Is your Organic Restaurant Really Organic?
The following is a true story. The names have been changed for anonymity purposes. Plus, it’s not my prerogative to destroy small local businesses. I’m just here to expose the truth and to help people… that’s all! So after recently discovering that my local neighborhood butcher was lying to me about their duck meat being organic I became very angry and paranoid. I started to wonder how many other food industry businesses were lying to me! So my hunt began! I had been eating duck at a fancy local restaurant. For anonymity’s sake let’s call the restaurant “Hungry Men.” Everyone working there had assured me on multiple occasions that all of their food is organic including their duck. So I finally decided to check up on this!
First I called Hungry Men to ask them which distributor they purchased their ducks from. Once again, for anonymity’s sake we will say they told me “Paloma County Poultry.” So I went to the Paloma County Poultry’s website to obtain more information! What I found was quite confusing! They have a Restaurant links page that states at the top of the page, once again for anonymity’s sake “Restaurants Serving O' Diggity, your Organically Fed Diggity Ducks.” This title is followed by a list of 19 restaurants. Then there’s another title, “Retail Locations” with a list of businesses under it organized by city, followed by, “Restaurants” with a very large list of restaurants organized by city. To the novice it appears as if all these businesses are “Restaurants Serving O'Diggity, your Organically Fed Diggity Ducks.” But something is weird here. Where’s the list of non-organic restaurants? Or is it just not being mentioned?
So I decided to email customer service to gain a greater understanding of their business list. What I really wanted to know was whether or not my neighborhood restaurant “Hungry Men” was lying to me about their ducks being organic. But finding out the truth was not quite as easy as I had hoped for! So I wrote to Paloma County Poultry and asked, “Hi, are all of your ducks fed an organic diet?” Deborah (for anonymity’s sake) answers, “Hi there! We have a line of organic fed ducks. Thanks!” Strange reply I thought. So I wrote, “Okay Deborah, So does that mean that you also sell non-organic ducks? I've been eating at a restaurant that tells me everything they serve is organic, including their ducks. They tell me that they purchase their ducks from you. They are listed on the restaurant list of your site. So I wanted to know if every restaurant listed on that page is serving organic duck. Is there a way to find out for sure? I've just been lied to by a butcher so I'm double checking every business I deal with now.”
Deborah responds, “We try to keep the website as up to date as possible as far as customers and who is getting organic duck. Thanks!” Um, okay, but that didn’t really answer my questions now did it? So I write, “Okay, so the page that list the restaurants are all using your organic ducks? None of them use the non-organic ones?” Deborah responds, “The list that says organic fed ducks are getting organic.” Ummmm ok… but there’s only one very long list on that page I’m thinking. Why is this starting to feel like pulling teeth?
The conversation continues… I write, “I only see one list. Could you tell me if the "Hungry Men" Restaurant in LA is on the organic list?” Deborah responds, “Hi there, Our website states who does and who does not source organic ducks.” Alrighty then! Can I get a straight answer or what lady? So I write, “Okay, Deborah, it's seems like you are beating around the bush here and I am still very confused. I do not see the difference between which businesses are using organic ducks and which ones are not. Can you please specify if the "Hungry Men" Restaurant in Los Angeles uses organic or non organic ducks? I really cannot tell the difference between which businesses use organic ducks and which ones do not. Your website is very vague in this regard. Or perhaps you can explain to me how to go about reading the page with business listings. I see that it says "Restaurants Serving O'Diggity, your Organically Fed Diggity Ducks" so where does it say Restaurants serving non organic ducks? Or do all of these businesses use your organic ducks? Every business on this list? If not, which ones use organic ducks and which ones use conventional. It looks to me like there's 2 separate lists. There's a small group of restaurants at the top and then a huge list of restaurants and other businesses under that small group. What's the difference? Hopefully this time, after several emails, you can finally clarify this for me and we can move on with our lives! Thanks, Jennie FYI Here's the exact list from your website (and I copy and paste the whole list for her to view).
Deborah’s response, “The list that states restaurants serving organic are serving organic ducks. It is its own list.” Deborah is really great at evading the question ain’t she? So I write, “Okay great! Thanks! One more question, are the organically fed ducks certified organic?” No response! Then I write again, “Ok, so just to re-iterate, every business on that list I sent you uses your organically fed ducks correct? Because there are other business's listed, not just restaurants. So what is the difference between the restaurants at the top of the list and the rest of the businesses listed? Is there a difference? And where may I find the list of restaurants that use the non organic ducks you sell? Is there a separate list for that?” Again no response!
So at this point I’ve had enough! I start emailing a bunch of businesses on the Paloma County Poultry list, including Hungry Men restaurant, and I ask them, “Hi, I found your restaurant on the Paloma County Poultry website. I am wondering if the ducks you serve are organic O'Diggity ducks or conventional Diggity ducks? Initially 3 businesses responded that their ducks were conventional. So it appears that this so-called list of organically fed ducks is not so organic afterall! And it appears that Hungry Men restaurant is listed along with the other businesses that serve Paloma County Poultry’s conventional ducks. So now were getting somewhere.
