Organic Produce at Costco

There is no doubt that the organic trend is here to stay. More and more people are striving to buy only organic. Yet there is still a lot of people that don’t buy organic because they simply cannot afford it or they don’t want to pay the increased cost. Time magazine recently reported that a lot of consumers believe that organic labels are just an excuse to charge more. Clearly cost is clearly an issue when it comes to shopping for organic, that brings me to the topic of today’s post – if you are a Costco member, can this membership make organic produce more affordable for you? During my April 2015 visit to Costco, I recorded what kind of organic produce they had and the prices of that. Kept in mind, produce price vary a lot based on season, particularly something like berries.


Fruit/vegetable, price
Strawberries 16 oz, $3.99
Blueberries 6 oz, $4.88
Blackberries 12 oz, $7.98
Bananas, $.66/lb
Gala apples, $1.99/lb
Peeled carrots, $1.20/lb
Whole carrots, $.70/lb for 10 pound bag
Romaine hearts, $4.49 for 6 count bag
Earthbound Farms 1 pound salads, $4.49
Earthbound Farms Power Green in 1.5 pound bag, $3.66/lb

Organic Produce Costco

Some of the organic containers of berries at Costco are larger sizes than your normally find. The blackberries came in a 12 oz clamshell where most stores sell the 6 oz clamshell. Costco had the usual Driscoll’s berries. You can tell whether they are organic just by looking at the color of the label, a green label means organic, and a yellow label means conventional. Simple!

Organic Produce Costco

They also had berries from Naturipe. The prices of blueberries is one that wildly changes. Going into summer, expect lower prices, going into the winter, expect higher prices and small containers.

Organic Produce Costco

Costco also sells products from Earthbound Farms, a huge organic operation out of Central California. Their stuff is everywhere. Costco sells 10 pounds bags of carrots that would be great for juicing for the low price of 70 cents per pound.

Organic Produce Costco

They also have the 1 pound clamshells of organic baby spinach. One thing they had that I haven’t seen elsewhere is the 1.5 pound bags of Power Greens, which is a combination of baby kale, baby swiss chard, and baby spinach – one of my favorite salad mixes and at what works out to $3.66 a pound, it is also the cheapest I have seen this mix going for. It’s excellent for salads – also for juicing or on a pizza for a healthier dinner.

How Does the Price of Organic Produce at Costco Compare to Whole Foods?
Whenever we talk organic, we just have to bring up Whole Foods Market. They played a huge roll in bringing the organic movement to the forefront and they offer more varieties of organic produce that anyone else (keep in mind NOT all of Whole Foods produce is organic!) Their selection will beat Costco every time. You can get a lot of basic produce items at Costco and the prices are cheaper. For example, organic bananas at Whole Foods cost $.99/lb where they are $.66/lb at Costco or Earthbound Farms 1 pound salads are $5.99 at Whole Foods and $4.49 at Costco. But I didn’t find organic beets, leeks, onions, celery, swiss chard, sweet potatoes, etc. If you are an organic shopper take advantage of Costco’s savings while taking advantage of the Whole Foods selection.

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When are Muscat Grapes in Season

As many of you may know I spend several hours in a California grape vineyard this March. It got me really craving some good grapes. Problem is that grapes in the late winter and early spring are really known for their great flavor. But their is one exception, one silver lining in a rather lackluster time of year for grapes. Thank God for Muscats (sometimes called Pink Muscatel Grapes). If you have never heard of them, they are a unique grape. They aren’t a red, green, or black grape they have a rosy color with a green background. Some are more green and some are more rosy, some would use the word pink. They are easy enough to pick out from among the other grapes. Not only is their color unique, their flavor just as unique. I would describe it was kind of floral. The flavor isn’t for everyone – it’s one of those you either love it or hate it, not a lot of people sitting on the fence. I think they are super refreshing, especially during a time when all the grapes are from Chile and are serious lacking in any real flavor. So how long do you have to enjoy these delicious grapes?

