Low Chinese garlic supplies entering the U.S. and strong domestic demand for fresh garlic has subsequently raised the price of Chinese garlic here in the U.S. – welcome news for domestic garlic growers, like Christopher Ranch, who have been burdened by unreasonably priced Chinese garlic imports for years, according to an article in The Produce News.
In recent years, domestic garlic producers have experienced great difficulty competing with lower-quality Chinese garlic that is dumped at an incredibly low price in U.S. markets, due to cheap production costs (very little food-safety and quality-control guidelines) and mass volumes. The situation elevated in 2008 when, for the first time, imports of Chinese garlic surpassed domestic garlic production, threatening the livelihood of U.S. farmers and potentially the health and safety of consumers.
The recent spike in Chinese prices reflects the market’s replacement of irresponsible Chinese garlic prices (which have failed to consider the overall costs to the environment, to the farmers who aren’t getting a reasonable return and to the consumer receiving inferior product), with more realistic price points. Because many Chinese farmers have not been justly compensated throughout the last several years, they’ve been forced to cut garlic acreage and opt for more profitable products – the main force behind the drop in Chinese garlic volumes, according to the article.
Because Christopher Ranch (and many other domestic growers) have always focused on growing a high-quality, flavorful, safe product – and paid higher operating costs to do so – it has been impossible to lower prices to that of Chinese garlic.
Christopher Ranch abides by strict food safety and quality control practices, including the Food and Drug Administration’s Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices and is subject to third-party food safety audits. Christopher Ranch also has an extensive traceback system in place, wherein we can track product from the consumer to its point of origin, in the wake of a product recall. Money is involved in all these programs, which, to Christopher Ranch, are far too important to ever be eradicated.
Meanwhile, China’s record on food safety has been less than exemplary, and consumers are unable to receive the same level of assurance regarding the safety and traceability of Chinese produce, as they can with domestic produce.
Furthermore, Christopher Ranch’s California heirloom garlic is more flavorful, fresher and healthier than Chinese garlic, considering Chinese garlic can take between 30 and 60 days to reach U.S. markets, eroding all three aspects. Multiple independent tests also have confirmed the superior flavor and health of California heirloom garlic.
Tests conducted by the National Food Laboratory revealed that California heirloom garlic contains higher levels of essential oils and nutrients, including vitamins, amino acids, minerals and proteins, than Chinese garlic, translating to a consistently more robust flavor and stronger health-improving agents.
Additionally, leading chef, Cary Neff, conducted a sensory evaluation comparing Christopher Ranch’s California heirloom garlic and Chinese garlic, wherein he created three recipes using equal amounts of both varieties. The results consistently showed that California heirloom garlic maintains its flavor throughout the life of a dish, whereas the flavor of Chinese garlic dropped dramatically – at times, losing up to 50% of its intended flavor. Money also is involved in testing, which Christopher Ranch values as a critical and credible endeavor.
The good news is, for the time being, it appears the tide is slowly turning, as Chinese suppliers are being forced to charge a more equitable price.
Price aside, consumers deserve the most flavorful, fresh, healthy and safe product possible – California heirloom garlic.
To ensure you’re selecting high-quality California heirloom garlic, either look for the Christopher Ranch label, or – if it’s bulk garlic in a bin – look for bulbs that are off-white in color and more heart shaped, with roots intact. Those traits indicate California grown. Chinese garlic, in contrast, is bright white, with flatter, rounder cloves and shaved roots. Retailers are required to post Country of Origin labeling on all produce items, but items are often mislabeled, or not labeled at all, so be sure to ask the produce manager if you’re unsure.
Remember – All garlic Is Not Created equal!