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Do you know the difference between traditionally grown and organic?

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Thursday, January 6, 2011

Do you know the difference between traditionally grown and organic?

I know that sometimes as you are grocery shopping, you walk around and the traditionally grown fruits and veg sometimes look exactly the same the only difference appears to be an inflated price tag!!!  Is there really a difference with fruit and veg?  What do the labels mean on the meat I see at the store?

What is organic farming?
Organic farming practices are designed to promote soil and water conservation, and decrease pollution.  For example, instead of using a chemical weed killer to ward off weeds in crops, organic farmers use crop rotation and use mulch and manure to prevent the growth of weeds.  As well, instead of using chemical insecticides, organic farmers will use other insects and animals ( such as specific birds) to ward off the insects or disrupt their mating habits.  As well, instead of giving antibiotics and hormones to animals used for meat, they give them organic feed, allow them free grazing and  rotate areas for grazing (to prevent risk of disease), clean housing, and give a balanced diet (based on the animal type).  No growth hormones or antibiotics are allowed to be added to feed and given to the animals in by USDA organic standards.

What do the labels mean?
Now this is the important part, and what most people (including me) get tripped up on!!  So, any food manufacturer or farmer that labels and sells foods as organic must be USDA certified, and they have very specific requirements.  Foods that are labelled as 100% organic can carry the USDA seal; usually this consists of fruits and veg and other single ingredients BUT in certain cereals/crackers/baked goods/etc they use all organic ingredients and can also label as such and use the seal. Now, if you just see organic on the seal, it means that 95% of the ingredients are organic, anything less and they cannot use that term!  If a product contains, at a minimum 70%, organic ingredients then they can label as "made with organic ingredients".   I always find it most confusing with meats, because at grocery stores they will label as "no hormones" "antibiotic free" and use those other clutch words that I look for BUT if they don't have the seal, they are NOT organic!!

Are organic foods better for you?
There is nothing to say that the fruits and veg are 'better' for apple is an apple and the fiber/nutrient content doesn't change. The difference is the environmental factors and the price tag; so I understand how some people don't really care about that.  But, for the meats and dairy, the health effects of the hormones and antibiotics are currently being studied but have already been associated with early puberty for children and are being studied with breast/colon/prostate cancer.

What to do?
I know that I have the ability to do what a lot of people don't have time for and/or don't want to do; I go to farms around where I live. I know the farmers and sometimes I even get to see the animals (I try not to because I tend to name them, love them, and then can't eat to allow me to eat, I just talk to the humans!) I like to know where my food comes from, and I know that they follow the USDA regulations.  But, they also sell the meat and veg at local co-ops and at farmers markets, so if I don't have time to go all the way to the farm, I have places that I know sell what I want.  I know all the people at the co-ops and they are just as friendly as I am with the farmers, and they are in the know about EVERYTHING!!  They won't sell stuff unless it is legit organic.

My point is, go find a co-op near you, or a farmers market, or an organic market....honestly, Whole Foods is a good back up, but its not always worth your whole paycheck and you don't need to spend a trillion dollars to eat healthy, you just need to talk to people and find out the scoop.  Read labels, and don't be fooled by them!  I don't want to push my feelings on you, and I don't always eat grains as 100% organic, I really try to, but if I am in a pinch and need to buy whatever is at the corner store, I do it!  But, my fruit/veg , meat, and dairy (especially the meat and dairy) is all organic.  I try to limit my exposure to hormones and antibiotics that I don't need.  And, I think that it is important to do the same for your children (when you are pregnant and when they are out in the real world!) The more we limit bad stuff into our bodies, the better we will all be in the long run; I understand that going to farms isn't always plausible, but try to find a co-op or somewhere that sells affordable organic foods, those places are out there, you just need to look!!

Yours in Good Health


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