View Full Version : organic mash bourbons?

06-23-2006, 22:02
A couple of months back at the San Francisco whiskey expo I couldn't get into Lincoln Henderson's class at the Suntory tastings. Later when everyone gathered at the nearby bar it was too crowded to hold any significant conversation.

So I'm posing the question to you out in cyberland.

Does anyone know of bourbon or other whiskies made from organic grain?

I've heard that Bruichladdich uses organically grown barley, but from my understading, most if not all of the commercial corn grown in the U.S. has at the very least some genetically modified components to it, which I find quite disturbing. However, I won't get into that particular discussion. This is just a curious inquiry. I'll still continue to enjoy bourbon and rye regardless.


06-24-2006, 06:34
Not bourbon or even whiskey, but Rain Vodka which is made by Buffalo Trace is made from 100% organic corn.

06-24-2006, 06:37
from my understading, most if not all of the commercial corn grown in the U.S. has at the very least some genetically modified components to it, which I find quite disturbing. However, I won't get into that particular discussion. .


If you want to go in to that disscussion here I suggest that you go to the Off Topic section. I myself am not particularly disturbed my GM, but I wouldn't mind hearing what you have to say about it.

06-24-2006, 12:22

I would appreciate a primer on the topic as long as it empasizes provable facts over emotion.

Yours truly,
Dave "Did My Opening Give Me Away?" Morefield

06-24-2006, 13:59
Regardless of how one feels about GM-anything, the notion that some GM badie could survive the distillation process is nothing short of preposterous, ditto any "organic" properties.

06-24-2006, 14:11
that some GM badie could survive the distillation process is nothing short of preposterous
Come on, Chuck: We all know that politically correct corn rises to the top of every fermenter!

06-24-2006, 14:17
Okay doubters what about Rain vodka? The ad bumph doesn't fail to note the organic corn used. Doesn't from a QC point of view every little bit of quality count and contribute, sometimes imperceptibly, to an extra-fine product?


06-24-2006, 14:30
I must say (and sure canned juice isn't distilled spirit) that I had some "organic" tomato juice the other day and was stunned at how much better it was than the regular thing. I would think someone going to the trouble of using organic produce would take extra care in every area of production, so that no doubt plays a role in how good a product like this can be but still I have to think the organic tomatoes made a big difference. I've long been skeptical of the merits of organic anything (and personally believe in the intelligent use of GM products) but this did cause me to take notice.


06-24-2006, 14:36
This is a topic that today's distillers hope will go quietly into that good night.

06-24-2006, 15:01
First, "organic" and "GM" are two completely different issues.

Second, Rain is, after all, vodka, so from the get-go they're selling a fantasy. How naïve do you have to be to use the fact that something is mentioned in advertising as proof that it makes a substantive contribution to product quality?

06-24-2006, 16:03
I wouldn't have thought a genetically modified tomato qualifies for organic production (under the various voluntary associations' codes which establish rules for these things). That said, I don't know for sure and am willing to learn more. If I'm wrong, I'm wrong.

But naive? I don't think so. I am talking about BT which unusually for a distillery gives a lot of production information to consumers. The labels on the new experimental bourbon series is an example, so is the fact BT has said it has two rye-recipe bourbon mashbills and which product falls within each, and so on. If BT suggests organic corn makes a difference I'll take it at face value unless I form my own opinion that it is just "advertising". We get Rain in our market and I'll try it soon and say.

06-24-2006, 16:55
Isn't this all conjecture anyway? The corn we know today is nothing like the corn that was here when the first Europeans arrived. Whether or not the changes came from a lab or from selecting by hand the better plants to save for next year's planting, the fact is that we can yank back the husk and see nice rows of kernals instead of gaps like a pair of truck stop bought "Bubba Teeth".

06-24-2006, 18:14
Organic, schmorganic. It's pure ethanol. You can run your car on it. As Sidney Frank taught us, it's about the story, not the product. The product is an afterthought.

The primary supermarket in my neighborhood recently did a major reset and converted the first two aisles to nothing but imported, organic, natural or specialty foods and other products, such as paper products, health and beauty aids, and cleaning supplies. People sell that stuff because people buy it. The customer wants it and will pay a premium for it, so the producers produce it and the retailers retail it.

That is the free market system and I am all for it, but anyone who thinks anyone in that chain of profit-making knows or cares if there is any provable difference or benefit is, yes I'll say it, naïve, credulous, and gullible.

I'll see you at the séance, right after I refill my Enzyte supply.

