PARTNERSHIP BRINGS NEW RATINGS TO INFRA-MEMBER GROCERS
HowGood Announces New Partnership with the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA)
Brooklyn, NY - HowGood announced the launch of a strategic partnership with the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA) effective April 10th, 2014. HowGood and INFRA will partner to make HowGood ratings available to the member stores of INFRA. INFRA stores will have the option of implementing HowGood’s program for a discounted rate which will be exclusive to INFRA members.
HowGood anticipates that this will make their sustainability ratings more accessible to a group of stores seeking to bring high-quality natural and organic food to their communities. This partnership represents a valuable step towards more consumers being armed with comprehensive information about the environmental and social implications of their food choices.
“We’re thrilled to begin partnering with INFRA,” said the CEO of HowGood, Alexander Gillett. “The caliber of stores they attract and the conscientiousness of their customer-base will allow HowGood to have a deeper impact on the food system.”
HowGood independently researches and rates the environmental and social impact of food. They comprehensively research products on 60-70 different indicators and distill the research into a simple rating. Partner grocers display the HowGood ratings on their shelves, making the research accessible and usable for customers.
The Independent Natural Food Retailers Association is owned and governed by independent natural and organic food retailers of all sizes working together to leverage their voice in the industry. They unite their members for the purpose of providing operational support, leveraging purchasing power, and engaging in other marketing activities.
Director of Sales, HowGood
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The Mysteries of Milk
“Milk: It does the body good” was just one of those refrains cycling in the background of my 90s childhood. In my parents’ house, kids were not allowed up from the dinner table until we’d finished our full glass of milk. Even if it was a hot August evening and the glass of milk had got really, really warm. I took it for granted that milk, in whatever form it came in, was Good for You.
But milks are not all created equally, and not all should be considered good. As the process of getting milk from the cow to your glass at the dinner table became industrialized, the product we think of as milk changed significantly. The average dairy cow today produces six to seven times the amount of milk she produced 100 years ago. She lives through an endless cycle of artificial insemination, pregnancies, and hormones to increase her milk production in order to meet the demand for milk and milk products.. The milk we drink today might be skim, 2%, fortified, ultra-pasteurized. It might have been produced by a hormone-riddled cow. It might have powdered milk mixed back in to give it a creamy consistency, without having to list powdered milk as a separate ingredient. Modern milk is much further from the farm than we’d like to think.
This doesn’t sit well with me. I may not accompany every dinner with a glass of milk, but I do still put it in my coffee, in my baked goods, and on cereal, and I, like a lot of other dairy-consumers out there, want to know where my milk is coming from. A recent piece on Modern Farmer provides great insight into the history of dairy and sheds some light on a few dairy farmers, including New York’s own Ronnybrook, who are breaking out of the industrial dairy production mold.
Hints at Changing Attitudes in Our Farm Bill
Now that the dust has settled after the fight to get a farm bill passed, we can step back and take stock of what it actually means. The bill is always problematic; it represents one of those head-scratching political alliances between the agricultural industry and the anti-hunger lobby. They aren’t actually ideal partners for each other, with each side reluctantly taking on the other’s political baggage simply because they are stuck together in this bill. Yet, once we cut through the usual issues, there is actually some good going on as well.
If you look closely, you can definitely see that change is on the horizon for how we deal with food in this country. Traditional commodities subsidies were cut by more than 30% while funding for fruits, vegetables, and organics programs increased by more than 50%. Fruit and vegetable farms also finally have access to crop insurance. Another noticeable growth area is in the funding for programs that help food stamp recipients get access to fruits and vegetables. Organic programs also now receive support from both parties, rather than just their historical support from Democrats.
As much as we can criticize the bill for the poor structures that remain in place, it does give us a bit of insight into what future farm bills could look like. People are starting to expect that fruits and vegetables be treated like…..well, food. Our apples and eggplants may still be considered “specialty crops” but the government is ever so slowly starting to respond.
What lurks in your water bottles (and everything else)? —- We’re not talking about BPA.
Ever since the scandalous reveal that eco-touting Nalgene was making their bottles out of toxic plastic, BPA has become a household term. Since then, we’ve all been wary of BPA in our water bottles, pacifiers, and tupperware. But a new hard-hitting investigative piece by Mother Jones suggests that our efforts may have been in vain. The article shines a spotlight on horrifying industry practices around the other potential estrogenic elements in plastics. Even in plastics that no longer contain BPA, there are still a slew of other chemicals that are linked with negative outcomes (turning male frogs female and caused obesity, rare vaginal tumors, infertility, and testicular growths among those exposed in utero just to name a few).
