Shopping for Thanksgiving without the Chemicals

Thanksgiving shopping began early this week in our house, when the annual menu emerged and family offered their contributions to the list. Now it’s time to clarify and build back ups in case something is unavailable on my foraging spree which begins tomorrow morning.

The shopping is as much of an adventure as the cooking for me because the days of one-stop shopping in a single grocery are long gone. To start, the shelves are loaded with cans of the “already prepared” singing their “we are so easy” songs at me.   Thanks to the Breast Cancer Fund’s most recent study we know most Thanksgiving staples are packed in cans  with BPA, an endocrine disruptor and mammary gland carcinogen. (Interesting that Ocean Spray cranberry was cleared.)

Their list of handy recipes of no-can alternatives is fabulous for those who just want to say no! However, there is still the question of pesticides used in production, particularly of fruits and vegetables. The Pesticide Action Network’s is a great place to check for residues.

Let’s see…

Kale:                           55 Pesticide Residues Found by the USDA Pesticide Data Program, 9—Known or Probable Carcinogens and 27—Suspected Hormone Disruptors (SHD)

Green Beans:            44 Pesticide Residues: 8—Carcinogens 22—SHD

Potatoes:                    37 Pesticide Residues: 7—Carcinogens 12—SHD

Winter Squash:        28 Pesticide Residues: 9—Carcinogens 15—SHD

To make it to my table those veggies all have to be organic. The following may or may not, although I would prefer they were organic. We will see what I can find…

Cranberries:             13 Pesticide Residues: 3—Carcinogens 6— SHD

Sweet potatoes:       8 Pesticide Residues: 2—Carcinogens 4— SHD

Onions:                     1 Pesticide Residue: 0—Carcinogens 0— SHD

For dessert, the apple pie definitely needs to be organic too.

Apples:                      42 Pesticide Residues: 7—Carcinogens 19— SHD

What about the turkey? The data we have are for poultry breast where 7 pesticide residues were found, of which 3 are known or probable carcinogens and 4 are suspected hormone disruptors. More important to me is how they were raised. When birds are grown on an industrial scale they are often given less than three feet of space. With crowding comes a greater demand for pesticides to cope with increased insects and disease, excrement becomes an issue, and you can see where this goes. Antibiotics may be fed to keep the birds healthy in the midst of it all. Free-range turkeys from a local farm are my favorite. If not, a conversation with the butcher may help me learn more about the source.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and one I am grateful to host, and I am happy to go on the adventure of finding the very best food for my family. Farmers markets and farm stands combined with our own CSA get most of my business. When I know the food on the table is as close to chemical-free as I can get, and as fresh and healthy as it can be, I give thanks for the bounty we are so fortunate to share.

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