When are Muscat Grapes in Season

When are Muscat Grapes in Season?
You might see some volumes of them beginning in late February and starting to pick up in March. April is the month where you expect to find them in large quantities. Right at the end of the season in May I find them to be at their sweetest – grab them in bunches then. I remember one season when they arrived the same day as Sumo mandarins did at my local Whole Foods market, which might just have been the greatest winter day in produce history! In the late summer/early fall you might seem some coming out of California, but I haven’t found any that match up to the quality of the Chilean ones. If you do find them from California, it’s usually only very briefly. The variety may not be the same either, but any California grape I have had labeled muscat has been a letdown. This is the only time you will probably hear me say some fruit from Chile is better than California.

When are Muscat Grapes in Season

Where to Find Muscat Grapes
My main source has always been Whole Foods Market. They have been a big supporter of this variety and you should be able to find them in stores nationwide. The last seasons they have placed them on sale a couple times – which I really appreciate. Besides that you have to look at more specialized produce stores or grocery stores that carry specialty items. For example here in Ann Arbor, Michigan I have found them at the Produce Station and Hiller’s. I have never seen them at Trader Joe’s, Meijer, or Kroger stores. They are listed on Melissa’s Produce website, so contact them to help you find them. Here are a few stores/distributors you can check with:

Kings Supermarket, Fairway Markets, Baldor Specialty Foods, Agata & Valentina, Eataly, Dean & Deluca, Union Markets.

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What Part of a Ramp Do You Eat

It’s the time of year again. The time of year where foragers are foaming at the mouth, searching the forest for spring’s early bounty. What are they looking for? The morel mushroom, the Fiddlehead fern, and the topic of today’s conversation – the ramp or wild leek. You may find it just as much of a search to find these items in your grocery store. Only more specialty stores like Whole Foods Market (I bought an organic bunch there for $2.99 a bunch) and local small produce shops will carry these products. If you can find ramps you are in for a treat. Not quite onion, not quite garlic, but flavors of each that come bundled in a unique package. That brings us to the question of what part of the ramp is edible? First, let’s take an anatomy lesson.

What Part of a Ramp Do You Eat

As you see in the lovely diagram above, I have divided the ramp into three parts – the leaf, the stem, and the bulb. All three of these parts can be used and I do my best to utilize them all.

The Bulb
This is what most people are use to using. It kind of looks like a really, really small onion. The end of these things are full of little roots that trap dirt, so I cut off the roots as close to the end of the bulbs as possible. Then I dice them up like I would garlic. Saute them just as you would garlic. I tossed them in at the beginning of a Ramp/Asparagus risotto dish I made last night.

The Leaf
If you are lucky you will get a nice bunch of bright green leaves with a red vein down the middle. These are completely edible. I like to use them like an herb. I rolled them up, like a carpet. Then slice them into ribbons or what fancy chefs call a chiffonade. Here is an excellent video I found on YouTube that shows you how to chiffondade like a pro.

I add the leaves at the end of cooking. Like when I making the previously mentioned risotto, I threw them in at the last minute, just to heat them through. You could also just throw them in a pan with some butter and cook them until they wilt and eat them like you would spinach, chard, or kale. Or you can make pesto from the leaves (toss in the bulbs too). When you got ramps, you can really ramp up the possibilities!

The Stems
This is where the most waste happens. The stems between the leaves and the bulb can be a little tough, a little fibrous. You can cook ramps whole and eat them just fine. Here is my preference. Cut off the leaves and bulbs. I then take the stems and throw them in the freezer along with my other veggie scraps for the next time I want to make homemade vegetable broth. When I made that risotto I included roasted asparagus (if you aren’t in a risotto mode after this post, you must hate rice!) and save the ends I cut off the asparagus. I will make my Asparagus End soup with them soon, and include the ramp stems. Won’t that really ramp up the flavor! (I know I did the twice in one post, but ramps are only available for a short time, so I only have a few chances).