Special Reserve
06-24-2006, 19:07
Organic, schmorganic. It's pure ethanol.

Right on brother!

06-24-2006, 20:15
I will buy Rain and state my opinion. It's a tougher case with a product distilled to 194-196 proof, obviously. But I am willing to see if I can sense any quality difference that might be attributable to the use of an organic corn mash. The original question was about an organic bourbon mash. That mash would be distilled at less than 160 proof and the chance of enhanced flavor retention is greater than with vodka but I don't rule it out even with vodka (since vodka does not all taste the same to me and the human senses are capable of detecting even very small characteristics in products, e.g., fusel oils at very low concentrations). I have been following in wine circles a debate about wines made from organic materials (there are different terms to describe "organic" in this context). There is a spirited debate and difference of opinion amongst winemakers and wine writers whether organic methods make a difference. Many people think they do, and distillation is another remove but logically the same questions can apply to it IMO. Anyway I need to lay in some vodka and I'll do a taste test and tell people what I think.


06-25-2006, 00:18
Even if you do taste a "difference," how can you be confident in attributing it to organic-ness which means, ultimately, what? "Produced without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals," is what one dictionary says, but in reality what is a "synthetic" chemical? There may, in very specific cases, be advantages to using one technique over another and, again in some very specific cases, the superior technique may be something which can be labelled "organic," but most of this mania for organic, natural, etc. is a fetish produced by something like pastoral romanticism or what I might call "technology guilt." I'm willing to consider anything that has been rigorously and scientifically tested, but I am very skeptical of most of these claims, especially the notion that you can taste the absence of "synthetic chemicals" in a product as heavily processed as a distilled spirit. I do not wish to cause offense, but it strikes me as frankly ridiculous.

06-25-2006, 03:14
My original point was simply that one producer makes note of the use of organic corn in its process. Therefore, I'm prepared to consider that this may enhance the overall quality of its product. The same may be even more true of a bourbon mash: bourbon is distilled at a notably lower proof than vodka.

It's all chemicals ultimately, yes. But different chemicals can result in different tastes.

I'm planning to taste blind three vodkas: one made from corn, Rain; a Polish rye vodka; and a potato vodka. Maybe I can see at least which is the Rain. If I can, that leaves open the possibility I could differentiate Rain from other corn spirits. If the Rain stands out maybe the organic corn mash used played a role. (Materials can make a difference to vodka, e.g., a grape-derived vodka I once tasted had a faint but noticeable vinous hint). Its distinctiveness if any is unlikely to be attributable to the ethanol or only the water.

But even if I don't get any of the vodkas right, that doesn't mean I am wrong in thinking organic corn may make a better vodka than the usual intensively raised corn. BT may have a way of measuring overall characteristics or quality which it knows consumers respond to (at least those who drink the product neat). I may throw in another corn vodka to the test. I think the experiment is worth doing.

As with all my thoughts and ideas, they may be of interest to some more than others.


06-25-2006, 06:49
I must say (and sure canned juice isn't distilled spirit) that I had some "organic" tomato juice the other day and was stunned at how much better it was than the regular thing.

Gary, we've found the same thing at the roastery.... Organic coffee is, generally speaking, WAY better than the non-organic alternative.... Now as to where this falls in the cause-effect cycle, I can't say.... Maybe the grower gets more for their organic product so they care for it better or choose a better area of the farm??? I could easily see it being unrelated to it being "organic" per se. But it is better.

As to whether any GM, herbacides, pestacides or fertilizer would make it into the distillate, i have no idea. But as you indicate, total quality does place importance on the quality of the individual processes and components and improving any of those is designed to improve the whole. I would support movement in this direction even if the results could not, initially, be directly correlated to the material used. At least something to investigate.

I'm surprized distillers want this issue to disappear. Most industries welcome anything that allows them to differentiate their product (and of course, raise the cost ;-)


06-25-2006, 09:28
It's not just total quality- for many people organic is an ethical choice, too. I'm not necessarily one of them, but I am picky about what meat I'll buy, for instance. An animal that enjoyed a higher quality of life and ate better food yields better tasting meat with fewer artificially added hormones in it. I like organic vegetables because they often taste better, but am not always willing to pay a premium for them. For some, eating organic is like eating vegetarian, in that it's an ethical matter of minimizing their impact on the environment, avoiding eating pesticides or hormones, or supporting more sustainable practices (which is not exactly synonomous with organic, but the two often go hand in hand), and it would be useful information for them. Out here in organic central (Bay Area), there are readily available wines and beers made with organic ingredients, and I'm sure they're available elsewhere, too. Applying the same to whiskey is a natural jump from those two. It's fair to ask.

