Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Foods for the green grill: labels & where to get 'em

To cut back on pollution to the planet and other misery, the green griller serves humanely raised poultry and meat, and local, pesticide-free veggies this season.

You'll want to choose poultry that's led a free-pecking unconfined life, and meat from animals who not only knew what grass is, but spent most of their lives on it. You also don't want any products from animals who've been dosed with antibiotics, overuse of which is leading to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. You'll want the freshest in-season vegetables, free of pesticide residues, grown by local or regional farmers. Here's how to find 'em all:

* Type in your zip code to find local, sustainable, organic meat, dairy and produce from nearby farmers' markets, butchers, farmers, stores, and restaurants, at the wonderful Eat Well Guide site of Sustainable Table, which also produces the award-wining Meatrix film series.
* Look for the following labels on poultry and meat. None permit antibiotics or growth hormones, or feeding of animal parts to animals.
*American Grassfed Association: Cows, sheep, goats eat grass, period, and standards require they spend most of their lives outside in the pasture. Now third-party-certified by the Food Alliance (see below).
*Animal Welfare Approved: This label, which is exclusive to family farms, guarantess outdoor living to cows and chickens alike and recently received top ratings from the World Society for Protection of Animals.
Certified Humane: Oddly for a humane label, pasture time is not specified, although comfortable shelter and gentler handling are.
* Food Alliance Certified: Sets clear ecologically responsible standards for vegetables, fruits and animal raising. Pasturage and humane slaughtering are required .
*USDA Organic: Better for you, but not necessarily for the animals. They eat only 100% certified organic grass, corn or grain, but, while they're required to have "access" to pasture, this is not clearly defined the way it is with the labels above.

For sustainable fish and seafood that's not laced with dangerous doses of nervous-system-damaging mercury or PCBs, shop with the fish cards of the assiduously updating and regionally organized Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, or the detailed health/safety ratings in Environmental Defense Fund's Seafood Selector, or call the Blue Ocean Institute's Fish Phone to ask if that yellowtail's okay. For a quick roundup of all 3 organizations recs and the issues, check out the Fish List.

As for the vegetables: Organic's great, and so's local. It's high summer, and nearly everything local is abundant and cheap. Look for produce labeled local at your supermarket and of course hit the nearest farmers' market. Locate greenmarkets in your area using the USDA's tool or at Local Harvest.

Even when it comes to frankfurters, you can take the high road with a green "haute dog," as my son Rory Wallace dubbed 'em. Companies whose organic/grassfed hot dogs are available nationally by mail or retail include:
Applegate Farms
Dines Farms
Let's Be Franks
Niman Ranch
Organic Valley
Prather Ranch

For more information, including Choose It/ Lose It charts of meat, dairy, fish and vegetable labels and more, see my new book, Do One Green Thing: Saving the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices (St Martin's Press, 2010).

For frequent updates on environmental health news, products and actions consumers can take, plus to enter monthly raffles of cool verifiably green things, visit the website of this blog, and subscribe to our free monthly e-newsletter. And tell your friends!

Thanks, and happy grilling.