"How 'Fresh' is That Food?"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, July 29, 2016

Does anyone read all that printed information on a carton of milk? Isn’t it confusing? Especially on the specialty milks such as organic and non-dairy.

With the organic, the sell-by date may be two or three weeks distant but when you take it home and open it you must drink it in seven days. Some of the non-dairy milk products can be bought off a shelf, not even in the coolers. Actually, I just purchased an almond milk stamped “Best before Jan. 15, 2017,” and “after opening refrigerate and use within 7 to 10 days.”

I know how they milk a cow but how about those almonds? And, I often wonder what happens if you purchase the milk after those sell-by and best-by dates. I see many stores mark down the price of products that have sell-by dates. Apparently they are still good to consume, just older. How about the “use-by” dates? What will happen if you don’t use it in that time? Will it spoil or explode or will the ingredients change? We know what happens with ice cream that is often marked to use by next year. It freezer burns in a week once you open it.

Dairy products are not the only foods at the grocery store that make you stop and wonder. How about the meats? You can buy “fresh ground beef,” but in the next row you find, “aged, angus beef steaks.” Are the steaks cut from an older steer? How does the butcher know how old the meat is when they get it? Perhaps they stamp the age on it at the slaughter house.

How about the veggies, like “fresh” corn. The farmers markets and roadside stands don’t have “fresh” corn yet but the grocery store does. Where did they get it — and how fresh could it be? I think fresh could mean less than a year old. I’ve seen truckloads of green tomatoes being hauled down the road in Florida. Do you suppose they will be labeled “fresh” in some major market places?

I just picked up a couple of avocados claimed to be, “fresh,” creamy and tasty because they just arrived in the store. On the tiny sticker I noted in very small print “Peru”. How fresh can they be? How about “fresh” California navel oranges selected in a market in Michigan? Do they mean “fresh” when they were picked because they may be weeks old by the time you buy them. This too always puzzles me, bananas come in a green bunch but the day after you buy them they turn yellow and if you don’t eat them that day, by the third day they are turning black.

How about the seafood? You consider buying a bag of pink shrimp sitting in a cooler that looks fairly “fresh.” Look close, they may have been fresh months ago when they were caught in China or Thailand. Steelhead trout fillets look delicious but do they look as good when you note, in small print somewhere, “farm raised in China.”

Canned goods can be questionable also. If they are store-brand, they may be 30 percent cheaper, and often taste better than the brand named products. Most stores are dedicated to removing outdated canned goods but it’s wise to be aware and check the dates after your purchases sit in your pantry for months. The very, young, small canned peas sometimes are large peas in a very, small can.

“Fresh” baked products are usually delivered blobs of dough put in an oven for a short period of time than marked, “fresh.” They do smell good when they are baking, and if you get to the store early and pick up a loaf, it’s still warm.

Back in the old days a family picnic would serve up burgers, hot dogs, canned beans and potato chips. Today, if you shop for your picnic, you’ll spend lots of time. You have to decide what kind of beans. There are original, spicy, molasses, barbequed, etc. hips, an entire aisle of different sizes, types and flavors — crispy, wavy, baked, vinegar, onion, cheesy are but a few. Some chips come in a bag big enough to pack a week’s lunch in but when you get to the chips in that big bag, there are only as many as in the small bag. All that air cost a lot, but your chips float around in it and don’t get crushed.

Don’t even think about the pickles or the dogs and burgers — choices are endless.

As I see it, food is fun to write about and even more fun to eat, so I think I’ll head out to get some lunch.

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