So I write back to Deborah, “Hope I am not being a bother, however, I've got to be very honest with you. I'm a bit disappointed with your responses to my questions. They have been everything but straight forward, transparent and honest. It seems like we've been going in circles. It's as if you are answering me the way your company lawyer has advised you to answer me. I'm still unsure of this list of business vendors you've provided on your site. Which ones use your Diggity (conventional) Ducks and which ones use your O'Diggity (organic) ducks. Interesting how those two names could easily be confused for one another. This entire conversation has made me question not only the integrity and legitimacy of your company, but the integrity and legitimacy of all the companies that are using your company as a distributor. Furthermore, I wanted to let you know that I began contacting the businesses on your so-called organic duck list and the results have been a bit disturbing! So far 3 businesses have responded telling me that the ducks they use are conventional. So this list of businesses/ restaurants providing O-Diggity ducks is in fact not a list of the restaurants using O'Diggity ducks afterall. Or perhaps it's all in the wording right? So does this mean that my neighborhood restaurant is lying to everyone about the ducks being organic? They do seem to be listed along with others who are claiming to only serve conventional ducks. I want to thank you Deborah for your time. This has been very enlightening, and I believe will be even more enlightening for the readers of my blog article coming out next week, "Is your Organic Restaurant Really Organic?" Thanks again for proving to me that we really cannot trust the meat industry. Have a beautiful rest of your week!” Poor Deborah! Was I a bit too hard on her? She was simply doing her job right? No response from Deborah ofcourse! She’s been found out!
Then the bomb gets dropped on me! Hungry Men Restaurant responds to my email! John (name changed for anonymity) writes, “Hi Jennie, I remember who you are from coming in to Hungry Men. We have never claimed our ducks are O’Diggity/ Organic or made any such claims about our food. Our produce comes from a variety of farms. Some are Organic, some are not. Our seafood is both wild and farmed. Our meat comes from a variety of sources, some organic, some not.” He goes on to give me a lecture about the farming industry, building trust in the community, etc. A very nice, and seemingly intelligent response, yet John is missing the point. He has lied and all of his employees have lied to me. And now he’s lying to me again, acting as if no one ever lied to me in the first place!
So I write, “Hi John, Yes, ofcourse you remember me! I am the young lady that has always been assured by all of your employees on several occasions that the food you serve is absolutely undeniably organic, particularly the duck. I always received an immediate and unarguable "Yes, everything in this restaurant is organic." And you know that what I'm saying is true! Ofcourse you will never admit it because you don't want to get sued. I'm sorry to say that this nicey nice buttery email you're sending me about building trust and connecting, etc etc is a real bunch of crap! Your business lied to me so what do you know about building trust? You are just trying to sound like you are doing the right thing in the community, world, etc... Lying to your customers is never the right thing to do! So Shame Shame Shame on you and your business! There is no way I would've ever eaten at your restaurant had I known that the food was not organic. I suffer with health problems and I cannot tolerate pesticides, herbicides and GMO's. I have spent years and thousands of dollars visiting doctors trying to fix my health, only to poison myself at your establishment? I started to feel sick both physically and mentally after eating at Hungry Men. Then I found out that the butcher you referred me to was lying about their duck meat being organic. So I thought to myself, what if Hungry Men is lying too? So I decided to do some investigating. Your duck distributor was a real hard nut to crack. She was being very vague with her answers to my questions. I was not trying to sneak attack her. I was just trying to find out the truth. It seems she was doing her very best to protect the lies that your business has told me. But that's okay. I got my answer. Your business is a fraud! And I will be sure to let everyone know about what happened. I am absolutely outraged and appalled with how you conduct your business. It was only a matter of time that you would be found out. Please John, do not ever contact me again. Especially not trying to educate me about the ways of the world and how the food industry really works. I already see how it works. It's a sad day on planet earth and your lies only contribute to the problem at hand. I hope you re-think how you run your business. Please tell your staff to stop lying to the customers now. You've been found out! Have a great week!”
I think by now I’ve proven my point. You just can’t trust the food industry. They will tell you what you want to hear to sell you their food. Then they will turn around and act like they never said the food was organic. By the way, John doesn’t listen and decides to continue writing me. He tries to put me down by saying, “No reiki master I know would ever act as you do.” I tell him, “Reiki Masters are human beings too. And guess what, we also get angry when we are lied to! Who said Reiki Masters are supposed to sit back and get lied to and not say anything about it? I didn't come to this planet to stay silent.” By the way, I didn’t say it, however, what store owner would act as John has? His reaction to this situation has been anything but professional! Seriously! He basically acts as if I was never lied to and doesn’t even apologize to me. He could’ve said it was a misunderstanding, however it obviously wasn’t! He also throws out a threat by saying, “Be careful what you try to expose, it only comes back around.” Ummm… ok, but I’m not the one that lied buddy? How is karma coming for me? I told him, “I am not worried about my karma. I run a non-profit and have amassed quite a bit of good karma points. Telling the truth is part of my mission. It seems you may need to work on your mission a bit more. Good luck with that!” Then he says, “please don’t harass my staff or my vendors any further. You have done that enough.” So I write, “There is no harassment here. You are the one that stated "be careful what you try to expose, it only comes back around." That to me sounds like a threat. I never threatened or harassed anyone. I was only asking questions to find out the truth.”
