Wonky Food Pricing
While shopping at Whole Foods recently, I was struck again by the irony of food pricing. As I have given up modern wheat, I have stepped up my intake of raw nuts. In 2007, the government issued a law that said all almonds grown in the U.S. must be pasteurized. But, that doesn’t mean they are all heated, some are gassed. Yes, gassed. Most organic almonds are steam processed to a temperature of 200°F, which destroys healthy enzymes and vitamins in food (and in the case of almonds possibly makes them toxic), and the other most common method of treating almonds is to gas them with highly toxic fumigation treatment of propylene oxide (PPO), a highly flammable, known carcinogen. Sound tantalizing?
A young employee was stocking the bulk bins, and I asked him where the raw almonds were. If you want a truly raw almond that hasn’t been gassed or heated, it must be imported from Italy or Spain, or bought directly from an organic almond grower before they ship almonds for pasteurization.
The conventional bulk almonds, which seem to be raw, are $7.99 a pound, while the imported almonds are a staggering $19.99 a pound. (So much for buying local.) I understand quality costs more, but it’s ironic that nuts which have been processed cost less than nuts that have simply been picked, shelled and shipped.
If one thinks of the lengths that processed food manufacturers go to in manipulating the ingredients they sell (it hardly should be called food), it’s astounding. In fact, real meat makes up only an average of 12 percent of a fast food hamburger patty (water content averages around 50 percent), and yet, that’s the cheapest food to buy.
To think that leveling primal forests to plant palm plantations (which destroy orangutan habitat and invite the use of rodenticides) to produce palm oil as a substitute for whole fats winds up costing companies less is hard to fathom. Every forest razed dries up the planet. Look at the current state of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the water source for 24 million people has dropped over 90 percent and California water woes are front page news.
(If you aren’t reading labels and avoiding foods cooked with palm oil, please start now.) Maybe production of palm oil seemed good for business before the glaciers started melting at record pace which threaten to melt the frozen methane underneath that could end human life on Earth, but not now. No amount of personal and corporate wealth is worth that doomsday scenario.
So, I started talking to the young man, who offered that he’d been working at the store for six years since he was 18. I asked him when Whole Foods was going to go GMO-free and he quickly answered 2018. However, when I explained what a GMO was, and he said he wasn’t familiar with the name Monsanto, I was surprised.
The commitment I’ve made, through growing my own food and becoming even more protective of the Earth and its inhabitants, is to speak to anyone who will listen, that what they put in their mouths matters to their health and well-being, to their families and neighbors, and it matters to food producers and to the environment. It’s all so very precarious today, with conflict and aggression happening all over (every time an explosive fires, the planet heats up in exponential ways) and billions are spent to extract the last ounce of fossil fuel from the Earth and transport it around the globe, but humans have an opportunity with their buying dollars to affect positive change and do their part to protect our increasingly fragile existence here.
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