Jump aboard the spring time veggie bandwagon and find yourself some ramps or wild leeks if you prefer. They are a wonderful way to start getting excited about another year full of fresh and tasty produce. Share with us your ramp experience in the comment section below. I would love to hear from you.

By the way, if I have pressured you into making risotto, check out Alton Brown’s recipe. It’s what I used minus the mushrooms and plus the ramps.

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Wallaby Sour Cream

Have you ever been in this situation – it’s Taco Tuesday, you have worked your butt off to make some of the tastiest tacos you ever made. You did it all the right way. You used grass fed beef. Instead of grabbing an overpriced pack of taco seasoning, you used spices you collect from the bulk section at Whole Foods. You even toasted your cumin seeds before grinding them in your spice grinder, a.k.a. your coffee grinder. You purchased the best local tortillas. You bought heirloom tomatoes that you diced to perfection. Instead of boring old iceberg lettuce, you are using a mix of arugula and baby kale. Bring your creation to the table where some freshly grated Mexican cheeses await. And as you put it altogether, you top it all off with some generic store bought sour cream that has more ingredients in it than the rest of your entire meal. All your hard work just to be topped with an inferior product that leaves you with an artificial greasy taste in your mouth. We can’t have that!

How can one assure that this situation never happens in their home. That leads me to the next installment in my series “Whole Foods Finds”. These are great products that you need to seek out at your local Whole Foods. Today I want to share with you the best sour cream I ever had – Wallaby Organic Sour Cream. It’s time to add a little bit of Australian to your tacos (ok, actually the company is American, but they were inspired by time spend in Australia, just roll with it).

What’s Makes Wallaby Organic Sour Cream So Good?
It all begins with the texture. Velvet is the first word to come to mind. This sour cream is smooth and thick. The thickest sour cream I have ever seen. Not runny in the least bit. It is rich in flavor and not too tangy. The sour cream contains just two ingredients – Organic Cultured Pasteurized Cream and live active cultures (L. acidophilus, bifidus, L. cremoris, L. lactis, L. paracasei.) A lot of sour creams are “watered down” with nonfat milk such as Organic Valley sour cream that has Organic Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk as it’s first ingredient. Of course that makes it cheaper to make and it has less fat, but I want the best sour cream and Wallaby is that.

More Reasons to Buy this Sour Cream
1. The sour cream is also made from cream from cows that meat the USDA standards for being raised organic.

2. Wallaby sources local, small family farms for their milk – so your are supporting these families when you buy Wallaby products. Check out their website to learn more about these farms.

Why is it called European Style?
Again it goes back to the culture used to make the sour cream. Other styles of sour cream use acidifiers to make sour cream. Your cheap store brand sour creams are this style. It’s a quicker process that is cheaper but don’t produces a sour cream with the depth of flavor of the European style.

Wallaby Sour Cream Sale Whole Foods Market

How Does It Cost?
The everyday price of this sour cream is $2.99 . But the good news is that it is often on sale at least in my region. It seems like once a month or every other month. The sale price is typically around $2.39 for the 16 ounce tub. That’s not a bad price considering that you are getting a sour cream that is organic and made of pure cream. Look for at your local Whole Foods and make sure to check out some Wallaby’s other products – I especially think their Kefir is the best as well.

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Catamount Hills Cheese

Let’s welcome back a series of my blog, dedicated to things that I find at Whole Foods Market. These items are special items that I either encountered there for the first time or are exclusives to Whole Foods. Today I am going to talk about one of those exclusives. Many of you have probably heard of Cabot. Their cheeses can be found all over the country in stores like Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, etc.

What’s So Special About Catamount Hill Cheese
Even thought Cabot cheese is sold all over, their Catamount Hills cheese is an exclusive to Whole Foods Market. The sticker describes the cheese as “A hand-selected, hard Italian-type cheese with notes of swiss and Parmesan flavors.” It is a type of cheddar cheese. When I offered a sample up to my wife, the first thing she said is that is tastes like swiss and Parmesan together. The milk that this cheese comes from was produced by cows that are never given artificial growth hormones. The cheese also contains 0 grams of lactose.

