Does organic food turn you into a jerk?

Do you like to pontificate about organic food, your CSA and the evils of big ag? Then you may feel morally superior to others; you may be a jerk.

Continuing with Dr. Oz-inspired themes of insufferability and sanctimony, a new study confirms what I’ve anecdotally observed for decades: preaching organic makes you a jerk – and not in the adorable Steve Martin way, more in the self-perceived moral superiority way.

A paper published last week in the Journal of Social Psychological & Personality Science found that exposure to organic foods can “harshen moral judgments.”

As cited by Time magazine, “There’s a line of research showing that when people can pat themselves on the back for their moral behavior, they can become self-righteous,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Kendall J. Eskine, assistant professor of the psychological sciences department at Loyola University in New Orleans, told NBC’s Today show. Eskine and his team showed research subjects photographs of food, ranging from überorganic fruits and vegetables to fattening brownies and baked goods. He then gauged the primed eaters’ moral fiber with stories that warranted judgment, like one about a lawyer who lurks in an ER to try to persuade patients to sue for their injuries.

Reacting to the events on a numbered scale, the organic-food participants were more judgmental than those in the comfort-food category. They were also more reluctant when asked to volunteer time to help strangers, the study found, offering only 13 minutes vs. the brownie eaters’ 24 minutes. It’s like the group had already fulfilled its moral-justice quota by buying organic, so it felt all right slacking off in other ethics-based situations. Eskine labeled it “moral licensing.”

“There’s something about being exposed to organic food that made them feel better about themselves,” he told the Today show. “And that made them kind of jerks a little bit, I guess.”

The research doesn’t mean much, and I’m probably citing it only because it confirms my worldview, but still, there are a lot of preachers out there.

I’ll stick to focusing on food that makes people barf: organic, sustainable, local, dolphin-friendly or otherwise.

The abstract is below:

Wholesome foods and wholesome morals? Organic foods reduce prosocial behavior and harshen moral judgments
Social Psychological and Personality Science
Kendall J. Eskine
Recent research has revealed that specific tastes can influence moral processing, with sweet tastes inducing prosocial behavior and disgusting tastes harshening moral judgments. Do similar effects apply to different food types (comfort foods, organic foods, etc.)? Although organic foods are often marketed with moral terms (e.g., Honest Tea, Purity Life, and Smart Balance), no research to date has investigated the extent to which exposure to organic foods influences moral judgments or behavior. After viewing a few organic foods, comfort foods, or control foods, participants who were exposed to organic foods volunteered significantly less time to help a needy stranger, and they judged moral transgressions significantly harsher than those who viewed nonorganic foods. These results suggest that exposure to organic foods may lead people to affirm their moral identities, which attenuates their desire to be altruistic. 

Horse meat increasingly on the menu in Florida

I still miss my hockey friend Steve. His tales were – and still are — so outrageous, his job with the provincial government so boring, and his life with four kids on the farm near Guelph so … comical?

I know he misses me because he can’t find reliable goaltending – and the faculty team hasn’t won the annual tournament since my shattered nerves backstopped the team to victory in 2005, despite Naylor’s total lack of defense.

He was defense in name only.

At one point Steve and his wife had 19 horses. He used to say that it started out, every time they had another kid, the wife got another horse.

Steve had four kids, not 19.

He’s been cutting back on the horses over the past few years, but not in the way they are doing it in Florida,

Today’s USA Today reports that South Florida is seeing a jump in the horse meat market as restaurants quietly serve up the illicit fare, butchers provide it to trustworthy customers and police officers find slaughtered horse carcasses on roadsides.

At least 17 butchered horse carcasses have been found in Miami-Dade County this year, the highest annual number ever recorded in the county and the year is not over, said Detective Edna Hernandez.

Richard "Kudo" Couto of the South Florida Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. – and I have no idea why his handle is Kudo — said there has long been an underground market for illicit horse meat, mostly in the rural areas of South Florida. In recent years, sales have become more widespread, he said.

He said some butchers in Miami have stolen frozen horse meat in their stores for trustworthy customers. Sometimes the meat is sold in neighborhoods out of coolers.

I buy my eggs at a new-age store so they’re safe; Barry’s got my back

One of the few pleasures in watching the movie, Baby Mama, is Steve Martin’s turn as Barry, the narcissistic, new-age genius who runs a Whole Foods-like organic supermarket chain, seen here transferring his success to v.p. and mama-to-be Tina Fey.

Stores like Whole Foods are easy to poke fun at because of their earnest idiocracy. But when a lifestyle choice crosses into public health outcomes, I stop snickering.

A buyer for one of these new-age stores sent the following to a supplier:

“I’m still not too crazy about pasteurized just as I’m not too crazy about ultra pasteurized dairy products in general. All one has to do is look at movement in our region regarding raw products, raw milk, and one quickly learns that our customers are for the less processed the better. In my 25+ years in the grocery business I don’t recall ever having eggs returned to the stores because they were bad. I haven’t refrigerated an egg in over 20 years myself personally, so although "salmonella" is currently getting a lot of press I’m not convinced that it really applies to eggs. When I worked at (another store) for nearly 13 years, we didn’t have one incident that I was aware of regarding "bad eggs," and we NEVER refrigerated them until the law passed making refrigeration mandatory. We must have sold a billion eggs in those 13 years.”

I wouldn’t want this guy purchasing eggs for me, and not just because of his annoying use of air quotes – what Jon Stewart calls dick fingers. Salmonella is getting more than a lot of press; it makes a lot of people barf. And eggs are a source.