Thursday, April 23, 2009


Rachel Leven wrote a great investigative post for Slate, Green Eggs and Plastic, regarding the reasoning behind the use of plastic in the organic food market. From the article:
...And the ultimate question: Why does organic food involve so much plastic packaging? Doesn't that defeat the purpose? Yes, it does...

...Enter the plastic. Thanks to the USDA's seal, hippies and Luddites were no longer the major consumers of organic food. The game had changed. Organic shoppers of the mid-millennium now cared less about the sustainability and ethical concerns surrounding organics. Instead, they were concerned with the quality, healthfulness, and (unproven) nutritional benefit. Organics also entered the market as luxury (read: expensive) items, which meant consumers expected more convenience. In this environment, the biggest advantage of plastic cartons was literally clear. See-through packaging revolutionized the egg industry by eliminating the tiring task of opening the carton's lid to check the eggs for quality. The result was comforting and easy transparency, promising a superior product. The plastic carton itself is neither better nor worse for the egg...

Obviously the organic trade isn't the only agricultural sector utilizing plastic packaging and there are plenty of perks to doing so - like guarding against bugs, oxygen, and extending shelf life therefore enabling mass consumption - but at some point branding comes into play and that is why I say: Question everything, folks. Are beautifully packaged "organic" eggs from across the country in any way better than those from the local farmer who can't afford the organic certification label? Probably not. Think globally. Act locally.

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