What Makes Bleu Cheese Blue?

Blue cheese

Bleu Cheese

Bleu Cheese is a general classification of cow, sheep, or goat’s milk cheeses that have had cultures of the mold penicillium added so that the final product is spotted or veined throughout with blue.  Cheese is generally made from the following three steps: The first step is precipitation of the milk into curds, the second is concentration of the curds and removal of the whey by pressing and draining, and the third is the aging.  The purpose of aging is to allow bacteria and other microbes to act on the curds and transform them into the final product.  This is the transformation of an ordinary cheese into a blue cheese.  The mold that grows within the cheese gives it its sharp flavor and smell.

There are some stories associated with the creation of blue cheese, as it has been fabled to be discovered by mistake.  In the case of Roquefort, story has it that a shepherdess left her lunch of cheese curd and rye bread in a Roquefort cave, and when she returned weeks later she discovered the transformed cheese into what is now known as Roquefort blue cheese.

The name penicillium sounds like the antibiotic penicillin because its relation to the common mold.  The relationship of the mold in cheese is that they do seem to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.  Eating lots blue cheese will probably not clear up your infection, as most cheeses contain small amounts of the antibiotic mold found in the pharmaceuticals.

Blue cheese can be enjoyed at room temperature by itself or with fruit, crackers and wine.  The strong flavors go best with foods that are similarly flavored.  It can also be melted on select dishes to add a unique pairing.  Try it with salad, as a salad dressing, on hamburgers, stuffed in green olives, and even within an omelet.

For a great selection of cheeses check out the Green Top Market where the best in organic and fine foods is available to even the most hard to satisfy palates.

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Fish Farms: What are the issues?

fish-farming

Fish Farm

The global demand for fish has caused widespread overfishing in the wild fishery and commercial fishing markets.  As a result fish farming, also known as aquaculture, is offering an alternative solution to the increasing market demand.  This alternative does not come without controversy however, and there are many issues associated with farmed fisheries.

Most notably is the diet of some salmon species which in the wild partly consists of an intake of anchovies and menhaden.  These ordinarily carnivorous diets are being replaced by vegetable-derived proteins in the fish farms, and some experts speculate that vegetable-derived oils have not successfully been incorporated into the diets of carnivores.  These vegetable-derived diets are being tied in with higher levels of toxins (PCB’s, dioxin, etc.) than wild fish.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) are mixtures of chlorinated compounds.  They have been used as lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they are good insulators.  The manufacture of PCB’s was banned in the U.S. in 1979 because of evidence they build up in the environment and can cause harmful health effects.  However, these toxins exist in the environment, and are absorbed by fish from contaminated sediments in their food.  Farmed salmon contains more fat than wild, and it is in this fat that the PCB’s are stored and remain there for extended periods of time.

Additionally, farmed fish are kept in concentrations not seen in their wild ecosystems.  This has been affiliated with several forms of pollution.  Given the tight living quarters, the fish rub against each other and their cages damaging their fins and tails and becoming sickened with various diseases and infections.  The level of stress this causes is also evident in the taste of these fish.

Fishermen near these fish farms are often cited as complaining about the effects of the natural habitat these farms create.  High concentrations of feces can affect local waterways.  The resultant bacterial and algae growth strips the water of oxygen, reducing or killing off the natural marine life.  Once an area has become too contaminated, the fish farms simply move to new, cleaner areas.

Although fish farms are helping supply the world with food, they are also creating health concerns, effecting natural ecosystems, and hindering recreational and commercial fishing areas.  Salmon production is just one example of the issues concerned with fish farms, there are other popular species that have similar repercussions.  Before purchasing seafood, be sure to check into the production methods to ensure a healthy and environmentally safe product.

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Free-Range, Organic, Natural | What Do These Chicken Labels Really Mean

organic-chicken

Organic Chicken

Upon a recent read of an interesting article by Francis Lam posted in salon.com regarding what all the buzzwords surrounding chicken really mean, we realized Green Top Market should probably adapt this article for its dedicated readers.  The idea behind the article is that marketers have really capitalized on these buzzwords because they have gotten people to bite (pun intended) on their misleading product descriptions. So thank you Francis Lam for clarifying this for us all.

Free Range

Definition- “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” “Outside” can have varying possibilities as noted in the article.  It could mean a great field or a parking lot, and it is not uncommon that the area be big enough for about 5 percent of the thousands of chickens.  Although this is not always the case where the term is misleading, there may be some room for cynicism.

Pastured

Pasteurized is not yet a legal term, but it does seem to be more humane to the chickens.  It also tends to yield more richly flavored meat and eggs.  The birds are kept in coops at night, and are left to forage on grass, seeds, worms, etc., during the day.  They may be fed grain as well, but they have access to a variety of foods in their diet, which contributes to the taste of the meat and eggs.  Because this term is not yet legal, it is up to the consumer to research the brands that use this label.

