Organic for Dummies

This week’s post is about organic food. The subject turned out to be quite complex, and I was not able to complete the post in time for my usual post. I apologize for the delay but I hope you will find it was worth the wait.

A decade ago, “organic” was more often paired with “chemistry” than “produce.” Now organic food is an entire industry complete with regulations and oversight. Though there is some confusion about what organic actually means, generally it refers to food that is produced in the most natural way possible. For produce, it means limiting the type of pesticides and fertilizers used as well as restricting genetic modification. For meat and dairy, it means animals were not given hormones or antibiotics.

Choosing foods with no or safer chemicals sounds lie a no-brainer, so why wouldn’t someone buy organic over non-organic food? Two words: market forces. Organic food is generally more expensive, sometimes quite a bit more expensive, than other food. When money is tight — even when it’s not — it can be pretty intimidating to think about increasing an already stretched food budget. Is it worth it?

Proponents of organic food make three major claims: organic food is healthier, tastier, and better for the environment. Organic foods are more expensive, in some cases, far more expensive, than non-organic counterparts, and ultimately the consumer needs to decide if the benefits outweigh the cost.

Organic food is healthier than traditionally reduced food
Organic food fans claim that organic produce has less chemical residue than produce grown non-organically, and that it has more vitamins and minerals. According to the US Department of Agriculture definition, organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water. If you are concerned about chemical residues you can prioritize buying organic produce that has soft (edible) skin like apples, strawberries, and celery. Items like citrus, avocados, and potatoes, that either require peeling or are grown underground, are more likely to be safer.

Claims that organic produce contains more vitamins and minerals do not appear to be true. See http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/science/earth/study-questions-advantages-of-organic-meat-and-produce.html?_r=0 for more information.

When it comes to meat and dairy, the jury is out. Beef and milk may be worth the extra cost, but conflicting information makes the decision less than clear cut. Organic milk should not be confused with raw milk. The former is produced with a variety of restrictions on how the cow is treated; the latter refers to how the milk itself is treated (or not treated, in this case). For more information about organic milk and meat see
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_milk

Organic food is tastier than non-organic food
Obviously, how food tastes is a matter of opinion. The claim is that because organic farms use healthier practices, including healthier soil, the food that results reflects these values. Think of the difference between a homegrown tomato and one bought in the store. I’m not a tomato fan, so I couldn’t say, but I’m told that there is a huge difference. This may or may not be true generally, but there are many reasons unrelated to chemical use why homegrown tastes so much better (i.e. pride, letting the fruit ripen longer, eating soon after picking, etc).

Organic food is better for the environment
Once again, there is a great deal of conflicting information regarding the environmental benefits of organic farming, and the issues are far more complex than I am able to analyze. For pro/con, please see the links below.

Pro: http://www.ota.com/organic/environment/environmental.html
Con: http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/2012/120904.html

For more information about organic foods, please see the following resources:

http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3004446&acct=nopgeninfo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_movement

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/04/science/earth/study-questions-advantages-of-organic-meat-and-produce.html?_r=0

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-buy-organic-dairy-meat.html

—————-
Judith is our Active Mama’s Munchie Maven and Yoga Maven. That means she teaches Active Mama’s Cooking Basics Chef classes, and is also our instructor for Active Mama’s Mommy Yoga with Judith.

Judith is refreshingly laid back, exceptional at what she does, and is the able mother of 3 beautiful children.

Judith comes well-accredited. She earned her Masters of Public Health and her passion is helping people find ways to make their lives healthier.

If you have questions for Judith she can be messaged throughhttp://www.meetup.com/Active-Mamas.

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