Category: Organic 101

Costco Working Hard to get more Organics

Costco Working Hard to get more Organics

Costco Shopping Organic Produce

To boost its supply of organic foods, Costco is trying something new: It’s working with farmers to help them buy land and equipment as it struggles to keep pace with customer demand.

At Costco’s recent shareholder meeting, CEO Craig Jelinek touted the vast amounts of food the company sold last year, from 83 million rotisserie chickens to $6.1 billion worth of produce.

As for organics, one of the fastest-growing categories in food sales and one in which Costco has become a major player?

“We cannot get enough organics to stay in business day in and day out,” Jelinek told the gathered investors.

Among the initiatives:

• Lending money to farmers to buy land to grow organics

• Raising chickens at its poultry plant in Alabama

• Working with Mexican vendor to get wild shrimp

• Contracting with Nebraskan farmers to raise cattle on organic fields

So to boost its supply, Costco is trying something new: It’s working with farmers to help them buy land and equipment to grow organics.

The effort is still in its infancy. So far, Costco is working with just one partner, loaning money to help San Diego-based Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce buy equipment and 1,200 acres of land in the Mexican state of Baja California.

But Costco is looking at expanding the initiative. The idea is to ensure a greater supply of organic foods at a time when demand is soaring but supply has not kept up.

While other retailers might have loan programs for suppliers to upgrade equipment or offer financial incentives such as advance payments or long-term contracts, helping farmers buy land to grow organics appears to be unusual in the industry.

The nascent program joins a list of other Costco food initiatives that try to ensure the warehouse giant can meet the voluminous demand of its customers.

The Issaquah-based retailer, for instance, has a poultry plant in Alabama dedicated to raising chickens for the fresh meat and rotisserie chickens it sells.

It started working with a Mexican vendor two years ago to get wild shrimp from the Sea of Cortez, allowing the retailer to diversify from relying on shrimp caught in Thailand, where human trafficking and slave labor in the fishing industry are pervasive.

And in the last year, Costco bought cattle and is contracting with owners of organic fields in Nebraska to have ranchers there raise the livestock to ensure supply for its organic ground-beef program.

Costco Organic Baby Spinach

“A few years ago, Craig [Jelinek] came to me and said: ‘Fresh food — we need to have sustainable lines of supplies into the future,’ ” said Jeff Lyons, Costco’s senior vice president of fresh foods.

Behind each of the initiatives, Lyons said, are the questions: “What do we see down the road that could be a challenge in terms of supply? And what can we put in place today to grow that particular scarce resource?”

Organic food is one such scarce resource, its supply limited in part because the transition from conventional farming to organic farming takes several years and is costly. Virgin land that is ready to grow organics is scarce or prohibitively expensive.

Demand, meanwhile, has leapt with sales of organic food jumping from $11.13 billion in 2004 to $35.95 billion in 2014, according to the Organic Trade Association, which represents the supply chain from farmers to retailers.

“Demand is increasing. But we’re not seeing the same level of farmland,” said association spokeswoman Angela Jagiello.

While organic-food sales reached nearly 5 percent of total food sales last year, organic farmland makes up only about 1 percent of U.S. farm acreage.

“We’re not seeing the level of growth we need in domestic supply to meet demand,” Jagiello said. “It’s the No. 1 strategic issue facing the industry.”

So stretched is the supply chain that some organic packaged-food companies, such as Nature’s Path and Pacific Foods, have bought their own farms or are raising their own chickens, according to The Wall Street Journal. Restaurant chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, meanwhile, began providing financing to help farmers shift from conventional to organic food, the newspaper reported.

Fresh organic produce at Costco

For Costco, the idea of loaning money to longtime supplier Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce (A&W for short) took shape when Lyons took a tour of A&W’s Baja operations.

The supplier had heard about 1,200 acres of land in San Quintin, Baja California, that seed company Seminis wanted to sell.

The land had lain fallow for years, so it could be used immediately to grow organics, said Ernie Farley, one of A&W’s owners.

