There are quite a few food scandals reaching the general public today.
We ingest food. We operate because of food. We feed food to our loved ones for their enjoyment and health. We depend on food to supply not only nourishment, but jobs for our community. Food is central to our society.
This is why communities like ours are becoming so outraged at corporations like Monsanto that create genetically-modified (GM) produce that Monsanto’s own employees will not eat.
Notice less bees each year?
So has Pennsylvania farmer John McDonald who, through his extensive research, found that bees living near GM food do not produce enough honey to survive. If bees do not survive, many crops may have difficulty surviving as well due to the pollination process (For more information, click here or here).
Monsanto has also filed lawsuits against American organic farmers who have been fighting to keep GM produce out of their farms, claiming that these farmers are stealing the product.
I am sure that most of us have seen the latest reports on “pink slime.” For those who have not seen the recent reports, “pink slime” is beef scraps sprayed with ammonia so that it is “safe” for human consumption.
Food celebrities like Jamie Oliver have worked to expose the use of “pink slime” in our children’s cafeteria lunches, which he claims is found in 70 percent of USA ground beef. Despite the USDA approving “pink slime” as a viable product to sell to United States citizens, USDA scientists have found that after the sliming process, this product cannot be characterized as “meat.”
So where do Cranberry and surrounding area residents go if they want to avoid eating and feeding their families ammonia-soaked beef scrapings and poison-producing produce?
Please read on for the answer to all of your local, organic needs.
Where to buy actual food:
I have found several local options for purchasing food that do not include genetically modified organisms and/or “pink slime.”
McGinnis Sisters: (Rt. 228, across from Giant Eagle)
I love McGinnis Sisters. I get very cranky when I cannot find something here (which is not often), and I am forced to go across the street to Giant Eagle (have you noticed that Giant Eagle’s ground chuck, sirloin, and ground anything always looks and tastes exactly the same while giving off that eerie, unnatural pink glow?).
McGinnis Sisters has a great organic and local vegetable selection. They are a part of the “Buy Local/Buy Fresh” initiative started by the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture. All of the traditional items are there, including a great selection of more exotic mushrooms, peppers, fruits, and herbs for when you are feeling more adventurous.
The absolute best part of McGinnis Sisters is that they guarantee right on their web site that they do not use “pink slime” or any other filler products. They grind their meat in store. They also sell local chicken and purchase only from farms that abide by the American Humane Association’s standards for raising pigs. I cannot say enough good things about this grocery store.
Here is a brief quote from the McGinnis Sister’s website concerning pink slime: “Even though some local and national chains say ‘Boneless Lean Beef Trim is government approved by both the USDA and the FDA and has been used safely for more than 20 years.’ We just don't think it is right for our family or yours.”
Kretschmann Organic Farms and Community Supported Agriculture: (On Zeigler Road in Rochester, 12 Minutes from the Cranberry Wal-Mart and Just six minutes from Main Street, Zelienople)
I am really excited about these guys. Kretschmann Farms offers a service that sells you a basket of organic produce (also options for meat and cheese) weekly with differing basket sizes according to your needs. No bee exterminating, pesticide producing corn in these baskets.
They try to accommodate your wants, but mostly it is like Food Network’s Chopped, offering a weekly basket of mystery ingredients, except that these mystery ingredients are common and easily used in your everyday cooking needs.
Oh, and they throw in some more exotic items every once in a while just to keep you on your toes.
I just picked up my first basket of the year and received sweeter-than-normal broccoli, strawberries that actually taste like strawberries, rhubarb, a mushroom box, mesclun greens, spinach, parsley, leaf lettuce, and a dense loaf of seven grain wheat bread sweetened with organic wildflower honey.
The service runs from June to November and pick-up could not be easier as you just stop at the farm and grab the crate of goods with your name on it.
Signing up is easily done online at: http://www.kretschmannfarm.com/.
Where to Eat Actual Food?
I have come up with several options in the Cranberry area that serves up poison-free food in any setting from fine dining to a quality burger joint.
Restaurant Echo: (Rt. 228)
For those in the mood for a fancier affair with fine dining, I suggest trying Echo. The food is amazing, and the restaurant lists the local farms that it uses right on the menu. Echo also has options for the more adventurous eater and for those who would like to keep it simple with something more familiar.
Most recently I took advantage of a five-course tasting menu that included marlin, boar ribs, elk, and foie gras, which tastes like a rich, fatty duck butter. I am thrilled that this eating experience is available to Cranberry and surrounding area residents.
Mad Mex: (Route 19 next to Rite Aid)
I served here for two to three years, and I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that all of the sauces, salsas and marinades are made from scratch. Nothing in the entrees or appetizers show up pre-prepared here. I also know that they use a semi-local farm in Ohio for their tortilla chips, and that their coolers are stocked with produce in its original form.
Mad Mex also utilizes local beer distributors which is really fun and tasty.
Mad Mex is owned by big Burrito Restaurant Group, which has produced some of the best restaurants in the city that list the local farms used on their menus. As concern for local and organic food is growing, I would really like to see Mad Mex illustrate local farms used on their menu as well.
North Country Brewing Company: (Just 25 minutes north on I-79)
Though a little further away, North Country Brewing Company is an excellent source for locally gathered food and drink. “The Brew” serves up beer made in house without additives or preservatives and utilizes local wineries for their wine selection.
In addition to serving up locally-sourced food, the Brew also helps out the community with volunteer projects like “Polishing the Rock,” where community members clean and beautify the town of Slippery Rock.
Burgh’ers: (13 minutes from Cranberry, in Harmony across the street from Bilo)
If you have read this far (or scanned through this article for the good stuff), you are in luck, because this is the best of all of my restaurant and shopping suggestions. I admittedly eat here at least once a week.
Not only is the meat locally farmed and organic, but Burgh’ers sells ground meat to the public when available! Trust me when I say, the difference in taste between these burgers and burgers anywhere else in the area, is pretty astounding.
New food specials are up all of the time, and I recommend “liking” them on Facebook so that you can stay up to date on their specials.
Not only is the food great, but the bartender and the drinks are amazing. She makes her drinks from the best ingredients and is eager to answer any and all questions that you may have about anything.
For a few more dollars than you would part with at Burger King, you get a fantastic meal made of actual food that is not going to make you feel sick after eating! That is a fabulous deal in my book.
Are you paying slightly more at these vendors than at a Wal-Mart, McDonalds or Olive Garden?
You are eating better too.
Of course it is ridiculous that we pay even a penny more for locally-produced goods that won’t poison us, but if we continue as a community to support these fine establishments over the corporate (and often internationally owned) companies, our community will thrive and prices will lower!
It is simple. More customers for our local farms equals less money that they have to charge.
So, let’s all ban together in our want of poison-free food and support these awesome local options that provide the quality product that we and our families deserve!
If I have missed any quality local options for organic meat, produce, and/or meals please comment below.