiers of their food.

All agricultural practices used on farms selling under the "Authentic" label are chosen to produce foods of the highest nutritional quality.

Soils are nourished, as in the natural world, with farm-derived organic matter and mineral particles from ground rock.

Green manures and cover crops are included within broadly based crop rotations to maintain biological diversity.

A "plant positive" rather than "pest negative" philosophy is followed focusing on correcting the caused of problems rather than treating symptoms.

Livestock are raised outdoors on grass-based pasture systems to the fullest extent possible.

The goal is vigorous, healthy crops and livestock endowed with their inherent powers of vitality and resistance.

"Authentic" growers are committed to supplying food that is fresh, ripe, clean, safe and nourishing. "Authentic" farms are genetically modified organism-free zones. I encourage all small growers with local markets who believe in exceptional food to use the word "Authentic" to mean "Beyond Organic." With a definition that stresses local, seller-grown and fresh, there is little likelihood that large-scale marketers can steal this concept.



I will be sending this around to everyone I know.

#2 g.johnson

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:01 PM

I find this crass.

Authentic means genuine and any attempt to make it mean something more "fluid" (he really means "imprecise") is to decrease the utility of the word.
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#3 macrosan

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:14 PM

Load of old twaddle ;)

The label "organic" has lost the fluidity it used to hold for the growers more concerned with quality than the bottom line, and consumers more concerned with nutrition than a static set of standards for labeling

Really ? When did this guy rewrite the English dictionary ? What "fluid" was he drinking when he sat across the table from you, Tana ? :lol:

#4 rancho_gordo

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:15 PM

I find this crass.

Authentic means genuine and any attempt to make it mean something more "fluid" (he really means "imprecise") is to decrease the utility of the word.


Oh poo!

I find Wal-mart crass. And offensive. And it smells like fabric sizing.

He's not trying to make things easier for farmers. He's trying to make it harder for industrial agriculture to get away with calling their product sustainable, organic, etc. We lost the war on Organic. What's the next word? Authentic is a bit precious but I'm sure the movement is open to suggestions if you have them.

"Gay people exist. There's nothing we can do in public policy that makes more of us exist, or less of us exist. And you guys have been arguing for a generation that public policy ought to essentially demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist, but you don't make any less of us exist. You just are arguing in favor of more discrimination, and more discrimination doesn't make straight people's lives any better." -Rachel Maddow to Jim DeMint and Ralph Reed


#5 Behemoth

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:25 PM

How about working to raise the bar on what it means to be organic, and reminding people why it is also important to buy sustainable and local. Name changes without substantive action is just pointless IMO.
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#6 GrantK

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:31 PM

They lost that battle several years ago. There were some farmers who called themselves "Beyond Organic" but that didn't seem to stick. Authentic doesn't work for me at all. I don't see it working with the general public either. Not that I have any great suggestions.
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#7 macrosan

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:31 PM

How about working to raise the bar on what it means to be organic, and reminding people why it is also important to buy sustainable and local. Name changes without substantive action is just pointless IMO.

What is the legal definition of organic in the USA ? In the UK I believe it's precise, meaningful and generally well understood (and liked) by consumers.

I'm uneasy about "sustainable" as I think that's another word that has inherent meaning, but I believe that some people want it to mean "ecologically friendly" which is significantly different.

#8 rancho_gordo

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 10:39 PM

Industrial agriculture is working very hard, often hand in hand, with our senators and congressmen to insure that the standards for producing Organic food is lowered even more.

"Gay people exist. There's nothing we can do in public policy that makes more of us exist, or less of us exist. And you guys have been arguing for a generation that public policy ought to essentially demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist, but you don't make any less of us exist. You just are arguing in favor of more discrimination, and more discrimination doesn't make straight people's lives any better." -Rachel Maddow to Jim DeMint and Ralph Reed


#9 g.johnson

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 11:15 PM

Industrial agriculture is working very hard, often hand in hand, with our senators and congressmen to insure that the standards for producing Organic food is lowered even more.

The response to that is not to introduce a new word which has no precise meaning but to fight to ensure that official organic* standards remain high.

If you insist on a new word then "traditional" seems a lot more precise than "authentic".

*I don't much like "organic" either. All food except salt is organic.
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#10 Cathy

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 11:18 PM

Industrial agriculture is working very hard, often hand in hand, with our senators and congressmen to insure that the standards for producing Organic food is lowered even more.