A&W, which had experience growing organic strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes, told Lyons it wanted to pursue buying the land. The availability of this much land, not to mention that it could grow organics right away, was rare along the Pacific Coast, where acreage is often grabbed by developers.

But money was an issue. A&W didn’t have all the cash on hand it would need to buy the land outright.

And more recently, A&W has been dealing with fallout of a salmonella outbreak linked to cucumbers produced in Baja California and distributed by A&W that infected 888 people in 39 states, hospitalized 191, and resulted in six deaths in four states. (Costco says that outbreak would not have affected cucumbers it sells, since it carries only hothouse cucumbers; the ones linked to the outbreak were field grown.)

Lyons was supportive of A&W’s desire to buy the land, Farley recalls, and said that it made sense strategically for Costco to get involved, given the growing demand for organics and Costco’s desire to attract and retain customers over the next decades.

Costco ended up loaning A&W money to buy the land — neither company would say how much — and the deal is being completed.

Going forward, Costco will have first right to everything that meets its requirements that comes off that land.

In addition, Costco loaned A&W money to buy equipment to grow organic raspberries on another piece of land, also in San Quintin, that A&W is leasing.

“By helping them with financing, we got access to and purchased about 145,000 cases of organic raspberries that we normally would not have access to,” Lyons said. “Because they normally would not have done the deal or could not have done it. Or, if they could have, we may not have gotten first dibs.”

Costco is considering doing something similar with other companies, including a large group with operations in Chile and Mexico.

“There are lots of discussions going on,” Lyons said. “The challenge for the farmer is: ‘We may go down this road and what happens if something bad happens?’ We have to make sure we don’t get them in a position of financial trouble. We need to make sure the loans are totally secure. If it doesn’t work out for them, we want to continue to buy conventional from them to make sure they’re A-OK.”

Part of the reason the supply of organic foods is so limited is that it’s onerous to transition from conventional to organic farming.

“Traditional ag is the way it is because it yields more, which leads to less expensive food,” said Will Rodger, director of policy communications with the American Farm Bureau.

Transitioning to organic farming takes three years — the window set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for pesticides and other nonorganic substances to wash away from the soil. The switch often also requires new equipment and new processes to grow and manage the crops.

“The difficulty is that in this three-year window, you’re using organic methods but you’re only getting conventional prices for what you’re selling,” Rodger said. “The margins right now are better on organic produce. But you have to take that three-year hit.”

Some natural-food retailers have their own programs to help suppliers or to preserve farmland.

Whole Foods, for instance, has had since 2006 a loan program to help its local producers grow their businesses. About $18 million has been lent so far, for everything from helping farmers buy equipment to building greenhouses and packing facilities, according to the company.

PCC Natural Markets, meanwhile, supports preservation of farmland through PCC Farmland Trust, which the Seattle-based co-op founded in 1999.

The trust is independent of the co-op, though PCC’s annual support for it exceeds $100,000. The trust has worked to conserve more than 1,600 acres of Washington farmland, according to PCC. Some of the crops grown on those lands end up being sold by PCC, but that is not a requirement.

Aside from Whole Foods and now Costco, “it’s very uncustomary in the [food] industry for retailers to provide capital to suppliers,” especially given the industry’s thin margins, said Burt Flickinger III, retail analyst with Strategic Research Group.

And he’s not heard of any that provide loans for land.

Doing so “secures Costco a long-term supply, rather than having that land be developed or have that farmer or food producer be selling to Costco competitors,” Flickinger said. “This way, Costco strategically locks in a long-term, high-quality source of supply which its competitors will not have access to.”

That’s important because Costco has become one of the nation’s biggest sellers of organic food.

In 2014, for the first time, conventional retailers such as Costco, Wal-Mart and Kroger bested natural-food retailers, including Whole Foods, in sales of organic foods, according to the Organic Trade Association.