How Much Did This Cheese Cost?
Is it a regular part of their rotation of 3 day sales cheese. Every Friday to Sunday, you will find some cheese in their cheese department on sale. I have seen Catamount Hills make a couple apperance in that rotation. Normally the cheese is priced at $8.99/pound. For this 3 day sale it was $4.99/lb – which is a fantastic value.

Does Catamount Hills Cheese Melt Well?
This cheese is a wonderful melter. Grilled cheese fan? Totally go for it.

Kid Approved Mac & Cheese
My 7 year old daughter was not really feeling mac & cheese that night, but after she ate it said it was the best mac & cheese. My other daughter asked for 3 helpings of it. To say it was a hit with the kids would be underestimate. I know it’s not hard to get kids to like mac & cheese, but I have turned mine into mac & cheese snobs. I can’t just throw any cheese in the sauce and call it a day (and just try and serve them the blue boxed stuff, you don’t even want to go there). They usually really go for a gouda & cheddar combo, but Cabot Catamount Hills did the work that it normally takes two cheeses to do. It’s aformentioned swiss & parmesan like flavor, really shines in the mac & cheese. I was absolutely floored at what one cheese could accomplish all on it’s own.

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Black Sesame Seeds

Are you a sesame seed fan? Do you like them other than on top of your fast food burger? Do you throw them into your salads or your dressings? They you must be a sesame seed fan. Have you ever tried black sesame seeds? A couple weeks back, I wrote about the differences between the white and black sesame seeds (see What is the Difference Between Black and White Sesame Seeds?). The black sesame seeds have a stronger flavor than the white counterparts. It’s a reason why people seek them out. They often have more of crunch as they are not hulled like most white sesame you find are (although you can get unhulled white sesame seeds at Whole Foods Market).

How to Find Black Sesame Seeds
Typically black sesame seeds are harder to find, hence the motivation for writing this post. If you look in the spice section of most large supermarket chains you won’t find them there. If they have them they are most likely in an international section. When I see them they tend to be in large containers, too large unless you are a serious sesame user. I did however locate a small package (which is featured in the photo at the top of this post) at Hiller’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The store is known for having a great international selection. You also should be able to find them in any good Asian market. Do a Google search of your area. A lot of those markets are “hole in the wall” places that many of us overlook. They might be hidden gems. Or also look for a bulk food or spice specialty store. Don’t forget if all else fails you can find them on the world wide web.

What Sesame Seed Flowers Look Like

Flowering black sesame plant (photo from rareseeds.com)

Grow Your Own Black Sesame Seeds
As I was pursing through the Whole Seed Catalog from the Baker Creek Seed Company I came across their grains & cover crops section. I discovered that they sell black sesame seeds. You could grow your own! It is what Thomas Jefferson did! Story goes he received sesame oil and fell in love with it (see for more info on the Monticello website). He decided he wanted to grow them. They still grow on site today. And they can grow at your house as well. I myself am going to grow them. I am further north than in Virginia where Jefferson grew them, I have heard of people being successful here Michigan. Even if I don’t get a lot of or any seeds, there are still the leaves. The leaves are edible. You may see them sold at Asian stores as perilla leaves. They can be used in salads and are popular to wrap rice, veggies, or meat in. One of the benefits to growing something yourself is experiencing the plant in new ways that you may have not experienced if you just go to the store and buy the seeds. Not to mention they produce pretty white flowers that will beautify your yard.

Stay tune to my gardening blog, the Pea Project, for updates on how my sesame seed crop does.