And the certification process is so expensive that many small farmers who practice "organic" can't afford to earn the right to use the label.

I'm with Rancho and Tana here. Coleman may not have hit on the right approach - or the right word - but at least he's trying.
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#11 g.johnson

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 11:28 PM

But it's pointless. Suppose "authentic" farmers do start a trend and consumers begin to recognize "authentic" as having that particular meaning. What's to stop Nabisco immediately labeling Ritz Crackers "authentic"?
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#12 Cathy

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 11:34 PM

But it's pointless. Suppose "authentic" farmers do start a trend and consumers begin to recognize "authentic" as having that particular meaning. What's to stop Nabisco immediately labeling Ritz Crackers "authentic"?


Nothing, of course, and I agree that replacing one label with another, equally compromisable, one is pointless. But should small farmers and consumers just give it up without a fight? If Coleman's tactic does no more than keep the issue alive, he's done a good thing.
You're only as good as your grease.


When working with high heat, the first contact between the cooking surface and the food must be respected.

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#13 tanabutler

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 11:41 PM

And the certification process is so expensive that many small farmers who practice "organic" can't afford to earn the right to use the label.

I'm with Rancho and Tana here. Coleman may not have hit on the right approach - or the right word - but at least he's trying.


Much appreciated, Cathy.

Some of my farmer friends don't want to pay for the "organic" certification, especially now that it's been co-opted by agribusiness, and its integrity has been diluted by the association. But because I know, for example, Jerry and Josh Thomas, the father and son who run Thomas Family Farm (since 1971), I know their practices are sustainable.

Another farmer, the dauntless Stephenie Coughlin, whom I visited one year ago today, said, "I have more integrity than those bureaucrats: I have to answer to myself. And my standards are higher than theirs." She's a salty Colleen Dewhurst type. I just loved her.

These are the farmers you want to know.

The biodynamic farmers have the "Demeter" label: that is another approach.

The response to that is not to introduce a new word which has no precise meaning but to fight to ensure that official organic* standards remain high.

If you insist on a new word then "traditional" seems a lot more precise than "authentic".

*I don't much like "organic" either. All food except salt is organic.

The problem with the word "traditional," to me, is that it is so close to "conventional." So-called "conventional" farms are the ones using the toxic chemicals, you know, because "everybody's doing it." The conventions of a few decades have undone the world.

#14 macrosan

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Posted 01 May 2006 - 11:42 PM

On the subject of "organic", it's not the food ingredient that needs the title, but the process by which it is grown and presented. In the UK, that meaning is precisely and reasonably defined and enforced.

The notion that farmers can't afford the certification process is surely primarily a whinge. Can they afford certification that their produce is what they say it is, that their meat is disease free, that their vegetables are not poisoned ? Well I hope so ! And they recover the costs of meeting FDA certification by increasing their charges. I'm sure they can do the same with certification that it is organic.

On the "authentic" issue, I don't think a single word is possible or necessary. There are far too many elements to be so encapsulated, and it is impossible that all farmers will be able to meet all the definitions. If buyers are sufficiently interested, they will enquire of the retailer how and where the food is produced. Once they know (and trust) a source, they don't have to ask again.

#15 rancho_gordo

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Posted 02 May 2006 - 12:11 AM

On the subject of "organic", it's not the food ingredient that needs the title, but the process by which it is grown and presented. In the UK, that meaning is precisely and reasonably defined and enforced.


That's great for you but here it means you can grow food with slave labor in China and air it here and it's organic. Lobbies of commercial ag are doing everything they can to make the term meaningless.

The notion that farmers can't afford the certification process is surely primarily a whinge. Can they afford certification that their produce is what they say it is, that their meat is disease free, that their vegetables are not poisoned ? Well I hope so ! And they recover the costs of meeting FDA certification by increasing their charges. I'm sure they can do the same with certification that it is organic.


But if the term is a marketing term, what's the point.

Free range chickens now means that after 5 weeks cooped up in a cement prison, they can roam a small patch of grass before they are killed at 7 weeks. they choose not to because the food and flock are all inside. So what's a free-range chicken?

"Gay people exist. There's nothing we can do in public policy that makes more of us exist, or less of us exist. And you guys have been arguing for a generation that public policy ought to essentially demean gay people as a way of expressing disapproval of the fact that we exist, but you don't make any less of us exist. You just are arguing in favor of more discrimination, and more discrimination doesn't make straight people's lives any better." -Rachel Maddow to Jim DeMint and Ralph Reed