And last year, after Costco said its sales of organic products exceeded $4 billion annually, one investment bank surmised the warehouse giant may have surpassed Whole Foods to become the nation’s largest organic grocer.

Flickinger says that, at the least, Costco is the top seller nationwide of the types of organic foods it carries. Other retailers, though, carry a broader range of products.

Still, Costco’s increased focus on organics is significant and comes at a time when organic food is the fastest-growing food category, increasing at 8 to 11 percent a year, versus 2 to 2.5 percent for food sales overall, he said.

That Costco is working on increasing its supply of organic foods is good news to Letitia Chapman, who was shopping recently for organic fruits and vegetables at Costco in Seattle.

A few months ago, the sales rep from Seattle decided to start eating more organic food as part of a lifestyle change. While the longtime Costco shopper liked the organic produce she found, sometimes Costco simply doesn’t carry enough organics, she said.

“I tend to end up going to Whole Foods,” she said. “If Costco could get more, that would be awesome.”

Edible flowers with Smoked Salmon Salad

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • 4 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1 tsp horseradish sauce
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dill
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • pinch of salt

Salad

  • 150 g smoked salmon
  • 150 g mixed salad leaves
  • 200 g sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100 g dried black olives
  • edible flowers (optional) to decorate

Method:

Dressing
Mix all the ingredients in a large glass until combined.
Salad
Arrange the salad leaves on two serving plates.
Place the tomatoes on top of the salad leaves.
Tear the salmon with your fingers into a small chunks, arrange on top of the tomatoes.
Scatter the olives on top, drizzle with the dressing, decorate with edible flowers.
Serve with crusty bread or a roll.

Citrus Fruity Chia Seed Water

Citrus Fruity Chia Seed Water

Ingredients
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 quart of water

2 tbsp chia seeds
a couple drops of liquid Stevia (optional)

Directions
1. Add your lemon slices, orange slices, and water into a pitcher. Let that puppy chill in the fridge over night.
2. Remove fruit slices and add your chia seeds (and Stevia drops if you want it sweetened). Let them chill for at least ten minutes so they puff up from the water. Chia seeds absorb water and grow to ten times their original size! Be sure to stir every couple of minute so they dont clump up.
3. DRINK! Drink when you wake up, drink at work, drink at the gym, drink before bed….just drink it. Your body will love you, and you will love you.

Zucchini Pizza Crust

Zucchini Pizza Crust

Inspired by sheknows

Yields 4

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups fresh zucchini, shredded
  • 1/2 cup pepper Jack, mozzarella or cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup almond flour or other desired flour
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 egg

Pizza toppings, as desired

  • Extra cheese
  • Tomato sauce
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Olives
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Fresh herbs
  • Pineapples

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Place the zucchini in a microwave-safe bowl, and cook on high for 5 minutes. Allow to cool, and then place the zucchini in a colander lined with paper towels. Twist the paper towels and squeeze as much of the water from the zucchini as possible.
  3. In a mixing bowl, add the zucchini, egg, cheeses, almond flour and seasonings. Mix very well, and place on the baking sheet. Shape the mixture into the desired pizza shape, and bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven.
  4. Top with desired sauce and toppings, and return the pizza to the oven. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Best served immediately.
Anti-aging serum

Anti-aging serum

This easy-peasy to make recipe has worked wonders in the past week on my wrinkles, crow’s feet and tired-looking skin.

What You’ll Need:

3 Tsp Avocado Oil
1 Tsp Vitamin E Oil or 3 Vitamin E Gel Caplets (Natural preservative!)
1 Tsp Rosehip Seed Oil
3 drops Carrot Seed Oil
3 Drops Frankincense Essential Oil
5 drops Geranium Essential Oil

Mix everything together and put in a dark airtight container, preferably a glass container with a dropper for easy use), and shake well.

Keep in a cool, dry place for a week for all the ingredients to mix well and apply everyday before bed.

(Note: Always store your serum in a dark and cool place and never apply essential oils directly without carrier oil).