You can order white or black sesame seeds from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Here are the links to order them:

Sesame, Light Seeded
Black Seeded Sesame

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Sumo-Citrus-Story

In sports you hear talk of a game changer. Either it’s a moment in a game where an event takes place that instantly changes the momentum of the game, or it could be a trade or free agent signing that takes a team to the next level of competition. In the produce world, you also have your game changers. A few years back, when Sumo mandarins first hit the stores, the game was changed. Never has there been a piece of citrus that comes in such a huge package that is so easy to peel, and so rich in flavor. Everything else has to try and measure up. For diehard fans like me their annual arrival in stores has now become the pinnacle moment of the entire citrus season. None of this happens overnight. There is a story to tell about how Sumos get from the tree to your hands. Today I am going to tell you that story.

Sumos being harvested (Courtesy of the Official Sumo Facebook Page)

Sumos being harvested (Courtesy of the Official Sumo Facebook Page)

Brief Sumo History Lesson
There is a wonderful article published in the LA Times that gives a detailed background on the Sumo, make sure to check that out. To give a summary – the Sumo, whose name overseas is the Dekopan was developed in Japan in 1972. It made it’s way into South Korea, China, and Brazil. Imports weren’t allowed into the United States. In the late 1990s, a man by the name of Brad Stark Jr. brought budwood branches to the U.S. in order to graft new trees. Still it took years for the first trees to be planted. The fruit couldn’t be imported due to real concern about spreading citrus diseases foreign to U.S. soil. So the branches brought to the U.S. went through a process that took several years to cleanse the tree of these potentially harmful diseases. In the meantime, another company secretly brought in their own budwood and planted trees in the San Joaquin Valley that were infected with disease. They were discovered and were seriously fined and ordered to destroy the trees. If those diseases spread to other citrus trees who knows what kind of damage it would have caused the California citrus industry. Brad Stark Jr’s company eventually went bankrupt, but his disease free trees eventually ended up in the hands of the Griffith family owners of TreeSource Citrus Nursery and Suntreat Packing & Shipping. They enlisted growers who had to grow the fruit in secret until 2011, when the first commercial crop was ready.

I am amazed by all the hard work and time spent just to begin growing the fruit in the U.S. The story is fascinating, it could be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. I can envision Nicholas Cage with guns blazing as he takes the disease free budwood away from the evil, rich villains.

The Passionate Sumo Growers
When the fruit was finally able to be grown it wasn’t just given to any citrus grower. These people were sought out and selected to grow it. I recently had the opportunity to communicate directly with two of the Sumo Citrus growers (Jonelle George and Guy Wollenman). In those conversations I could really feel their passion for citrus and their role in the industry. It just jumped right off my computer screen. These people are truly excited to be growing Sumos and even through all the challenges, it was well worth it, no doubt about it. I got excited just hearing about their excitement. These are the kind of people I want to buy my fruit from. They care, they desire to do a good job, and they are loving it along the way. I have seen many a farmer that looks like all the life was sucked out of them and they had no passion for what they were doing. Talking to these two growers shows that farming, whether it be fruit or vegetable, is still something people are passionate about. It makes me smile…ear to ear!

Photo of the 2015 Sumo Harvest in the Central San Joaquin Valley

Photo of the 2015 Sumo Harvest in the Central San Joaquin Valley

The Challenges of Growing Sumos
Not only was it challenging to get the fruit to the point where it could grow in the U.S. without spreading disease, growing the fruit itself was a new challenge to even seasoned citrus growers. The standard citrus horticultural techniques do not work with Sumo. The fruit must be pruned in a certain way so that areas of the tree that produce sub-quality fruit are removed. They also must prune them more like a peach tree, so that the sun can shine upon the fruit itself, which helps sweeten it. The neck on the fruit that gives the Sumo it’s name is susceptible to damage by wind and rain. When the fruit is ready to be picked it has to be done so careful. They go into totes until they make it the packing house. You won’t see big bins of Sumos like you do oranges. Even then the cases they go into are flat and wide single layer cases.