As for GM, it's obviously a tricky issue, and long-term results can't yet be known. I'm not sure what I think about it, but I'm interested to know more.

I think it's easy to be dismissive of this question, but I think it's a good question to ask.

Special Reserve
06-25-2006, 10:16
Besides the ethics of the issue and there is more than what meets the eye, ethanol is a product of the produce.

The ethanol produced from "organically" raised corn, wheat, rye, and malt is chemically the same as the ethanol from "non-organically" raised corn, wheat, rye, or malt.

I'm not an alcohol chemist, I'm a chemist that has drunk alcohol.

06-25-2006, 11:25
There's an interesting article in the July Smithsonian Magazine which discusses the incredible success of corn yields since the introduction of synthetically produced ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Apparantly, it's all about "usable" nitrogen. There's lots of it, but it must be combined with hydrogen in order for living things to grow and prosper. Mother Nature can only do so much of this, so fertilizer takes over from there. The writer cites an author who estimates that 2 out of every 5 humans on earth today, would not be alive if not for synthetic fertilizer. Not a bad thought, only we don't get to choose who stays and who goes. But this success comes with costs (pollution from factories that produce the fertilizer, high energy use to produce, runoff into rivers and oceans, etc), which he also discusses.


06-25-2006, 12:00
All very valid and useful thoughts... I'd add to those contributed by Special Reserve that the distillation of a corn mash to make grain neutral spirit does not result only in ethanol. There is also water and trace amounts of congeners. The water added to high proof GNS to let it down is another factor. Possibly charcoal, silk or other filtering and other rectification processes add other substances that "flavor" the drink. My tasting of the grape vodka convinced me that trace elements of the fermentables enter all vodkas. The vodka was distilled multiple times but it still had a faint grapey edge. Micro distillers in America are making vodka from apples and other fruits and I suspect many of these products show faint traces of their origins. Anyway, I bought today Rain (organic corn-derived and "batch" produced), Wyborowa ("100% pure rye vodka") and Luksusowa ("Polish luxury potato vodka"). I couldn't find another vodka that specifically claimed corn as the fermentable, so I've left it at these three. Not sure when I'll get to the tasting, maybe tonight, maybe later (I need to get into the right Zen-like state of tranquility and palate reception). They are all 40% abv.


06-25-2006, 12:29
There's an interesting article in the July Smithsonian Magazine which discusses the incredible success of corn yields since the introduction of synthetically produced ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

Another interesting note - heard the other day that the occurance of lightening makes nitrogen available to rain which delivers it to the plants.... MAybe we just need more lightening!


06-25-2006, 13:30
...I couldn't find another vodka that specifically claimed corn as the fermentable, so I've left it at these three...

Gary, Tito's is explicitly made from corn. It's my understanding nearly all low- and mid-shelf U.S.-made vodka -- including Smirnoff, for example -- are made from corn. If the grain/fruit isn't listed on the label, and it's American, it's probably made from corn.

06-25-2006, 15:12
Thanks Tim. We had Tito's here for a while but not now. I'll pick up then any North American-made vodka, say Iceberg, or Schenley, or (numerous choices) because it would be good to have a second corn example. I was doing some web searching on Rain, I found a statement that it is distilled 7 times. This seems a daunting number of distillations and I hope some faint character of the organic corn mash can still be detected. The Luksusowa is distilled 3 times. The Wyborowa bottle doesn't say, I would think 3 or 4 times. If I get Schenley's vodka, that would probably have passed a still 3 times. For those interested in some of the technics of vodka production, my readings over the years have suggested that grain neutral spirits has detectable amounts of esters, aldehydes, mineral solids and/or higher alcohols. Many countries have laws which limit the concentrations of these for GNS production. In the U.S. to be vodka, the GNS must have no distinctive aroma or taste. To achieve this, some GNS is subjected to further distillation (e.g. an extractive distillation) or some kind of filtration to further neutralise the taste. Still, my experience is while meeting the legal test (which is quite general as one can see) in practice different vodkas have slightly different tastes. Some of this comes from the congeneric remnants in the spirit and some comes perhaps from the kind of water used (although generally dilution is done using demineralised water). The difference won't be detectable by the average consumer and certainly not when the drink is mixed, but tasting neat might disclose some differences for some. So I'll embark on this solo taste test and see if I can taste anything of the original materials from which these drinks were made, and whether Rain seems to stand out and if so whether there seems any basis for suggesting the organic corn is doing the work. Right now I'm sipping a NDOT courtesy Tim S. so the vodka will be reserved for another night. :)

06-26-2006, 07:05
Not to discredit anything said here, but I believe that what makes some organic products "better" than conventional equivalents is that most of the time, the organic is made in much smaller quantities with a more hands-on approach. Someone growing organic product, in theory, cares more and is more invested in the end result.