I decided to post a bad review on yelp and facebook, as well as file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs. John sees the facebook review and responds with the message he sent me from the email correspondence. So I respond with my message from the email. Keep in mind, John still hasn’t apologized to me! Then it gets worse! John creates a fake facebook profile to harass and discredit me so that no one believes my facebook review!
So, as you can see from these email correspondences and the whole facebook situation, something is very wrong here! What does John and his restaurant really have to hide? Maybe the whole menu is actually GMO? Who knows? But the story doesn’t end here! I still want to know more about this conventional duck I’ve been ingesting at Hungry Men restaurant. Another restaurant responds to my question about whether or not they use the organic O’Diggity Ducks or the non-organic Diggity ducks. They write back to me and say, “The ducks are humanely raised with no hormones and no antibiotics with a lot of space to move.” I thought, well that’s good. At least no hormones or antibiotics!
So I decide to probe some more and ask, “Would you be able to tell me what diet the ducks are being fed? Is it conventional corn, soy and/or wheat?” (aka GMO corn, soy and/or wheat). The reason I ask about corn, soy and wheat is because these particular crops are usually GMO. GMO means genetically modified organisms, and they are very harmful to our health. The restaurant’s response, “The ducks receive no antibiotics or hormones and are fed a diet that consists largely of corn and other grains.” So I wrote, “Okay, thanks! And do you know if these grains contain any genetically modified organisms?” The restaurant responds, “I copied Joseph Balor (name changed for anonymity) our purveyor of Ducks in this email to insure the most accurate answer to your questions.” Then I look and see that the email has been copied to 3 other individuals and one of these individuals is Deborah from Paloma County Ducks! Oy! And just to note, I did send an apology to Deborah for putting her through the wringer, so perhaps she would still be willing to divulge some information about the conventional ducks diet? I mean, is it so wrong to want to know what I’ve been eating this whole time at Hungry Men restaurant? I start writing back to a few more restaurants just in case this one decides to stop writing me.
So I finally receive a response from the actual owner of the Paloma County Ducks who apologizes if I “got inaccurate information from anyone. It is difficult to have many people completely knowledgeable on so many products. We tried to help the information get out there by listing the restaurants on our website that always use organically fed diggity duck. That list is only the 19 at the top of the page. We try to keep the website up to date as best we can, but at times, we get behind. There is no attempt to mislead.” He also states, “When I started there was no gmo feed so that was not an issue. The only choice was organic or conventional. The extra cost of raising our birds made it doubly hard to add the organic cost to our birds. Of course down the road gmo feed came along and added another choice. Unfortunately on the west coast there does not seem to be the option of conventional feed without gmo’s.”
And so there it is! Hungry Men restaurant was feeding me GMO Duck and had every employee lie to me saying it was organic! Appalling! FYI, just so you know, it’s illegal to use hormones and antibiotics with any poultry in the United States. So if a business tells you no hormones and no antibiotics for their poultry, they are really not claiming anything special. No hormones and no antibiotics does not equate to organic!
So the next time you decide to eat out at a restaurant and the restaurant staff tell you that the food is organic, you may wish to do a little research first! Sadly, everything is not how it seems in the food industry! After experiencing the lies firsthand, I’ve decided to take a break from eating meat for a while. I’m back on a vegetarian diet. My main animal protein is certified organic pasture raised eggs from the local farmers market fed a diet free of corn, soy and wheat. I’ve been told that they only eat organic vegetables…and yes, I contacted the farm directly to be sure! I’ll miss eating duck, but I won’t miss the lies! And I don’t think I’ll be eating out at any restaurants for a long while.
Please keep in mind that just because this one restaurant was found to be lying doesn’t mean that all organic restaurants are lying! Please do your research! I believe in my heart that there are still plenty of honest organic restaurants available to eat at! But we do have to keep in mind that any live stock that is being fed corn, soy or wheat could be contaminated with GMOs even if it is labeled organic. Unfortunately cross contamination is a reality for our planet right now, especially in the United States. A good approach would be to buy your food from small local organic farms and cook it yourself! The best approach would be to raise your own live stock and grow your own food. Ofcourse for me, raising ducks in a 1 bedroom apartment with 3 cats hardly seems reasonable, and growing fruits and veggies on my balcony next to a massive power line may not be optimal either. We just have to work with what we’ve got!
Jennie Haiman is a Reiki Master Energy Healer, Co-Founder of Self Saviorz Society California Non-Profit 501(c)(3), Poet, Author and Entertainer with goals to help raise the vibration and consciousness of humanity!