2008/02/24

Oisix - Get Onboard The Organic Express

We read with interest Martin's February 19th post on "Kurashi - News from Japan" about Oisix - an organic food retailer - we checked out their website (here: Oisix), placed an order for one of their sampler boxes, and scheduled the delivery. (Thanks for that post, Martin.) This morning our box of food arrived at our door, right on time, and chilled (what a country!).

A typical sampler box from Oisix

Our sampler shipment included an orange, 2 carrots, komatsuna (mustard spinach), a bunch of naganegi (small Japanese leek), celery, dashi, lotus root, Bunashimeiji mushrooms, six eggs, four serving sized packages of tofu, 500 ml - about half a quart - of milk (K will drink that), and 200 grams - .44 pounds - of pork (which we gave to K's parents). All organic of course, domestically grown, and we're very impressed with the freshness and high quality.

Readers in Japan certainly are aware of the recent scare caused by gyoza (pork filled dumplings) imported from China which were tainted with the toxic pesticide methamidophos that made several people ill in Japan. In the USA recently, a slaughter house which provides meat for federal school lunch programs in 36 states caused a record recall of 143,000 pounds of beef, due to video evidence that it used "downer" cattle, which may be suffering from BSE (certain to be spun as "why worry, be happy"). Such stories, and the contamination of vegetables by animal wastes from factory farms, are all too common today. Combined with the need to cut down on fossil fuel use (shipping, chemical fertilizers, pesticides) due to resource depletion and climate change, as well as the now well documented superior nutrition offered by organic produce, it makes sense to buy locally grown organic foods whenever possible.

In my opinion, cost should not be the number one priority when you are talking about something you are going to eat. In fact, the costs of non-organically grown produce are there, but simply hidden in things like soil depletion, water contamination, CO2 emissions, possible long term medical costs, etc. Some of the items offered by Oisix and other organic foods retailers are, I admit, too much for my budget, but I will certainly buy those that I can afford. Since Japan only produces about 40% of its food, we do buy things imported (mostly grains from the US such as whole oats and wheat, and bananas from the Philippines), but I buy from local sources when possible. Our rice and many veggies come from family owned land. China? Are you kidding? Momo's dog house came from there, but food? No way! (If you're curious, Momo's dinner food comes from Japan and her breakfast from Australia).

Above: Organic food is obviously catching on in the USA, though it has a long way to go.

Looking through the printed brochures that came in the Oisix box is easier for me than trying to find my way around their website, which is in Japanese, but K can do the online ordering for us. Out here in Kashima City, finding organic produce is a hit or miss proposition, unless one is willing to spend nearly an hour traveling by car to get it (See - DokiDoki is Yummy Yummy). Oisix offers a wide variety - they even offer fish, breads, cheeses and ale - and I am very happy to have a reliable source for organic foods delivered right to my door (which is far more efficient than us driving around by car).

By the way, the "Oi" in Oisix is pronounced as it is in the word "oishii" - Japanese for delicious.

If you live in Japan, why not give them a try? And if you live elsewhere in the world, check out what similar services are available in your area. I've read of similar co-ops and retailers in cities in England, Canada, and the USA, so I'm sure there are many, many areas covered. The more we support local and organic farmers, the more their industry will grow and the more available such products will become. Bon Appétit, bonne santé! Healthy eating.

8 comments:

khengsiong said...

There is dispute regarding whether buying locally grown vegetable is great to the environment. We suppose that locally grown veggie need not be flied in, and thus cut down on CO2 emission. But they may be grown in green house which requires heating.

And then there is the question whether veggie growers in 3rd world countries will lose income.

Pandabonium said...

khengsiong - Good points. Here's my take on those issues:

In addition to CO2, there is the consideration of cost savings due to escalating energy costs (which will no doubt continue due to the combined effects of resource depletion and demand from growing economies like India and China.

Therefore in addition to eating locally, it will be increasingly important to eat what's in season.

As for 3rd world countries, they are at a disadvantage at this point due to the huge subsidies paid by the US government to agribusiness along with "free trade" requirements of World Bank loans which opens their borders to competition. The net result is 3rd world farmers pushed out of business. So, such schemes need to change as well.

Anonymous said...

People can’t afford to buy organic food in here; we don’t have that much farms.
Most of our food imported from PRC. If we ban them, how could we survive?

How do you classify they are real organic food or not?

Swinebread said...

"cost should not be the number one priority when you are talking about something you are going to eat"

I've gotten in to arguments with folks about this. All they can think of is the cheap price.

"Grrr this is going into your body dumbass!"

They still won't listen

Pandabonium said...

Anonymous - sorry to hear you don't have much in the way of locally grown food available. I was not telling anyone what to do, only sharing a service I found that I am happy with and suggesting that others might like to try it or something similar. I did not say food from China should be banned, I just don't buy it from there because I have other options I feel are better. If you don't have options on where your food comes from, then that is what you must do. OK?

In Japan, organic foods are certified according to the law called JAS - Japan Agricultural Standard - under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan. Foods sold as organic must carry the JAS label. This includes imported organic foods.

My situation is different from yours. I happen to live in a country, not unlike many other developed nations, where people spend relatively large amounts of extra money on things they don't need - designer clothes, fancy cars, electronics, entertainment, etc., yet balk at paying a bit more for safer, healthier food saying they "can't afford it". As the Japanese diet has "Westernized", cancers, heart disease, obesity and diabetes have risen. Again, I'm not telling anyone what to do, just suggesting that they might want to review their priorities.

Cheers.

Swinebread - I had a friend at work several years ago who bought a fast food 99¢ breakfast everyday before work. He would bring it with him brag about how much food he got for his money. I would jokingly point out that he wasn't factoring in the cost of the heart surgery he was going to need in thirty years or so.

We are all creatures of habit and I've got my share of bad ones, so I can't be too hard on other people. As you say, they won't listen anyway. We humans are wired for short term gratification, and don't put a high value on things in the future. (That appears to apply in politics as well).

I agree that when it comes to things we put in our bodies - food, drink, medicine - we really owe it to ourselves to use our heads and think about what we're doing.

Don Snabulus said...

It can be difficult to judge how and where food comes from. In Oregon, we have a private certification for organic goods that exceeds the federal standard. We also have farmer's markets that have in-season foods that taste great; not always organic but you can look the grower in the eye.

We also have community organic gardens and nearby farms that are more local versions of Oisix where you buy a share of the food they produce.

Interesting stuff.

Pandabonium said...

Snabby - Thanks for that report. We have a few farmer's markets too. Not usually organic, but as in your case, personal. In one they have photos of the farmers on the wall with information about them, so even if they aren't there, you can know something about who you are buying from.

Many people are becoming interested in where their food comes from and wanting to support their local farmers. Good trend.

Martin J Frid said...

There are organic food in PRC (and in Taiwan too for that matter) and they do export some certified organic foods. I'm sure some is for sale in the country as well.

P is making a good point about the trend away from intensive farming, towards sustainable methods that do not deplete the soil or ruin water resources. Many organic farmers see themselves as pioneers, who are actively trying to find new and better ways to grow healthy food.

"Certified organic" means the farmer has agreed to follow certain rules, such as not using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and no GMO seeds. The term is clearly defined and there is testing done to ensure the quality of the final product.

I have never understood why organic food can be so controversial, except if you are a sales rep for a agrochemical corporation ;)