06-26-2006, 07:35
Someone growing organic product, in theory, cares more and is more invested in the end result.

Reality is consumer demand has changed organic farming into large scale production. One of the largest is Earthbound Farms; they have over 24,000 acres. If you have purchased any prepackaged organic lettuce mixes, it probably came from them.

06-26-2006, 10:03
This is an example of the responsiveness of the market system.

I agree with Jeff that the small-scale approach may add value to products beyond what the organic element does to the point of effacing the role of the latter. It would be interesting to taste that juice I was talking about made the same way, one with organic tomatoes and one with regular tomatoes (there is a large range of the latter too, plus quality depends also on time of year, etc.). Short of the chance to do this it is hard to say if the organic adds anything but I think it may, on the basis of imperceptibly improving the product. A holistic contribution, one might say. :)

I've had some organic beers and they were good but I couldn't say radically different from regular beers. But again, everything contributes I think to quality. If a bourbon is made the same way as another but the barrels used for one are made from wood naturally dried and the other from same-source wood artificially dried, maybe the naturally dried wood barrel bourbon would be better. I think it would be.

I'm not greatly optimistic I can scope these vodkas including the Rain but if I can detect which is made from what fermentable I would consider I'd done not too badly, especially if I can tell the Rain from the other corn one. But this won't "prove" anything, I know. But if I mess up it won't prove anything either. We are in the realm possibly of informed conjecture..


06-26-2006, 11:51
I would think that a bigger factor in any different flavor observed in an "organic" whiskey would be due to a greater geographical limitation on the grain source than from the organic/non-organic production. Corn is generally considered a fungible commodity in the U.S., but there are no doubt subtle differences in the flavor of corn grown in different places under different conditions of soil, climate, rainfall, etc. Whereas corn bought on the market in general could be from anywhere or everywhere in several states, organic corn is more likely to be from a specific source, and thus is more likely to demonstrate differences from the market-wide average. The barley used by Bruichladdich in production of their organic malt whisky did come from a single farm, which may well have been as responsible for the distinctiveness of the resulting spirit as the production methods.

How much of that difference would still be detectable after fermentation, distillation and barrel aging is another question. But my limited experience with brandy (where cognacs and armagnacs must be made from fruit from specific regions) suggests that the source of the ingredients can be a factor in the final character of the spirit.

06-26-2006, 12:28
Good points. I really feel about such things it is a matter of impression, informed guessing as I said about whether organic this or that can help. For those interested, the search function at www.jancisrobinson.com, a wine-only site to which I belong, discloses fascinating exchanges and discussions whether organic production and bio.. (I forget the full word) elevation practices improve wine or not. The site is subscription-only for the part where many of these discussions occur but I see access is unlimited currently for a trial period. Anyone who looks in Your Turn should see my post where I ask Jancis Robinson (one of the world's leading wine writers) about something called reduction in wine and whether the concept - and suggested remedy - can apply to whisky. The site as I said is wine only but sometimes people write in (basically, me) asking about other drinks.


06-27-2006, 09:53
Elkydoggygog is exactly right. It's an ethical point. Growing stuff without the use of petroleum and chemicals is a good thing. There are certainly issues surrounding its practicability, but the concept is not simply new-age gobblygook, as Cowdery would have it seem. That's absurd. Also, if a product says "organic" on a label, it has been grown and processed under conditions that are pretty strict.

The point about genetic engineering is an interesting one as well. There is an ethical component here as well--I don't like the idea of manipulating genetics for yield, etc., and choose non-modified foods when I can.

As someone above noted, the corn we use today is radically different from that used 200 years ago--it's certainly nice to be able to go get a dozen clean, sweet and bug-free ears from the local farmstand to accompany my hamburgers. However, I would imagine that the type of corn used might radically change the taste of a bourbon. You could fit what I know about distillation in a shotglass, but think about the difference between the generic tomato you purchase at the supermarket, wrapped in plastic and shipped green, and the Brandywines or Cherokee Purples you take from the garden. There is just no comparison--the latter exhibit all the good "tomatoey" qualities that make this fruit kick ass. Wouldn't using heirloom strains of corn, rather than high-yield and pest-resistant but thin in character grains, perhaps result in desireable characteristics? After all, the difference between Budweiser and Sam Adams is not only in the recipe, or how/where they are brewed and aged, but in the quality of the ingredients, right? Boston Brewing is not using the same hops as A-B . . .

