As most readers know, I'm not one to pay extra for organic/natural/non-hormone/etc. products. Conventional production methods don't bother me one bit. I'm very comfortable with the safety, price, nutrition and taste of these products.
As a result of my frequent tirades on the marketing behind the food industry, my sister saw a perfect opportunity to irritate me last weekend. Walking in from the grocery store, she made a big production of showing me the milk she purchased.
Laughingly, she said, "I got you some organic milk, because I know how much you love it." Before I could say anything, my mom pointed out that she paid $5 for a half gallon. Granted, it did come in a glass bottle that carried a $1.25 deposit, but still, $5 for a half gallon, that's crazy.
Knowing she was trying to elicit a response, I kept my cool. She suggested we take it in the kitchen and perform a taste test.
When she set it on the counter, I started to notice some interesting things on the bottle. First off, it wasn't organic milk. Instead, it simply made the claim that it came from non-rBST cows. In addition, there was a disclaimer below this statement that essentially said the FDA has found no differences in milk from rBST and rBST-less cows.
After examining the fine print, I noticed the bottle had an ambiance about it. The milk company made a big point to say the cows were kept on a small, local farm. The glass bottle itself seemed to implant a nostalgic, comforting image in the back of my mind. Even though I grew up with milk in plastic jugs, the bottle seemed to say "I'm better because this is how your grandparents drank milk."
We filled cups from the 1/2 gallon of non-rBST skim milk and from a gallon of conventional skim milk. Once we'd tasted both, we both thought that maybe the non-rBST tasted a little "creamier." That's when I noticed the glass bottle made a huge deal out of proclaiming the name of the farm, which included the word "creamery." Perhaps this was planted subliminally in our minds.
Of course, more milk fat results in a creamier taste. The conventional gallon included nutrition facts on the jug. The non-rBST bottle included no such facts. So, whether or not it was actually skim milk is anyone's guess.
Later, we filled two cups of the different milks and presented them to dad (leaving the containers out of site). After taking a drink of both, he said they tasted exactly the same.
I guess my sister's reasons for purchasing the milk were verified in the end. It did get a rise out of me. Unlike many folks, she did not buy the expensive milk because she thought it was healthier. She bought it to irritate me.
However, I think my arguments about conventional food were upheld. The sticker shock, taste test and clever bottle design only bolstered my beliefs that these debates are little more than the result of a carefully-orchestrated marketing campaign.
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