In Praise of Costco: More and more Organic Selection

Jacob Schor, ND

July 21, 2007

I have just returned home from a shopping expedition to Costco feeling exuberantly joyous. Perhaps it was the extra scoop or two of coffee beans I miscounted into the coffee-grinder earlier this morning. More likely, the deeply buried genes that control my psyche still rejoice and celebrate any return from a successful hunting and gathering expedition into the wilderness.


I have shopped at Costco for years, mostly because ecologically and economically it makes sense to buy in larger sized containers. Less cost for packaging, less time and energy spent on repeated trips to purchase small quantities. Moreover, I enjoy the multicultural aspect; when Sophie was younger, our game was to count how many different languages we overheard in the store.


Today was different. Of course, today is the day Harry Potter Number Seven was fork lifted out on pallets, and scooping it into my shopping cart for pennies over $18 when the cover price is $34.99, must cheer one's soul. It was more than that.


There's a form of psychological delusion in which one begins to believe that everything that is happening in the outside world is a reflection of one's inner thoughts. This is also the theme of some of the world's great religious thinkers as well, but let us skip that train of thought. I confess that my first experience of this was when I hitchhiked to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun. On my return trip I heard a song with more or less that line in it. Let's skip that memory as well. It does seem that Costco is spying on me and changing what they sell based on what I say to patients in the privacy of my office and some days based on what I think.


They can't really be doing this but it seems that more and more there are things to buy that give me pleasure. “USDA Organic” labels on product signage increase monthly. Without question, Costco has given some person in their organization the assignment to replace as many products as possible with organic versions. It is more than just the organic labels, it is as if Costco has my office room bugged; when I tell people to eat more of a specific food, Costco seems to have it on the shelf next week.


Almost a full aisle of freezer space is now devoted to berries. I tell people to make up frozen berry smoothies and Costco's buyers go mad buying up berries. In the last six months the berries have all gone “Organic.” Where once there were only frozen strawberries, berries now occupy almost half an aisle. I write about blueberries protecting the brain from oxidative injury and they add organic blueberries.


I glorify raspberries because they contain ellagic acid which protects against and hinders the growth of breast and prostate cancer and they add three pound bags of organic raspberries to their freezer.



I write that an even better source of ellagic acid is pomegranate juice, and sure enough they stock pomegranate juice.


(Unasked they add a bitter chocolate covered pomegranate icecream bar to their collection, and I think I've died and gone to heaven)

The news on resveratrol, a chemical found in dark red grape skins gets published and next thing I know there's a pallet of Paul Newman's grape juice over at Costco.



I have lost count of how many products seem to pop up that I'm looking for or sending people scavenging for. Occasionally there are even frozen wild blueberries. I consider blueberry cobbler one of the seven great wonders of the world. You can't imagine how happy I am when I get the opportunity to ‘gather' wild blueberries into my cart. Of course there are endless quantities of frozen green beans, peas, corn, that are now organic. I confess I do not get as excited about them.




I wrote a newsletter about mushrooms having an aromatase inhibitory action that might protect against certain cancers: Costco has dried shitake mushrooms, dried porcini, fresh white button, portabella and of course vast quantities of canned mushrooms


I tell people to eat more fish because of the essential fatty acids and Costco piles new varieties of fish into the cooler. I tell people I no longer trust the farm raised salmon, and Costco add four more varieties of wild salmon.


I tell people to eat more nuts and Costco sells more nuts. Raw, roasted, you name it, you can buy it in substantial quantities at decent prices.


I write about the benefits of ground flax seed in breast and prostate cancer and Costco adds big tubs of organic ground flax seeds to their cereal aisle.



I tell a patient to cut out cow's milk cheese but allow that goat milk is probably ok and next thing I know Costco's got two varieties of goat cheese plus at least one of sheep's milk.


I think about baking fruitcakes for next Christmas. I don't say a word: I don't write about it, I just think about it and sure enough, Costco has anticipated my desire; Dried cherries, plums, apples, apricots and blueberries on pallets; I'm stocking up now and will bake the cakes next month to give them adequate time to soak in rum. Ok the dried fruit isn't yet organic, but it's a far sight better than the traditional candied fruit used in these recipes. Soak it in enough rum and it works just fine.




Of course, the people at Costco are not spying on me or reading my newsletters (or my mind for that matter). They have set an agenda in their corporate thinking to move their customers forward, helping them make food choices to benefit their health. I applaud them for this. We all have choices in how we conduct our lives, both our private lives and our working lives. These choices can be based simply on our own narrow self-interests, or include the effect of these decisions on others. Costco has apparently decided to factor in the health of their consumers and the ecology of our planet into their decision making process. We should all be so motivated. Perhaps realizing that I am seeing the results of their agenda in my everyday shopping excursion is what has given me such good cheer today. In a world that is rarely motivated this way, it is a pleasure to realize that a large corporation is motivated by what is best for all of us.