06-27-2006, 10:07
Well, you could grow an intensively bred modern corn in an "organic" fashion and an "heirloom" variety in a modern way with heavy use of nitrogen fertilizers. I don't know what variety BT used for Rain. But certainly an heirloom type might give more flavor. We had a discussion here some time ago that pancakes made from coloured corn (e.g. blue corn) and certain other heirloom types tasted like night and day from ordinary corn pancakes. I wonder what kind of corn was used by Samuel M'Harry to distill in 1810. I would think this information must be known, i.e., by agronomers, agricultural historians, etc.


06-27-2006, 20:28
I would agree with Gary that an heirloom variety of anything may be more flavorful. Varieties of vegetables grown on a commercial scale are typically selected for their ability to survive transport from field to the consumer's table. In my opinion, taste has been sacrificed for the sake of robustness and surviving travel.

Finding out the variety of corn used in the 1810 mashbill could be interesting -although I bet it could prove difficult to compare to the varieties used in todays' mashbills, as that is probably propriety information.

06-28-2006, 00:21
POS = Power of suggestion. We see something labeled as special and we pay extra for it and WANT it to be better so it is in many cases to us. But is it actually better or just different? In the case of Gary's organic juice, is it the fact that it's organic or the way it's processed that makes the taste unique? Or even maybe a different strain of tomato used? We want to say organic because that's what we've always been told. Personally, I'm with all of you who say that veggies from your own garden taste better than store bought. And why? I think a lot has to do with the fact that most of the time they are fresh off the vine, out of the soil, etc. Anytime you pick a fruit or vegetable you have seperated it with the rest of the organism that is promoting it's life cycle and it begins to deteriorate, slowly at first, but then that begins to accellerate. Because they use no preservatives, organic foods must be rushed to the market faster than their more common generic types and are therefore have had less time to deteriorate. That's my theory, anyway. Seems like some of it might be retained from my food science classes years ago but I can't be sure.

06-28-2006, 01:35
I've been skimming through this thread about organic vs Non Organic and I think a lot of it boils down to the quality of the process by which the product is created. I believe Jeff stated this earlier. Someone else was talking about organic coffee being better than say Folgers. I'd say that's the same as comparing small batch premium bourbon to Beam White. Also the use of organics as an ethical decision. I went through a master's program in Biomedical ethics and somehow I wouldn't call organics an ethical question, strictly speaking. Its a decision and a commitment to a lifestyle. Yes, products extremely dangerous to the environment shouldn't be used to excess where it becomes damaging, but I don't believe that's ethics, in my mind, its common sense. Voltaire said, "Common Sense is anything but common." But it still exists. From what I've read in journals there are many others who agree with me. (As well as some who disagree.)
But back to our real topic, Frankly I'm not very interested in purchasing an organicly made whiskey. I typically buy superpremium whiskeys and from what I've read on this site nearly every other person here drinks them as well. I want the highest quality product that I can get (for the money) and if thats organic that's fine if it's GM that's fine too. I just want it to be good. I want the base grain to be of the highest quality however that grain is created I'm not too concerned as long as its the best and well ast least remotely safe.

Think Green. Go Yellow. Ethanol Rules. That's why I drink bourbon. I'm helping to save the world. :cool:

06-28-2006, 17:18
In addition to what I've said in this thread already, let me add that as far as every single American whiskey producer is concerned, corn is corn. It's not a quality issue. To quote me (page 8), "grain is really a commodity. All of the distilleries use U.S. No. 2 grade corn and similar standard issue rye and wheat. They all buy from the same suppliers."

06-29-2006, 07:01
I want to jump in here,but to write everything I have to say is too daunting a task. It would be a short book before I was finished and I would revise my opinion in important ways six or eight times before I finished.

First, Organic is a magic word and can change one's perception dramatically. In other threads I have mentioned that I was once very interested in essential oils. I remember nosing two bottles of cedar essential oil in a shop and trying to decide which one to purchase. A salesperson came up and told me, "See, this one is Organic! It's more powerful!" And we all know how much cedar farms rely on chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides.... The organic cedar oil was more expensive and I didn't like it as much so I didn't buy it. However, I am sure that many others Much Preferred the organic product. I am sure that, for them, it had more 'power' than the other oil. Magical thinking isn't rational, but it is powerful. Put a sprig of parsley on the plate and the steak tastes better. It's true. Thousands of tons of the stuff in used in just this way in restaurants all over the world. Hardly anyone eats it. (I often do.) Those restaurateurs know what they are doing, know that it makes a difference in the way their customers perceive the food they eat, brings them back for more, but it has nothing to do with flavoring the steak. It is 'magic.'

