What the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About its Fresh Produce
7 Minute Read
A few summers ago, I went to a pick-your-own farm where you can get your fruits and veggies right from the vine. Little did I know, it would change the way I saw fresh produce forever.
After paying for my freshly picked loot, I popped one of the cherry tomatoes into my mouth. And it exploded with this insane, tangy sweetness unlike any tomato I’d ever eaten. “WAIT! This is what tomatoes really taste like?”
It felt like I’d been fed a lie. I’d eaten tomatoes all my life and loved them, but had never experienced such mouth-watering flavor before. After that day, the store-bought tomatoes I returned to buying just couldn’t compare.
All fresh produce, when picked at the height of ripeness, tastes like this tomato. So, my question is: why doesn’t the store-brought stuff taste that way?
Well, it’s cause of stomach-curdling facts like this:
Did you know the average grocery apple is picked about 10-14 months before it gets to your grocer? WTF!?!? (TODAY.com)
Annnndddd most of the food at that grocery has traveled about 2000 miles, using an insane amount of fuel to get to you (Worldwatch Institute). So those fresh bananas and avocados you love so much actually lose a lot of their freshness, nutrients, and antioxidants in the process of getting to you.
Learning about these facts totally flipped my thinking of what the term fresh actually means. And it had me wondering what the hell I’d been eating all this time.
I thought I was doing a good job.
I avoid food packaging where possible, I mostly buy organic, and I eat a mostly plant-based diet. But there was this under-the-radar secret lurking in my food that I had no idea about.
Lemme ask you a question: Which do you think tastes better and is better for you?
- An apple you buy at the grocery that was grown in New Zealand and picked at the end of 2017, wayyyy before it was actually ripe. And then stored in an oxygen-deprived cooler for the duration it takes a woman to produce a living, breathing child, and sprayed with a ‘harmless’ chemical to get that perfect, mass-produced color. Oh, did I mention it was dipped in a wax that, although considered food-grade, isn’t digested by the human body?
- Orrrrrr would an apple that was picked on Monday at the peak of its ripeness, and sold to you on Wednesday, be better? With none of that chemical/waxy crap sticking its nose up in your apple’s biznesss . . .
I think it’s safe to say you’d choose option 2.
So how can you get the nutrition and the mind-f**kingly delicious food we want, without the outrageous carbon footprint and without the unnatural [and completely disturbing] decomposition, I mean, storing process?
The answer is simple. Buy local.
Years ago, only 3 options existed for doing that if you lived in a city:
- The farmer’s market—which, let’s be honest, is a trek depending on what you have access to and can be a bit expensive,
- committing to a farm-share or neighborhood CSA for a minimum of 6 months (commitment-phobes beware!), or
- joining a co-op that you’d have to work at a few hours each month
These options have always been very conscious of their carbon footprint and of avoiding unnecessary packaging. But the frugal, commitment-phobe in me has never really liked them. Lucky for you and me, there are now a slew of options that put a modern spin on those concepts with less commitment and wayyyy more convenience. Cause why can’t we have both?
So if you live in New York . . .
Here are some of the options available to you (in addition to the ones mentioned above). And if you don’t live in NY, a quick Google search will help you find the options near to you.
- Precycle – a zero-waste grocery store that sells local, organic, ACTUALLY fresh produce, along with a slew of bulk goods like grains, trail mixes, pastas, etc. – Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY)
- Local Roots NYC – a modern-day CSA that sources all of their foods within a 2-hour driving distance of NYC. They have the option of a la carte ordering or 2-3 month farm share commitments. And unlike CSAs of the past, they don’t just sell veggies. They’ve got fresh meat, seafood, dairy, fruits, veggies, and so much more. Plus, you can either pick up your loot at a local neighborhood spot or have it delivered to your door.
My personal goal is to slowly transition to buying local. Once a month, I’m either gonna buy from the farmer’s market if I’m feeling up for the trip or use one of the above options.
The reason I’m starting with once a month is because shopping locally can be expensive, which I know seems counter-intuitive. You’d think that local food would be cheaper since it takes less resources to get to you.
But the truth is: the price of local food actually reflects the true cost of what it takes to grow that food.
Imported, mass-produced goods rely on government subsidies, underpaid workers, and less stringent regulations and working conditions that attribute to the lower cost.
You can make the same comparison to the fashion industry. A top that’s made of organic cotton and sewn in the US under fair trade conditions is always gonna be more expensive than a polyester top made across the globe in a sweatshop filled with underpaid workers. The same applies to your food.
Local is key.
Supporting local farms and businesses is so important, not only for the environment, the farmers, the workers, and the economy, but also for our health (and taste buds!).
Let’s be honest; do you wanna eat an apple that was picked over a year ago? Or one that was treated with chemicals, and falsely ripened to a visual state of perfection? All while having close to zero nutritional value, a fraction of the flavor it should, and a carbon footprint out the wazoo? What’s the point exactly?
Now, I get that not everyone has the disposable income to buy local fresh produce and goods all the time. If that’s the case, you can still support local businesses when the option is available. For instance, let’s say you’re buying vinegar, and on the shelf, there are two different brands. If both have the same price, you can look at the label to see where each one was made. If one was made closer to you, then that’s your deciding factor—and your way of choosing local. It’s doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing here.
Just be curious about the food you’re eating, what it takes to get to you, and how that affects the environment.
Thanks for reading!
What did you think of those food stats? Nasty right?
Want more info on how your food gets to you or where to find farm fresh produce? Here you go!
- That apple you just bought might be a year old – but does it matter? – TODAY.com
- The 10 best CSAs in New York – Time Out New York