How to Soak Nuts and Make Cashew Milk or Cashew Cream

How to Soak Nuts and Make Cashew Milk or Cashew Cream

cashew milk vitamix recipe
Making home made nut milk or nut cream is delicious and it’s so much easier than you might think. Especially if you have a Vitamix blender. This recipe and how-to is focused on making cashew cream or cashew milk but the method is nearly identical for a variety of different nuts. I do believe in soaking my nuts in purified water before turning them into cream or milk. The timeline for nut soaking times is below.

Which Nuts are Best to turn into Milk?

I have made nut milks from almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and pistachios, but from what I understand the similar methodologies apply no matter which nut you decide to use. Macadamia nut milk in particular is amazing, so rich and full of incredible flavor, but it  has got to be the most expensive nut milk you can make. I only make it as a special treat during the holidays.

How & Why to Soak Nuts for Milking.

Most nuts, seeds, grains and beans are covered in natural chemicals – enzyme inhibitors and toxins – that protect them while growing. These nutritional inhibitors and toxic substances are enzyme inhibitors, phytates (phytic acid), polyphenols (tannins), and goitrogens. Once harvested, those same chemicals, the major one being phytic acid – are indigestible to the human body and must be broken down before consumption. When food containing phytic acid is consumed, the acid combines with important minerals like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and blocks their absorption which inhibits our digestive systems’ ability to break the nut down properly.

The very simple process of soaking releases these chemicals, helping you to absorb your food’s essential minerals and nutrients.

Soaking nuts in filtered water makes them easier to digest and improves their flavor.

nut soaking chart

makes 1 quart
* I find that 1 cup of nuts is more than enough for 1 quart of milk, some people prefer 2 cups.

1) Soak your raw cashews and vanilla bean in filtered water for at least 2 hours.

2) Discard soaking water and rinse your cashews and the vanilla bean.

3) Place soaked cashews, honey (or other sweetener), vanilla bean, a dash of sea salt and 4 cups of water in a blender. Cover and blend on high for 1-2 minutes. It will be milky and have a bit of foam on the top.

4) If you’re using a Vitamix blender it will blend the cashews smooth. If you’re not using a Vitamix then strain milk through a nut bag, doubled up cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer.

NOTES:

Some people prefer not to strain their cashew milk, since it technically doesn’t have to be, (think about all those glorious creamy cashew cream sauces). Even though it has far less pulp than other nuts.

These same instructions work for any nut you may choose to use. Though, generally almonds & cashews are my favorites.

Store in a covered glass jar, bottle or pitcher in the refrigerator, it’ll be good for about 4-5 days.

Separation is totally natural with homemade nut milks, just be sure to shake it up just before serving.

 

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Burning Face Mask: How to Reduce Acne Scars and Uneven Skin Tones

Burning Face Mask: How to Reduce Acne Scars and Uneven Skin Tones

Recipe
1/2 tsp organic cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp raw honey
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Mix together into thick paste. Apply and let sit for 30 minutes… or ten if you can’t handle the burn! It should only burn for the first five minutes or so and then it’ll wear off. Rinse the mask off with warm water and moisturize.

Note: Keep in mind that this is a mask that works gradually. It won’t move mountains overnight, but if you are consistent with applying it 2 times a week you will see a huge improvement in your skin. With consistent application it will lighten up marks, blemishes and scars. It will reduce fine lines and wrinkles, it will also help your skin to glow and look healthy.

5 Benefits of Ginger

5 Benefits of Ginger

The medicinal uses of ginger have been known for thousands of years throughout countless cultures. It has a long history of relieving digestive issues, such as nausea, motion sickness and morning sickness, as well as alleviating pain and inflammation. The most well known and medicinally dense part of the plant is the root that grows underground, known as the rhizome, which can be consumed fresh, powdered, dried or as an oil. The rhizome contains a large quantity of antibacterial, antiviral, anti-parisitic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, so it’s no wonder there are so many natural health benefits of consuming ginger. These 5 benefits of incorporating ginger into your diet are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to naming several of over 40 benefits.