Ps. No, I am not anti-organic.

06-29-2006, 11:01
My .02 cents.

I can't understand why people are singling out organic producers as somehow using a magic name to fool people to sell product. Food companies have been doing this for decades and they do it everyday with packaging, advertising, etc. What you term "Magical Thinking" is better known as "Marketing". :grin:

I could say "Koser" is a b.s. mumbo jumbo magic too. Some mfgs have a pretty big customer base that wants Koser and they follow the Koser process and put Koser on the Label. Is Koser Better? Will YOU pay more for Koser? Same goes for non-Bgh, etc.

Non of these have hard science behind them that they are in fact "better" or "More Healthly". They are just different and for a certain customer base.

These companies follow rules set by the FDA as to what guidelines have to be met to put a claim on a label. Even if you think Organic is bunk, you still know that mfg followed some process to be able to put Organic on the label.

Anyone remember the "low carb" craze?

Hundreds of companies slung out these products simply capitalizing on the phrase "low carb". Some were good (taste and health wise) but most were bad, taste and health wise. They simply contained low carbs, but could be loaded with trans fats, salts, sugars, etc.

On top of that, in the last 20+ years most major food manufacturers has created cheaper and cheaper and also unhealthier products by using cheaper ingredients. But they've spent money on packaging and advertising to drive people to buy those cheap products.

bottom line:

Organic costs more because producers use higher costing ingredients and they must adhere to stricter process than non-organic that costs the mfg more. Same as Koser, etc.

This increased cost is what we call "value added". Something the consumer is willing to pay a premium for, when compared to the base product. Organic milk vs. non-organic milk. Koser vs. Non Koser.

Distributors and retail chains also take their markup.THey get their % accross the board and mfgs don't tell them how much to mark up. You can be assured that when something like organic gets hot, distributors and retailers will mark it up much more than a mfg. Mfg are usually held to strict pricing guidelines regarding timeframes for changing prices.

There are good tasting Organic products.

There are bad tasting Organic products.

There are well run organic and non-organic companies that are not opportunist but put out great quality products.

There are badly run organic and non-organic companies that are more opportunist and willing to cut corners for the quick dollar.

06-29-2006, 12:14
I think every situation is different and the customer is entitled to decide what to buy and whether the advertising claims are valid. Recently I bought some Lay's chips I liked, they seemed less salted than usual and less greasy. Then I looked at the label, they had in fact half the amount of salt normally used and instead of trans fat (or whatever the "bad" kind is) they used a better kind, and less. The claims were evidently true and I would buy them again. I tend to give business a fair amount of credence, it is bound by fairly strict advertising laws (here and in the U.S.) and I think the consumer gets a better break and more choice from big business (although there are 1000's of medium and small companies in the food businesses too) than elsewhere in the world (the EU excepted which has similarly stringent rules). So people pay their money and decide. I know that tomato juice was great and I will buy it again, whatever the cause of its quality. The shrivelled lettuce said to be organic, that tasted worse than regular lettuce, that I also bought last week, well I won't buy that again. Kosher is different than organic because it is a set of food preparation rules, which are faith-grounded, as are the halal rules for Moslems. As you said there are large markets for those, and not just in those communities (e.g., as I see from the ubiquity of Mogen David wine which is Kosher wine). If the extra rules to make foods and drinks comply are followed the non-ethnic companies get a few more sales points out of it and that's fine. The point I am trying to make is the tremendous flexibility and fundamental fairness of the market system. The system is responsive to demand, to peoples' choices; that is why there are increasing ranks of organic products in supermarkets. Where business plays fast and loose with the rules, they run the risk of legal sanction, or public opprobrium through adverse publicity. In different types of economies you don't get that, the public there eats what is put on the shelves and doesn't have input into what is sold. Finally, I think we all would agree the consumer has responsibility, to think about what he is buying and to take with a grain of salt some advertising. All products need to be promoted and there is an element of exaggeration almost by definition in a lot of advertising. But people know that or should know that and all in all I feel we have a better, more informed system in terms of what we eat (and otherwise) than anywhere else I know outside the EU.