To eat a healthy diet, you need to eat organic. That is the message from the Cornucopia Institute (www://cornucopia.org). But the consumer needs to be careful, because not everything labeled “organic” is truly healthy or humane. The Cornucopia Institute is a non-profit, based in Wisconsin, which does research and investigation into agricultural and food issues. It provides information to family farmers and consumers. The website states, “We support economic justice for the family-scale farming community-partnered with consumers-backing ecologically produced local, organic and authentic food.”
Cornucopia provides the consumer with ratings of organic foods, ranging from dairy products and eggs, to protein bars and soy-based foods. I try to eat organic whenever possible, but I was surprised when I found that some of the organic products I buy are not recommended by Cornucopia.
Organic dairy products are given scores ranging from 0 to 5. Products receiving a 5-star “Outstanding” (or “5-Cow” rating) are local and organic. The only nearby local dairy on the list that has a 5-star rating, is New England Organic Creamery, the Shaw family farm in Dracut. Good for Warren Shaw! Four-cow ratings, “Excellent,” are earned by Organic Valley of Wisconsin and Stonyfield Farm, Vermont. These are widely available. BJ’s, Costco, and Wal-Mart store brands earned only a one-star rating (“Unknown” whether organic or humane). Zero-star ratings (“Ethically deficient”) were earned by Trader Joe’s, Hannaford’s Nature’s Place, Wild Harvest, Applegate Farms, Vermont Organics and Horizen .
Looking at the organic egg ratings, most of the 5-star and 4-star ratings (“5-egg and 4-egg” rating) “Truly pastured or Enhanced Outdoor Access”, are garnered by small local farms. None of these are in our immediate area. One farm with a three-star rating, “Very Good, complying with minimum USDA organic standards”, was Pete and Gerry’s of New Hampshire. Pete and Gerry’s eggs are available at Hannaford Market and elsewhere. Organic Valley has a 2-star rating “Fair, unknown or from confinement farmed hens”. Country Hen of Hubbardston, MA, Costco and Wal-mart eggs also have a 2-star rating. Surprisingly, 365 Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s organic eggs have only a one-star rating. And Wegman’s, Horizen and others garner a zero-star rating.
Cornucopia also rates soy-based foods such at veggie burgers, nuggets and protein bars. They put cautions on many of the foods rated, because the soy protein in them is extracted with hexane, which is a poisonous solvent. Some common brands that are not recommended because of hexane are Boca, Gardenburger, Morningstar Farms, and Trader Joe’s, and some of the Whole Foods products. I was shocked at this, because these are all products I have used.
Recommended safe soy meat alternatives are all Amy’s Kitchen products, Asherah’s Gourmet, Chez Marie, Field Roast, Helen’s Kitchen, Primm, Soy Deli, Tofu Shop, Tofurky and Wildwood products. The only ones of these that I have found locally are Amy’s Kitchen and Tofurky.
Safe protein bars are Alpsnack, Amazing Grass, Bear Fruit, Bumble bar, Garden of Life, Hammer, Larabar, Nutiva, Nature’s Path, Organic Food Bar, Potent Foods, Pure and Pure Bliss, Raw Revolution, Soy Joy, Vega, Wild Bar and Zen Organic Foods. I have found Nature’s Path, and Larabar locally.
Shockingly, some of the most well-known and easily found energy bars, such as Balance Bar, Clif Bar, Luna Bar, Kind Plus, Odwalla, Power Bar, Pure Protein, Zone Perfect, Whole Foods 365, and others are all hexane-extracted.
Lately, I have been taking my Cornucopia list to the market when I shop.
Many thanks to all flora and fauna reporters for the month of March. Please send reports by April 26 for inclusion in next month’s article. You can call me at 692-3907, write me at 10 Chamberlain Rd., or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Late February Reports:
Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. February 18, spectacular sunrise. Saw two deer standing quietly at the edge of the woods, they blended in perfectly. I would never have seen them if one had not flicked an ear. February 19, hairy woodpecker on suet lately. One starling on deck, cowbirds around for awhile. The blackbird flocks are arriving. Two deer in yard for seed. February 23, heard two white-breasted nuthatches having a lively conversation in front woods. February 24, loud drilling of a woodpecker in back woods–a spring sound. Blue jay calling, lots of small bird chatter. Female hairy woodpecker on suet, little male downy waiting, four noisy crows in woods, goldfinch singing cheerfully in the sumacs. Five doves in back yard, two turkey vultures soaring. February 25, two red-tailed hawks cruising around over back woods, many years I have seen red-tailed pairs under power lines on Parkhurst Drive, sometimes sitting on a huge nest.
Tom Ennis, Almeria Dr. February 24, first woodcocks heard…”doing their darnedest to impress a gal”.
Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. February 28, woodcock displaying in our pasture. 52 degrees out.
Doug Pederson, Woodland Dr. February 28, pair of house finches in the yard.
March Reports :
Phil Day, Graniteville Rd. March 1, peepers heard near Nashoba Ski Area tonight.
Dot Mooney, Monadnock Dr. March 2, cardinal pair on deck, obviously fond of each other. A few juncos around. March 4, today winter pushed its way back in, stopping everything from moving ahead. March 5, lots of mixed blackbirds in yard. One dove on deck, not at all affected by the noisy and nervous blackbird flock. March 6, two doves on deck. In back, eight turkeys, three crows, four juncos, two blue jays. March 10, five crows flew over from back woods in a sudden heavy snowfall. March 12, four crows, seven juncos, two blue jays and a few blackbirds in and out, two turkey vultures around woods. Two chickadees enjoying suet. One ladybug on rug beside me. Where has this little one been? March 15, the large amount of snow we just received is March at its worse for me. Placed handful of diced walnuts on railing, tree sparrows and juncos eating seed, but a nuthatch found the delicious walnuts, soon joined by a chickadee. Growing mixed blackbird flocks make life difficult for the local birds looking for a meal. Gray squirrels are here more often and longer. March 18, walking by woods out front, I listened to a chickadee singing “fee bee” in his best springtime voice. Midafternoon, various birds eating seed–three blue jays, three titmice, two nuthatches, two juncos. Later there were twelve juncos and a dove. March 20, lovely sunny morning–so much cheerful bird song perhaps celebrating because they know winter is nearing the end of its time.
Ron Gemma, Concord Rd. March 3, six to seven robins flipping oak leaves in back yard. March 11, northern flicker at suet feeder. March 12, coyote “direct register” tracks from woods in back yard to feeders. March 13, river otter traveling along bank of a feeder brook to Vine Brook. March 14, nor’easter and bird bonanza! Four or five grackles feeding along edges of brook, four mallards in brook, red-winged blackbird, northern flicker, two downy woodpeckers, one hairy woodpecker one red-bellied woodpecker and two nuthatches at suet feeder. Four tufted titmice and four chickadees at seed feeder, two cardinals and four juncos feeding on deck. March 23, pileated woodpecker feeding on a dead tree in my swamp.
Diane/Bill Duane, Howard Rd. March 6, two hooting barred owls close to Wright lane. March 12, pair of bluebirds at back yard suet feeder. March 24, great blue heron in back yard.
Doug Pederson, at Forge Pond. March 8, about forty ducks on the pond way out–seem to be mergansers. March 17, ring-necked ducks and mergansers on pond. March 18, 30-40 geese, common and hooded mergansers, ring-necked ducks. Also, a raccoon wandering about. At Beaverbrook Rd. bridge, lots of red-winged blackbirds, great blue heron, hooded mergansers and ring-necked ducks about, red-tailed hawk.
Marian/Bill Harman, Chamberlain Rd. March 12, at least fifty robins on a lawn on Lowell Rd. March 14, at least fifty mixed blackbirds at feeders.
March 24, four turkeys here.
Len Natoli, Flushing Pond Rd. March 13, on Flushing Pond, twelve hooded mergansers, two blue-winged teals, two wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese. Also, pair of bluebirds at our feeder, red-bellied woodpecker, downy woodpecker, cardinals, nuthatches, house and gold finches, titmice, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees–a good day for bird watching!
Barbara Theriault, at Leland Rd. March 14, twenty-five turkeys on one side and five on the other. On Tadmuck Lane, March 21, a bear took down our bird feeders [Barbara sent photos of bear tracks–MH].
Gerry DiBello, Court Rd. March 17, two red-winged blackbirds every day this week. Grackles back as well, as many as thirty-four wild turkey at one time in our back yard.
Donna Cecere, Calista Terrace. March 22, sixteen robins, sixteen red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, gray squirrels, juncos, chickadees, one very large turkey.
Debbie Prato, Hayrick Lane. March 23, skunk in yard. March 24, eight turkeys. March 25, Canada geese, mallards, white-throated sparrow, red fox, deer, red-winged blackbirds.
Rosemarie Koester, Providence Rd. March 24, bear took down bird feeder on Dana Drive. March 25, juncos still here, red-winged blackbirds have arrived, goldfinches starting to change colors. A few titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, sparrows, pair of cardinals, four blue jays, red-bellied, downy pair and one hairy woodpecker, one crow and one grackle, several doves, purple and house finches, male and female, bluebirds reported by neighbors, heard a barred and great horned owl. Gray squirrels running around. Deer eating euonymous bush in front, several turkeys, mostly male. Coyotes heard at night.
Bob Price, Stratton Hill Rd. March 25, bluebirds are back at our feeder.