Thursday, August 4, 2011

Organic Food – Nutritious, Safe and slightly more expensive (Unfortunately)

Conventionally grown vegetables, grains, beef, chicken and dairy products are typically more economical but research is beginning to indicate that true organic products may in fact be safer.

Organic farming practices revolve around active soil and water conservation and the reduction of many forms of pollution. Organic produce and meat is produced using non-conventional methods of fertilization, weed control and disease prevention.

Identifying organic products can be an interesting adventure. Any product labeled as organic must be USDA certified. Only producers who sell less than $5,000 a year in organic foods are exempt from this certification; however, they're still required to follow the USDA's standards for organic foods. Complicating this for the consumer is the way the term organic is or can be used on products. To be considered 100 percent organic products must be either completely organic or made of all organic ingredients. If products are at least 95% organic they can be called Organic.

Then you go to the products that can claim or say “made with organic ingredients,” that requirement is for 70% of the product to be Organic. Anything less than 70% and the use of the term Organic on a product label is not allowed by the USDA.

Characteristics of organic farming that differentiate it from conventional farming includes the use of natural fertilizers, the use of beneficial insects or disruptive mating of harmful pests, hand weeding or mulching to reduce weeds and active rotation of crops from season to season.

Research indicates so far that the organic foods are probably not more nutritious, and taste is in the eye of the beholder. Fact is however that the products are typically more expensive, may be less pleasing to the eye (odd shaped or colors). They do have significantly less food additives, processing aides and food preservatives which appear to make for a healthier intake.

In my experience vegetables bought in season seem to be fresher and more tasteful and free range beef (organic) and chicken is certainly more enjoyable, tasty and clearly more healthy.  When given the option, we go organic.