Christopher Ranch’s California Garlic Blog

It’s no mystery that fresh garlic is one of the most popular, versatile ingredients ever. What remains relatively unknown, however, are the distinct flavor, quality and health differences associated with varying garlic varieties. Christopher Ranch, a family farm in Gilroy, Calif., grows a California heirloom garlic that is a leader in each category. All Garlic Is Not Created Equal. We’ll show you why.

Risks Associated With Widespread Chinese Garlic Use

The influx of Chinese garlic into the U.S. has brought with it an array of safety, health and environmental problems for consumers, customers and the globe.
Considering Chinese garlic represents nearly 60% of fresh garlic distributed in the U.S., it is a legitimate reason for concern.
Retailers and foodservice providers are now required to place a Country of Origin Label on all produce items, so it’s important to recognize where your garlic is coming from, as there are major safety, health, flavor, freshness and environmental discrepancies between California-grown and Chinese garlic:
1.) Transportation Time, Freshness.
California grown is offered year round and requires only days to reach customers and consumers, whereas Chinese garlic can take up to 60 days to reach U.S. markets.
2.) Food Safety.
Chinese garlic suppliers are not regulated by the strict food safety and quality-control guidelines California growers follow.
Christopher Ranch, like the majority of California growers, follows Good Agricultural and Manufacturing Practices, which strictly control and monitor pesticide and fertilizer use, testing water for contaminants, testing bacteria levels of garlic and enforcing fair labor standards, just to name a few. For example, a detailed crop report must be filed with the California Food and Drug Administration for each field harvested, including a list of the fertilizers and pesticides applied and their respective dates and time. None of these practices are mandated in China.
Christopher Ranch also undergoes third-party food safety audits conducted by the FDA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and independent auditors, and in 2008, we achieved near-perfect scores. Chinese suppliers, on the other hand, are not subjected to third-party tests.
Finally, Christopher Ranch can trace all products back to their point of origin, whereas it is nearly impossible to track Chinese products. Each case packed at a Christopher Ranch facility is coded with a lot tracking number, which provides such information as the date the garlic was harvested, the date it was packed on the production line and which employees were on the harvesting crew.
3.) Nutrition and Flavor.
California-grown garlic contains higher levels of valuable oils and nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids and proteins, than Chinese garlic, according to brix and allicin tests conducted by the National Food Laboratory. This translates to a more healthful and flavorful garlic.
4.) Flavor.
Sensory evaluations, conducted by the nation’s leading chefs, have proven that California-grown garlic maintains its flavor throughout the life of a dish, whereas the flavor of Chinese garlic can drop up to 50%.
5.) Environment and Health.
The carbon dioxide involved with transporting Chinese garlic to the U.S. is enormous and has significant implications on the environment and your health. For example, the trip from China to California – 7,300 miles – generates about 4.4 million pounds of pollutants annually, including about 4.4 million pounds of global warming pollution. This pollution is responsible for up to 14 cases of asthma and 260 missed school days (for respiratory problems) a year, according to information from the National Resources Defense Council.
6.) Chinese Refrigeration.
* Only 15% of all perishable products are transported by refrigerated vehicles in China, compared to nearly 90% in developed countries. Currently about 90% of meat products, 80% of aquatic products and a large amount of dairy products are managed without cold chain logistics.
* Cold storage capacity in China covers only about 25% of total output, compared to 70% to 80% in developed countries.
* China currently has 30,000 refrigerated vehicles, which is only 0.3% of total cargo transportation. Meanwhile, there are only 6,970 refrigerated railcars, which is only 2% of the total 338,000 railcars. Only about 25% of perishable food is transported with the refrigerated railcars, which is only 1% of total rail transportation.
* The total cold storage capacity is about 7 million square meters, which is mainly used for the storage of meat and aquatic products. Most cold storage facilities are significantly out of date. As a result many products need to be moved manually and hand-stacked. The location of storage compounds the problem for Chinese producers: cold storage warehouses generally are in major port cities or first-tier markets such as Beijing, but few are close to production areas and second-tier cities are very underserved, according to a USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Report.

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