Eating well is essential for good health. However, is it possible to eat healthy when you are an expatriate in the United States, a country of fast food, obesity and GMOs?
It would seem so! The organic market in the USA is even very dynamic. The competition between the different brands is driving prices down, to the great pleasure of expats.
What is “organic”?
The term “organic” means that the product is organically grown, i.e. that it has been cultivated or raised using techniques that respect the environment and animals, favour crop rotation rather than chemical products (fertilizers and pesticides) and use only authorized substances. It is therefore better for our health.
In the United States, the USDA Organic label guarantees that the product is free of GMOs and growth hormones. It is awarded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA: United States Department of Agriculture). This label is divided into 3 categories:
- 100% organic means that the products are entirely organic.
- Organic refers to products with a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.
- Made with organic ingredients refers to products composed of at least 70% organic ingredients. This category is not allowed to display the USDA Organic logo.
A market where competition is raging!
In the organic market, the competition between the multiple brands is particularly active. Indeed, the prices of organic food are being pulled down because the battle rages between organic supermarkets and supermarkets. Not to mention the alternative supermarkets specialising in cheap quality products.
The pioneer of organic distribution in the country is Whole Foods Market with more than 430 stores. It has been a big success for almost 40 years for this brand, but it has long been considered too expensive by consumers and also by the American authorities. So to silence this reputation Whole Foods Market launched in 2016 new urban stores at lower costs: 365 by Whole Foods Market.
In the spring of 2017, the brand was bought by Amazon, which has every intention of continuing to lower prices to expand its customer base.
So who are the competitors of this organic giant? The classic supermarkets in the USA are marketing more and more organic products. This is the case for example of Walmart, which started to lower the price of its food as early as 2015 and is now launching online distribution.
Organic shelves have also developed considerably in other retail giants such as Target or Safeway. And there is also and above all the Trader joe’s brand, founded in the 1960s in California with today more than 470 stores spread across the whole of the United States. Its principle is simple: quality at lower cost. Organic fruits and vegetables are very present and the organic prices are indeed quite low.
Finally, there are other brands such as Sprout and Natural Grocers that also offer organic and quality products.
Where can you also find organic products in the USA?
Local markets or farmers markets
In addition to being an excellent place to live and meet, farmers markets bring together local or regional producers who sell their fresh organic produce directly to consumers. These markets are also very appreciated for the good atmosphere (music and food trucks). They are found mainly in the summer, but there are also covered markets that are open all year round.
Some farmers like the ones on zayconfresh.com travel to your area on an ad hoc basis. You plan your orders online in advance and then pick up your products on the dates and locations indicated on the website. It is possible to pre-order several months in advance (which is highly recommended as quantities are limited when travelling).
Which one is the closest to you? Check websites like stores-locator.com for example; it will give you the addresses of the nearest stores to you.
Use the “CSA box” !
Local farms offer organic baskets (called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box) containing organic products from the farm: fresh and seasonal fruits and vegetables, but also meat, milk, eggs, etc. These baskets are delivered every week or twice a week to your home or to relay points. It is also an excellent way to go from the producer to the consumer directly, without intermediaries.
There are small producers who grow fruit and vegetables using organic farming methods, but without certification. You probably have farms of this type near you. Visit them and learn about their production methods. Sometimes you can buy their produce directly from them, if not from a small local grocery store.
Pick your own or U-pick
In some states, local farms offer the opportunity to pick their own organic fruits and vegetables. The advantages of self-picking are numerous: in addition to being a fun activity to share with the family, you know where the produce comes from, it’s very fresh (hard to do better) and you’ll often pay less for it than in a supermarket.
In conclusion, even if Uncle Sam’s country has a bad reputation when it comes to cooking, you have to admit that buying organic products is finally less and less complicated. Let’s face it!