The Definition of a Premium Lie

Prairie Gleanings

Dear Food Network, "organic" and "premium" are not synonyms.

Published on: February 1, 2011
I think some folks on television need to be reminded of the definition for organic food. Here it is, unabridged, from the USDA’s website.

Organic food production: a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

Notice the definition does not say anything about organic being a “premium” ingredient, or better than conventional food products. Yet, countless T.V. personalities continue to use the word organic in just such a manner.

The wording will sound something like this. “Here at (insert restaurant name), we use only the freshest organic ingredients in our food.”

That quote could be taken one of two ways. The speaker could be saying that of the organic ingredients out there, they purchase only the freshest. Or, if you’re hearing it like me, the word organic is simply another adjective used to add another level of premium to the ingredient.

The preponderance of organic as a premium ingredient irritates me for several reasons. First off, Holly Spangler did a great job in a previous blog explaining the feeling of how this pro-organic culture makes conventional producers feel as if they’re doing something wrong or sub-par by not growing organic crops. I’d argue that conventional producers should be lauded for feeding more mouths on a per acre basis.

Next, I believe it only further promotes what I view as a food marketing ploy. Organic, hormone-free, all-natural, take your pick, these labels prey on consumers’ willingness to pay more for something they view as safer or healthier. In most instances, consumers do not understand these labels.

Lastly, there’s a big secret that organic foodies don’t tell you: conventional food tastes better. I’ve watched blind taste test segments. In a pseudo documentary from Penn and Teller, hard-core organic lovers chose conventional produce over organic. When told it was conventional, some absolutely did not believe it.

P.S. Most of you know the same secret exists with grass-fed beef. It’s not as tasty as grain-fed. I’ve seen articles in health magazines where they continue to promote grass-fed beef, but they act like you have to prepare it just right for it to exude its premium nature, i.e. don’t overcook it because it dries out quick.

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