Relieve Stomach Distress – Perhaps one of the best qualities about consuming ginger is it’s ability to alleviate nausea. While this applies to general stomach distress like motion sickness, it has also been known to calm the upset stomachs of surgery patients and cancer patients alike. In addition, studies have shown that anti-nausea compound in ginger to be most effective in pregnancy related queasiness. Although 1-1.5 grams of ginger per day is deemed safe when pregnant, always talk to your doctor before starting a new dietary regimen.

Inflammation – Ginger has been used for centuries as a natural anti-inflammatory. In fact, some even claim that it rivals over the counter medication, such as ibuprofen, in it’s ability to relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis and muscle soreness.

Weight Loss – Ginger is known for its ability to increase thermogenesis in the body, meaning that the body burns off up to 16% more fat stores than without consuming thermogenic ingredients. Consuming ginger also boosts your metabolism by up to 5%!

Fighting Chronic Disease – The bioactive compounds found in ginger have been shown to reduce the pain of chronic disease and prevent it in the first place. Antioxidants, along with the bioactive compounds, have also been shown to improve brain health and memory function by relieving inflammation in the brain, one of the key drivers for Alzheimers disease.

Lower Cholesterol – Studies have shown that eating 3 grams of ginger per day lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, even rivaling some cholesterol medications.

Ginger is a delicious way to spice up your favorite recipes, without the added sodium or calories. It’s health benefits alone are a great reason to incorporate this superfood into any meal. Do you use ginger? Have you noticed any changes in your health? Let us know in the comments below!

Important Health Benefits of Coriander that You Probably Didn’t Know!

Important Health Benefits of Coriander that You Probably Didn’t Know!

Coriander or cilantro is a natural herb that can be used for garnish, a condiment or in many different recipes.  It has a strong yet pleasant aroma, and it is effective at inducing the palate.  This herb has six acids including ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and plenty of other vitamins and minerals that each has their effective health benefits.

  1. Can halt diarrhea. Coriander contains linalool and borneol that aid in the proper function of the bowels and the liver and help with digestion.  Diarrhea is reduced because of the microbial actions and coriander can also help to prevent many stomach afflictions including vomiting and nausea.
  2. Reduces skin disorders and inflammation. Coriander contains the essential oil Cineole and linoleic acid which both have anti-arthritic properties.  Conditions caused by anaemia and the malfunction of kidneys can cause swelling.  Coriander can help to release excess water from the body to reduce inflammation, reduce discomfort and improve the appearance of the skin.  The properties of coriander include anti-fungal, detoxifying, antiseptic and an ability to clear skin disorders including dryness, eczema and fungal infections.
  3. Can assist in lowering cholesterol levels. Coriander contains ascorbic, linoleic, oleic, stearic and palmitic acids that can all lower the bad cholesterol deposits found in the inner walls of veins and arteries.   When bad cholesterol builds up, it can cause strokes, heart attacks, strokes and atherosclerosis.
  4. Can help with the control of blood pressure. There is a chemical interaction of calcium ions and a neurotransmitter called cholinergic which helps to relax the tension in blood vessels.  The chemical interaction reduces blood pressure, hypertension and lowers the risk of heart attack and strokes.
  5. Get rid of ulcers inside the mouth. Citronellol is an essential oil contained in coriander that is a very good antiseptic.  It has antimicrobial and healing effects that help to prevent ulcers in the mouth from getting worse.  It can also help to freshen breath and is used in many organic antiseptics.
  6. Coriander can strengthen the integrity of bones because it is rich in calcium. It stops the degradation of bones which occurs with degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis.  The largest concentration of calcium is in the center leaves of a coriander plant.
  7. Regulates blood sugar and the menstrual cycle. There is a natural stimulant in coriander that regulates hormone secretion from endocrine glands.  If secretion is regulated, it helps the menstrual cycle to become more regular, and there is a reduction of the intensity of menstrual cramping.  This endocrine regulation helps to control the secretion of insulin that ensures that sugar is properly absorbed, and this can lower blood sugar levels.
  8. Coriander has anti-allergenic properties. Fresh coriander and coriander seed oil provide effective relief from the symptoms of hay fever and seasonal allergies.  This oil can also help with skin allergies and gland and throat swelling.
  9. Can cure or prevent smallpox. The essential oils that are contained in coriander are a “magic pill” where detoxification is concerned.  It contains iron and vitamin C which are both an immune system booster.
  10. Removes heavy metals from the blood. There are anti-bacterial compounds contained in coriander that help to protect against food poisoning and also naturally detoxify the body.  Heavy metals including cadmium, mercury and lead are absorbed by the body from the environment and are very toxic.  These work to deteriorate neurological functions in the body, but coriander can detoxify organs, removing these metals from the nervous system.
  11. Supports eye health. Coriander is full of vitamin A and C and contains many anti-oxidants.  It helps to prevent degeneration of vision and can reduce the stress and strain on eyes.  The beta-carotene contained in coriander helps to prevent or to reverse eye diseases that occur in aging people.
  12. Can help to increase the flow of breast milk.
Fat Burning Morning Drink

