Jane Black has a great article in the Washington Post's food section today, about how the recent tsunami of headlines on contaminated food from China, E. coli outbreaks, and cloned meat has caused an increasing number of people "to become their own food inspectors, using the Internet and their values about health, the environment and local communities to guide them." The biggest beneficiaries of this trend, she writes, are farmers markets, trusted retailers like Whole Foods, and websites like Grist, More Deliberately Every Day, The Slow Cook — and the Ethicurean!
In case any Washington Post readers have found their way here as a result, the Ethicurean post Black mentions about Judy's Family Farm Eggs can be found here. I wrote it the month we launched, May 2006, and it continues to be a top trafficked link. I have nothing personally against Judy's eggs or the brand's corporate owner, Petaluma Poultry; I just think that faux farm-y advertising will backfire with customers if the reality behind the food in question turns out to be much more industrial. As Black says, more and more eaters are starting to do their own detective work. But food choices are not black and white — as I wrote in this post about the backlash against the new grass-fed label, there's a whole spectrum for chewing the right thing, and the range of acceptably values will differ for every person.
It's easy to get bogged down in the details of local vs. organic vegetables, or cage-free vs. pastured eggs, et cetera. The important thing to us Ethicureans is not which choice you make, but that you occasionally try to vote with your fork (and even better, your votes!) for even incrementally better values — representing environmental responsibility, fair labor practices, public health, and animal welfare, say — than those that have somehow become the norm, or "conventional," in this country.