Sumos in boxes, ready for shipment (Courtesy of the Official Sumo Facebook page)

Sumos in boxes, ready for shipment (Courtesy of the Official Sumo Facebook page)

The Fruit Picked for Quality
When the fruit is ready to be picked, it’s not done so all at once. The fruit is carefully selected. Different parts of the citrus grove are picked when ready. Due to slight different micro climates in the San Joaquin Valley, they are ready at different times. You don’t just send people in to pick the trees bare. And like I mentioned above they have to be delicately handled. The LA Times report also mentions that at the start of the harvest the fruit goes through a curing process that utilizes a secret Japanese storing method that reduced the tartness of the fruit.

The Reason for the High Price
After reading this story you can see all the work that has been put into growing Sumos. It’s a more labor intensive piece of citrus. So when you head to the grocery store, you can expect to pay more money for them. Last year they were going for $3.99 a pound at my local Whole Foods markets – one of the top carriers of Sumo Citrus. They cost more to produce and they are still a new crop, they are going to be among the more expensive pieces of citrus in your produce aisle. What you are paying for it is top of the line quality fruit grown by passionate growers, who work their tails off to bring you an amazing taste experience that is worth every single penny you pay. Even though I may not be buying them by the case or bag full, I will manage to squeak some money out of the food budget to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

For more infomration on where to find Sumos this season, check out my post – Where to Buy Sumo Citrus Mandarins in 2015?

SUMO Citrus Recipes
Here are a couple recipes I came up with that utilize this amazing fruit.
Sumo Citrus Fudge
SUMO Citrus Fudge
SUMO Citrus Sugar Cookies

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Sweet Potato collage

Just as much as mashed potatoes are part of Thanksgiving, so is serving sweet potatoes in some form. If you are looking for the best selection of sweets, you got to head to your local Whole Foods Market. Most places just offer one type, they have at least 6 to offer around the holidays. They even label each variety, so you know exactly what they are. If you are going to buy them there, then you will need to know more about what kind of sweet potato you’re looking for.

But before we get into all of that, we have to discuss the sweet potato vs. yam debate. This is hotly contested. I have been surprised how strong people’s opinions have been. Don’t tell someone that this yam is actually just a sweet potato. People are convinced there is a difference between the two. And they are right, sort of. Yam are large starchy tuber grown mostly in tropical climates, and not in the United States. It’s very difficult to find any exported to the U.S. True yams are not part of the Morning Glory family as sweet potatoes do. The name “Yam” is what some people called sweet potatoes upon finding them in the United States, particularly in the south.

Now that we got that out of the way, even if you still decrease me – I have had conversations with people who I told the same thing to and they refused to believe me – let’s look at the varieties of sweet potatoes out there.

sweet potatoes types

Beauregard
Developed at LSU in 1987, this is the most widely grown variety and what most people think of when they think “sweet potato”. Most sweet potatoes just labeled as sweet potatoes are Beauregard. Good for roasting/baking or anything where you are looking for a moist end product.

Jewel
Very similar to the Beauregard, can be hard to tell apart in both appearance and flavor. They were developed by North Carolina State University,

Garnett
These may be referred to as red sweet potato. The skin and flesh has a darker color. These are a favorite for baking. I know a lot of people prefer them over Jewel or Beauregard. Use these for a sweet potato pie.

Stokes Purple Sweet Potato

Stokes Purple
A newer variety, developed in North Carolina, now also grown in California, this potato is purple inside and out. What’s really neat about this sweetie is that the purple color actually intensifies when cooked. These have an unique flavor and are drier their orange/red cousins. Check out my post on Stokes Purple and these recipes:

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Stokes Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Purple Sweet Potato & Delicata Squash Hash
Crispy Purple Sweet Potato Fries

Different Sweet Potatoes

Hannah
This is a white sweet potato. It’s good for those that don’t really like sweet potato as it is more similar to a traditional white potato. They are only slightly sweet. They make for an excellent mashed sweet potato, especially with some sage and chopped shallots!

