Is Organic Food Really a Better Buy?

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Last spring megaretailer Wal-Mart began offering mainstream brand organic foods, signaling the products on the shelves with special green signs. Wal-Mart's idea is to bring the cost down for those on tighter budgets.

The company promises the best prices in the organic marketplace. According to Fromartz, this is evidence that "organic has really gone into the mainstream."

But megaretailers in the organic family are not always welcome by the organic diehards.

Dave Evans in Marin favors growing and selling locally, and worries that when organics go mainstream quality is lost and the environment suffers. "Does it make sense to fly an organic product 2,000 miles when you can buy an equally good organic product right down the road?" he asked.

He said local food distribution saves on fossil fuels both in costs and pollutants released into the atmosphere. He raises cows at his Marin Sun Farms, and also sells the beef at his butcher shop in nearby Point Reyes Station.

He estimates that his beef never travels more than 200 miles, allowing him to cultivate rapport with his clients. His farthest customer, Stanford University, buys hamburger patties

"I am a relationship marketer, which means I sell to everyone I know. I know my customers," he said.

And he promises that you can taste the difference in the meat he sells. Holding a slab of rib eye with a line of flavorful fat intersecting it, he said he also knows a great organic zinfandel to go with it. You can bet that with neighbors like the Napa and Sonoma wine countries, the grapes were also locally grown.

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