Fat Burning Morning Drink

When we awaken in the morning, we are ending a period of fasting that has lasted all night long.  The first thing that you consume in the morning is very important and can have a critical impact on our health.  Easy absorption on an empty stomach is the main reason.

A simple glass of warm filtered water containing cayenne pepper, lemon and apple cider vinegar can have a significant impact on your health.  The benefits of this simple drink are extensive and nothing short of amazing.  Want to know more about the benefits that you will see from consuming this beverage first thing every morning? Here they are:

The lemon helps to break up mucus, helping to clear your sinuses that can be a significant benefit for allergy sufferers or those who have a cold or flu.

  • Restoration of the alkaline acid balance in your body which will relieve any issues that you are suffering due your consumption of a diet that is high in acid-producing foods.
  • This beverage will help to remove toxins from the body.
  • Clears up the skin and gives it a noticeably healthy glow.
  • Can help to break down fats in the body which will result in noticeable weight loss.
  • This beverage will lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
  • Feeds the liver and detoxifies it at the same time.
  • Strengthens the immune system so you do not get sick as often.
  • Gives your body a lighter feeling.
  • Boosts up the metabolism and gives you more energy to get on with your day.
  • Purifies the colon which makes it much easier to improve the digestive process and allow your body to absorb nutrients more easily. Colon purification helps to clear up the skin and improve its appearance.
  • Can effectively lower high blood pressure.
  • Helps your digestive system and allows you to eliminate waste more regularly and efficiently.
  • Pushes your lymph system into balance that can assist with the various daily functions of the body. It can also help to fight infection and to balance the body fluids.

 

Here is the recipe for this amazing fat burning morning drink:

Use 12 ounces of warm filtered water (not HOT water).  Hot water will break down many of the essential properties of the majority of these ingredients including enzymes, minerals and vitamins.

Add juice from a half of a lemon

Add in 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar

Add a dash of cayenne pepper to the beverage

Directions:

  • Always drink this first thing in the morning on an empty stomach when you first wake up.
  • Stir all of the ingredients together and drink the beverage immediately.
  • It is a good idea to drink this concoction through a straw so that you do not get all of the acids on your teeth that can cause damage, especially if you are drinking this every day.
  • Don’t eat anything else for 10 – 15 minutes so that you allow your body a chance to absorb all of the ingredients.

When you first begin drinking this mixture you may find it very tart and difficult to consume.  If necessary, add in a teaspoon of honey that will add a little bit of sweetness.  As you start to get used to the taste you can start to reduce the honey until you no longer need to add the honey.  This drink has a lot of major health benefits, and your body is going to appreciate it.  You may not like it at first, but once you make it a habit of drinking this daily, you are well on your way to enjoying the health benefits that this elixir provides.