Japanese
Often this variety will be listed as a Japanese Yam, but just like mentioned above it’s not a true yam. The skin on the outside is purple-red while the inside is completely white. Also a good one for mashing. It’s a tad sweeter than the Hannah, but not as much as the orange fleshed ones. Some say it has a chestnut like flavor.

For baking or roasting, I would go with the orange/red varieties : Jewel, Beauregard, or Garnet.
For making a hash or fries, I would go with Stokes Purple, Japanese, or Hannah.
For mashed, Hannah was by far my favorite.
For a pie, go with Garnet or for a breathtaking presentation, try Stokes Purple.

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Organic Turkey

As you are pursuing your options for this year’s Thanksgiving bird, one of the factors you must consider is whether or not to get an organic turkey. You know while you would want to buy organic fruit or vegetables, to avoid food from trees sprayed with pesticides. But they certainly don’t spray pesticides directly on turkeys. So wouldn’t all turkeys be organic? The USDA are certain requirements that turkey or any poultry must be to be certified organic. As you read them you will see why all turkeys are not organic.

“Farmers and ranchers must accommodate the health and natural behavior of their animals year-round. For example, organic livestock must be:
– Generally, managed organically from the last third of gestation (mammals) or second day of life
(poultry).
– Allowed year-round access to the outdoors except under specific conditions (e.g., inclement weather).
– Raised on certified organic land meeting all organic crop production standards.
– Raised per animal health and welfare standards.
– Fed 100 percent certified organic feed, except for trace minerals and vitamins used to meet the animal’s nutritional requirements.
– Managed without antibiotics, added growth hormones, mammalian or avian byproducts, or other prohibited feed ingredients (e.g., urea, manure, or arsenic compounds).

(To read more visit the USDA’s website)

The two biggest things here is that the turkey is raised on organic land and fed 100% organic feed. What goes in the turkey need to be organic. If you are eating the turkey you are eating what the turkey ate indirectly. If that concerns you, you may want to consider an organic turkey.

In mass production of turkeys at places that are more like factories than farms, turkeys are fed a diet high in grain and corn without the food they would get if they were allowed to roam free. The cheap feed in all likelihood is going to have been treated with pesticides when growing and if it’s corn or soy is going to be genetically modified corn or soy. The chemicals they ingest can end up building up in their fatty tissues, which you then eat. Yummmy!

Antibiotics Used in Poultry Production
Another thing to be concerned about is antibiotics. When living in such tight quarters, sickness and disease is more likely. So the poultry is given antibiotics in their feed to “protect them” and any remnants of the antibiotics that remains in their system we digest. A turkey cannot be given antibiotics if it is to be considered organic.

Know Where Your Food Comes From
Just because a turkey is not organic doesn’t mean that it was fed “toxic sludge” it’s whole life. This is where getting to know where your food comes from is important. If you have concerns, express them to whoever produces the turkey you want to buy. If you don’t get the answers you want, move on. There is plenty of time now before Thanksgiving to ask these questions.

A Word About Growth Hormones
Whether organic or not, all turkeys grown in the US must be done so without given growth hormones. That practice is illegal, no matter how you raise your bird. So when that is listed on the packaging for a turkey is really isn’t telling you anything you didn’t already know.

How Much Does an Organic Turkey Cost?
It would be easy to buy organic if money is not object, but for many of us that is not the case. The cheapest organic turkeys I found where going for $3.99 per pound. A 15-pound bird is going to set you back $59.85. Until we can increase the demand for organic turkey and find ways to make producing them cheaper without sacrificing the organic integrity, the prices are going to be too high for a lot of Americans. Don’t feel guilty if that is the case.

Look for Antibiotic Free Turkeys
If you can’t go organic this year, maybe you can at least try to avoid turkeys given antibiotics. Select Whole Foods stores carry Nature’s Rancher turkeys that are antibiotic free, even though they are not certified organic. They go for $2.49/pound in most stores, with a few select stores at an even cheaper $1.99/pound (check my Whole Foods Market turkey price list). Trader Joe’s turkeys are also antibiotic free. Shop around, see what you can find in your price range. Consider a smaller bird to save money. Smaller turkeys cook quicker anyway, which means less chance of drying them out.