Natural

One of the most misleading of all the terms used by food marketers is the term natural.  It means that nothing has been added to the bird after slaughter- no flavoring, no brines, no coloring, etc.  The USDA does however require marketers to say specifically what they mean when they use the term, such as “no artificial flavors.”

Naturally Enhanced

This term gets into a gray area, and grey areas and food are something that the consumer should decide if they are comfortable with.  In the article the examples given are “the chicken might be pumped up with a broth made from the bones of that animal.  But it could also mean that sugar is added, or ’natural flavoring,’ whatever that might mean.”

No hormones; No antibiotics

By law hormones are not allowed at all in chicken production, so the labeling is pure marketing.  Antibiotics are allowed in conventional chicken production (not organic), as long as there is no antibiotic residue in the finished product.

Air-chilled

The article mentions that this method is favored by many chefs because the air-chilled birds have better flavor and skin that gets crispier.  The air chilling process is different from the more conventional process of “water-processed,” where the meat is chilled in cold pools.  The water in the pools has to be chlorinated to kill bacteria, something that many consumers may be uncomfortable with.  The amount of chlorine is very minimal but still evident in water-processed chicken.

Halal; Kosher

These terms are based on Muslim and Jewish criteria, and mostly govern the slaughter of the birds.  These labels are granted by religious authorities, not the government.  The process requires another layer of supervision, checking for sickness, legions, and signs the animals are in good health before slaughter.  So these labels may be associated with higher quality and more humane treatment of the birds.

Organic

In the article Francis gets input from a co-founder of an organic production advocacy group, Mark Kastel.  Mr. Kastel is a “firm believer that ‘organic’ is the best and most powerful label in chicken production.”  The USDA enforces its definition as “100 percent of the chickens feed must be certified organic, which means in itself that it has been grown in a field that has not seen chemical fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides or genetically modified organisms for at least three years.”

The article goes on to say that the best way to know about the chicken you buy is to visit a local farmer who lets you visit his chickens.  This way you can decide for yourself if you feel the chickens are raised in a manner you feel is best for the chickens and your health.

For the full article, visit:

http://www.salon.com/food/francis_lam/2011/01/20/what_chicken_labels_really_mean

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Olive Oil

extra-virgin-olive-oil

Olive Oil

Olive oil is more than just an oil, just the way that cheese is never just cheese.  There is as much depth and character to an olive oil as there is to a fine wine.  When purchasing an olive oil you will want to find a high quality Extra Virgin oil.  The name “extra virgin” is derived because the oil comes from the first pressing of the olive, it is extracted without using heat or chemicals, and has no “off” flavors.  The less the olive oil is handled and maintained at its natural state, the better the oil.

You will want to treat your bottle of oil like you would treat a bottle of wine- keep it out of the sun.  Light and heat are the ultimate foe of olive oil and can cause it to go rancid when exposed.  You will also want to keep your olive oil tightly sealed when not in use as oxygen also is not a friend.

The greatest health component of olive oil is its high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and its high content of anti-oxidants.  Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease and colon cancer.  Additionally olive oil can have a positive effect on the stomach, serving as a protector from ulcers and gastritis.  The oil activates the secretion of bile and pancreatic hormones much more naturally than prescribed drugs.  To get the most benefits out of olive oil including high levels of anti-oxidants and vitamin E, be sure to incorporate Extra Virgin olive oil into your diet regularly.

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Genetically Modified Foods: The Big Debate

gmos

Genetically Modified Foods

Genetically Modified (GM) foods or GMO’s (genetically-modified organisms) refers to crop plants created for human or animal consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques.  These plants have been modified in a lab to enhance desired characteristics such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.  Green Top Market chooses not to use GM foods as much as possible, but wanted to address the more popular debate from a strictly informative point of view.

Some facts about GMOs:

  • The FDA does not require food with GMOs to be labeled as such.
  • GMOS’ are present in 75-80% of conventional processed food in the U.S.
  • GMO’s are banned or restricted in 30 other countries throughout the world

Advantage Claims:

  • GM foods promise to meet the growing demand of a global food supply as the world population continues to grow.
  • GM foods that are resistant to Pests, Herbicides, and Disease claim to reduce costs, limit the dangers of agricultural waste run-off, and are genetically engineered to be resistant to viruses, fungi, and bacteria that cause plant disease.
  • GM foods claim to add additional nutritional benefits not ordinarily seen that would be beneficial to third world or LDC’s.

Criticisms:

  • Some studies have shown evidence that GM foods create unintended harm to other organisms via pollen transfer.
  • Reduced effectiveness of pesticides means the possibility of insects developing a resistance to GM crops is likely, just as some populations of mosquitoes developed resistance to the now-banned pesticide DDT.
  • There is growing concern that introducing foreign genes into food plants may have an unexpected impact on health.
  • Economic concerns that patenting GM plants would have on small farmers and agribusiness on the whole.  Consumer advocates are worried that patenting will raise the price of seeds beyond the means of small farmers and third world countries.