The most disturbing part, aside from the fact that under US law, chemicals are assumed to be safe until proven otherwise, is that one company in particular - Tritan - took advantage of the public’s newfound concern about safety after the harmful effects of BPA came to light. They marketed their plastics specifically as safe for children, while burying the evidence of estrogenic effects from their products. With tactics similar to those used by the tobacco industry, plastic companies are redefining what it means to be dodgy. And consumers are the ones who will suffer.
Superbugs aren’t cool. Antibiotic-free chickens are.
Consumers are powerful. Recently, American consumers have been exercising that power in their demands for better practices in the food system. A major area of concern is the pervasive use of antibiotics on healthy animals in our factory farm system. As consumers learn more about the negative fallout from this practice (including the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria), they have begun to speak up and demand meat free from antibiotics. And industry is answering.
Last week, Chik-fil-A announced that it will phase out the use of chickens raised with antibiotics within five years. In a year, all of Perdue’s chicken hatcheries will be free of antibiotics. This pivot in practices by two powerhouses in the world of poultry show us what consumers can accomplish when they make their preferences known; businesses seeking their dollars will shape up.
A Farm Bill, Finally
The old Farm Bill expired back in 2012 and many in the food and anti-hunger realms have been anxiously awaiting the new one. This week, Congress passed the bill and sent it on to President Obama, who is expected to sign it today. Modern Farmer got it right when they said, “If there is one word to describe the nearly 1000-page bill, it’s compromise. No one is entirely happy with the results, but just about everybody is happy to have results”
Notably, farmers markets will be able to become more accessible. Unfortunately, $4 billion was controversially cut from conversation programs which may have wide reaching negative impacts for our environment and wealthy farmers continue to be subsidized.
This compromise of a bill may be the best we can hope for in our current political climate. See the financial break-down here.
HowGood is Your Orange Juice?
Juicing is all the rage these days, especially among the soda-eschewing healthy-conscious set. But, not all juices are created equal and some swilling those brightly-colored beverages are getting more than they bargained for. For example, take Coca-Cola’s “Simply Orange”. A recent investigative piece by Bloomberg Businessweek looks into how they produce orange juice and calls their product “hyper-engineered and dauntingly industrial.”
From sitting in storage tanks for up to 8 months to the nitrogen blanket sitting on top of the juice to prevent rot to the practice of adding fragrances and flavors back in to compensate for what was lost during processing, this is not actually “simply orange” at all. This is why it ends up with the rating it gets from HowGood.
Maine Makes Moves Towards Increased Transparency
On Thursday, Maine became the second state to pass a law that requires food manufacturers to label genetically-modified food. The law won’t go into effect until other states adopt similar legislation, but it should surprise nobody that Mainers won’t stand for not knowing what is in their food. Maine’s political communities are widely diverse, and this bill brought together libertarian Republicans with liberal Democrats. The famously conservative Governor LePage even signed it.
Check out the Kennebec Journal’s coverage of it.
Milk, sugar, or poison in your tea?
During the past few frigid days, steamy mugs of tea have been a lifesaver. I’ve been sipping on a robust chai in the mornings and refilling my cup of delicate green jasmine each afternoon to ward off the creeping sense that the weather is out to devour me alive. I can rest easy that tea, of course, is good for me. Or, is it?
Many of today’s teas - including the one you may be drinking right now - are laden with pesticides, toxins, artificial ingredients, GMOs and “natural flavors.” Much conventional tea isn’t even washed before it is bagged and dunked into your cup. 91% of Celestial Seasonings tea tested was found to have pesticides in amounts over the legal limit. They aren’t the only ones peddling poison as a comfort food; check out this handy chart made by Food Babe that gives us the dish on your most popular tea brands:
The tea leaves themselves aren’t the only danger in your hot beverage ritual. The paper and mesh bags used to package many types of tea can be quite harmful. Tea bags are often made of plastic or genetically-modified corn. Even the paper ones are often treated with epichlorohydrin which is considered a possible carcinogen.
What is a tea-lover to do in times of such chilly temperatures? Learn more here and steep yourself in research. Stick with loose tea - actual tea, not tea-like powder - from a company that doesn’t put pesticides on their products. For tasty tea that you can feel good about, we recommend Numi, Choice, Traditional Medicinals, or Madura.
Chicken (not so) Little
Industrial breeding has created chickens that grow up to three times faster than they did just 60 years ago. These crazy growth rates have very real consequences for the chickens AND the people who eat them. The ASPCA wants to tell you all about it and then convince the chicken industry that it needs to change. Check out their movement here.