Portland Tribune writer, Nate Ford, tackled this issue from a sustainability perspective in a recent issue of Sutainable Life (July 26, 2012). As he stated, “we all know we should be eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but sometimes you just have to have produce that isn’t in season”. Research indicates that consumers have a tendency to choose frozen foods.
Using a number of indicators, Mr. Ford evaluated frozen food versus canned food and in the end his verdict gave the nod to cans.
Here are the indicators and the winners:
Carbon Footprint-cans win because, although they use a bit more energy in the canning facility the distribution and storage of shelf stable products are far more earth friendly.
Waste:According to the EPA, steel cans are the most reclycled containers on earth.
Health-According to some research, both frozen and canned may be nutritionally equivalent, even superior to fresh produce that has spent along time making it’s way through the supply chain. Frozen gets the slight advantage here due to the loss of some nutrients that occurs during heat treating. The BPA issue is still under discussion, however. BPA is a substance used in the lining of some cans primarily the containers for high acid foods. A BPA alternative is in the works but studies are underway to ensure that the replacement coatings are not, themselves harmful. The very small amount of BPA that is found in canned food has been deemed to be safe. On the other hand, frozen food comes in plastic bags that while they do not contain BPA, can often release other chemicals that act similar to estrogen into the food.
Donation Friendly-A recent food drive held by the Oregon Food Bank collected 1.3 million pounds of non-perishable food for the area needy. Frozen foods are not allowed. Oregon Fruit has been a long time donor to the Marion-Polk Foodshare program that feeds the hungry in the community surrounding our plant. Through logistics efforts we also donate short coded cans to food banks all over the country.
Aesthetics- Heat treating in cans tends to dull the color of the contents while flash freezing maintains the vibrant color of produce. But if you want to make a pie, the delicious juice contained in our cans is a necessary ingredient bonus* the queen’s editorial comment.
Cost-The difference in price is variable but most of the time, cans will be the cheapest choice on a cost per ounce basis.
So next time you are shopping, veer off the perimeter and perishable track you usually follow and visit the center of the store again. You might like what you find there. Cans can be kept on the pantry shelf ready to use just when you need them, no worries about spoilage or freezer burn. It’s just one more way to add more fruits and veggies into your diet.