What is your take on GMOs used in our foods?  Green Top Market thinks that natural is best, just as nature intended.  For healthy, all-natural foods visit our store or contact us today for more information.

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Eggs: Organic vs. Factory Farmed

organic eggs

Organic Eggs

There has been some debate over the health benefits of organic eggs as opposed to those of factory farmed eggs and if the cost for the organic product is justifiable.  Upon some investigation into research done by the USDA amongst other credible sources, it is not surprisingly that organic eggs are in fact a better product.  Here is why:

The study done by the USDA comparing different production methods – factory-farmed, cage-free, and free-roaming- all met the same quality standards.  The important thing to note is that quality standards are different from nutritional standards, which is one of the many reasons organic foods are so popular.  The quality standard is based upon the height of the yolk and the thickness of the egg white when the egg is broken on a flat surface.  In this respect the organic and factory-farmed eggs are on par, however studies have found that organic eggs contain higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fatty acid.  A Penn State study also found that organic eggs had three times more of these healthy fats than factory-farmed, along with 40 percent more vitamin A and twice as much vitamin E.

Other health factors include the factory-farmed use of unhealthy antibiotics in the chicken feed, an issue the FDA is currently trying to limit.  A study published by the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that the antibiotics used in chicken feed can linger in a chicken’s eggs for up to seven days.  Perhaps worse than that is the finding of arsenic in chicken meat and eggs.  The heavy metal contamination comes from an arsenic-based additive called roxarsone, is approved by the FDA to promote chicken growth.  There are lawsuits ongoing linking this chemical to cancer cases, further making a case for its high levels of toxicity.

This product is of course banned in organic poultry production—adding another of many reasons eating organic eggs is worth a few extra bucks.

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Healthy Breakfast

healthy breakfast

A Healthy Breakfast

Ever heard anyone say “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” here’s some insight into that age-old statement.  Most experts agree that a healthy breakfast refuels your body, jump-starts your day and may even benefit your overall health.  Some facts about breakfast:

When you eat a healthy breakfast, you’re more likely to:

  • Eat more vitamins and minerals
  • Eat less fat and cholesterol
  • Have better concentration and productivity throughout the morning
  • Control your weight
  • Have lower cholesterol, which may reduce your risk of heart disease Continue reading
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What is the Organic Certification Process?

certified organic

Certified Organic

Organic Certification is a government regulated certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products.  Businesses generally involved in food production adhere to specific requirements set forth by the government and commonly involve production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping.

The purpose of Organic Certification is intended to address the growing demand for organic food, as well as provide for quality assurance from a  third party regulatory certifier.  For consumers, “certified organic” serves as an assurance that they are buying products that are healthy for them and the environment.

The general product standards for certified organic products include stringent testing not seen on non-organic or non-certified producers.  Organic farming is subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers.  However the differences in standards lie in the following:

  • avoidance of most synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge;
  • use of farmland that has been free from synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more);
  • keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail);
  • maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products;
  • undergoing periodic on-site inspections.

In the US, federal organic legislation defines three levels of organics:

  1. 100% Organic- products made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods
  2. Organic- products with at least 95% organic ingredients
  3. Made with Organic Ingredients- containing a minimum of 70% organic ingredients

Products made with less than 70% organic ingredients cannot advertise under the above mentioned levels.  Often the term organic is misrepresented as it has become increasingly popular amongst consumers.  Where these organic laws are mandated, producers cannot use the term legally without certification.  As consumers, we must make informed decisions as to what we eat as leaving the trust to third party representatives is open to manipulation.

usda

USDA Organic Label

For more information about organic products and locally grown foods, visit Green Top Market today or contact us at 802-888-8883.  Or visit online at GreenTopMarket.com.

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Organic VS Conventional Farming Practices

organic farming

Organic vs Conventional Farming

By now it is clear that organic food is the most nutrient rich, greatest health reaping, and best tasting food available.  These foods are produced without the conventional array of toxic chemicals commonly used on crops.  Before we discuss the benefits of an organic diet, let’s dissect what makes up conventional or non-organic farming as we know it. Continue reading

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New Year’s Champagne Manual

new years champagne

New Year's 2011 Champagne

Green Top Market would like to extend to you a happy and safe New Year Holiday! Celebratory Champagne is a New Year’s tradition so Green Top would like to help you make a choice your family and friends will be happy with.  Bring in the New Year with the following Champagne guide.

Champagne or Sparkling Wine?

Just as some wines and cheeses are only produced in a specific geographic area, only sparkling wine made in the Champagne region of France can be officially labeled “Champagne.” Other European countries use other names for the sparkling wine they produce: Cava in Spain, Prosecco, Asti or Spumante in Italy and Sekt in Germany. Bubblies from California, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the several wine-producing countries of South America are generally referred to as sparkling wine or sparklers. Continue reading

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