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Why Buy Diestel Turkeys for Thanksgiving

Turkey, turkey, turkey. Turkey on the mind. Everything right now is all about the turkey. I spent a good chunk of my time Monday evening researching turkey prices at Whole Foods Market stores nationwide. During the process I discovered a turkey ranch that really got my attention – Diestel. They offer a wide selection of options at Whole Foods stores on the west coast. I decided to check them out, see what they are all about and why you might considering purchasing one of their turkeys for your Thanksgiving feast this year.

Since 1949, Diestel Turkey Ranch has been raising turkeys on their ranch in Sonora, California, very close to Yosemite National Park (planning to go to the park, you should stop by the ranch!). It’s a family affair, spanning four generations.

Here are NINE REASONS to buy a Diestel turkey for this Thanksgiving:
1. The birds are given the freedom to roam free – for fresh air and exercise. They allow the birds to be birds!
2. They are given plenty of time to grow, no rushing to market. They don’t try to fatten up the turkeys so that they can sell them faster. They may take twice as long to grow, but you will taste the difference in the end product.
3. The turkeys free range diet is supplemented food that with comes from corn and soy that they carefully choose. The feed itself is milled right on the ranch. They built their first feed mill in 1956.
4. They take the time each day to check on the birds to see if there are any health concerns.
5. They grow multiple breeds for different weights, flavors, and to produce biological diversity.
6. They were the first turkey producer to score a Step 5+ on the Global Animal Parternship. These are the ratings you see on meat that you buy at Whole Foods Market.
7. Diestel was on the forefront of organic turkey. Tim Diestel was actually at national hearings that determine the organic standards for poultry.
8. Diestel has a compost program that not only reduces what goes into landfills, but also provides a product that provides compost for garden and school programs.
9. Once the turkeys are slaughtered, they use an old-fashion ice-chilling method that is meant to keep the birds nice and cold while limiting added water weight. Most mass produced turkeys are dumped into batches of cold water with chlorine added. Diestel using just H2O.

I adore companies who take the time to do things right, instead of rushing and trying to pinch every penny in the name of profit over quality. It really pays off for the company, the consumer, the animals, and the land. In a day and age where our country is full of extra large, profit focused companies it is a breath of fresh air (and the turkeys get to breathe that air too) to encounter a company like Diestel.

Cost of Diestel
To give you an idea of how much a Diestel turkey costs, here are the prices of their turkeys from a Whole Foods Market store in San Francisco.

Heirloom Turkeys $4.99/lb
Heidi Organic Turkeys $3.99/lb
Pastured Raised Turkey $5.99/lb
Non-GMO Project Verified Turkey $3.49/lb
Mediterranean Brined Turkey $4.99/lb
Original Brined Turkey $4.99/lb
Lemon Herb Brined Turkey $4.99/lb
Petite Turkeys $2.99/lb
Original Diestel Turkeys $2.99/lb

Obviously you’re not going to get one of those rock bottom 54 cent a pound sales on these birds (But if that is all you can afford by all means go ahead). The amount of love and care put into these turkeys is naturally going to cost more money. The prices for this quality of turkey is very reasonable. Their lowest cost options are $2.99/lb. One of them is a petite turkey that between 6-10 pounds, which is great if you are only having a very small get together. The original is the same price as well. Consider this, how often have you paid $2.99/lb or more for boneless skinless chicken or any kind of beef? Although these prices look high in comparison to a cheap frozen turkey, they don’t look high when you compare them across the entire gamet of meat.

To find where else you might purchase Diestel’s product, visit their website, enter into your address or zipcode. Their products are not available in every part of the country, unfortunately where I live their products aren’t available.

If my words weren’t enough to convince you to consider buying a Diestel turkey this Thanksgiving, check out this video produced by Whole Foods Market.

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