I absolutely hate grocery shopping. I think it may be because I am a terrible cook.
For good cooks, the grocery store is an exciting place of adventure and imagination where they get to skip through the aisles while dreaming about the delicious meal they are going to make, that all their family will praise them for.
Not for me.
I always feel so pressured at the grocery store. I don’t want to forget something. I want to make healthy choices. And I don’t want the bag boy to offer to take my cart out to my car in fear that I will have to endure an awkward conversation about the weather or how my day was, when I just had the longest day of my life!
So, as I stand in the produce aisle at the grocery store and look back and forth between the organic strawberries and non-organic strawberries, I begin to feel the pressure. I want to make sure I make the right choice. Do I spend the extra money on the organic ones? Are they healthier? What is organic anyway?
I end up choosing the organic strawberries because I start to feel guilty that maybe, just maybe, those non-organic strawberries are not as good.
Have you been there?
We all want to make healthy choices for ourselves and our families, but sometimes we are bombarded with so much information that we don’t even know what the healthy choice is anymore.
Organic food has been popping up in mainstream news everywhere! The U.S. organic retail market is now valued at $35 billion. So, there must be something I need to know about this organic food. Heck, maybe I should look into investing in the organic market. But first, I want to know what this food is all about.
The media and social media has led me to believe that organic food is better. Better is good, right? But, as I stand in the grocery store deciding between the organic and non-organic strawberries, I want to know HOW organic food is better and if that’s really the case.
I just so happen to know someone with more information.
Instead of reading about all the organic praise and hoopla in the media, I personally went straight to the source and interviewed a 30-year veteran in the U.S. field of agriculture.
Some of the things I discovered may be surprising to you.
Myth #1 Organic farms do not use pesticides and fertilizers
This is probably the biggest misconception out there about organic foods. It’s simply not true.
Organic foods are grown with the use of pesticides. Organic farming requires the use of an approved list of pesticides and fertilizers. It does not mean that they do not use them, it just means they can only use certain types.
On conventional farms, synthetic (man-made) pesticides are used. Synthetic products undergo years of testing by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before they are approved to be used on a farm. There are also strict limitations on the amount of pesticides they can use. Conventional farmers can not just go and spray however much pesticide they want on a crop.
The pesticides that organic farms use are natural, meaning non-synthetic. They’re not man-made. Natural pesticides are “biologic pesticides”. They may be a type of plant or mineral that has toxins that kill the bugs and weeds infesting the crops. Or, they may use insect predators themselves.
Since these are typically not as effective at keeping the weeds and pests away from the plants, more of it is actually used! We also have no idea what the effects of these “natural” pesticides are long-term.
Organic farms also use fertilizers on their crops. Instead of synthetic, petroleum-based fertilizers used on conventional farms, organic farms can use yard trimmings, food waste, liquid fish products, and animal manure from poultry, cows, and horses.
Conventional farmers are penalized if there is any risk of animal waste products on their crops. In fact, they have very strict regulations about an animal going into a crop. If an animal is found in the crop, they must clean up the contaminated area. This is because animal waste can carry microbes and bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. Yet, organic farms actually use animal waste (manure) as fertilizer. To me this seems strange.
The synthetic fertilizer used on conventional farms is more regulated against diseases and has been for years. I am curious to see if their is a trend in the amount of food recalls that occur from bacterial contamination of food coming from organic versus non-organic farms.
Myth #2 Organic farming is regulated more than conventional farming
Organic farms must be certified by the USDA in order for them to use the organic label on their products. While the USDA is labeling it organic, they have over 40 different organic certification companies, all with different regulations. These agencies are responsible for certifying whether a farm is USDA organic certified. Small farms don’t even require certification.
Unless it is labeled 100% organic, the USDA requires that only 95% of the product actually be organic to be certified.
Conventional farms are regulated by their individual state’s Department of Agriculture. They are audited regularly and inspections are done regularly by various Food Safety Inspectors to guarantee safe food and farm practices. The farmer is subject to numerous inspections within one growing season and they must provide traceability of the food from the ground to the table.
Many proponents of the organic industry also say that animals on organic farms are treated better. The fact that the animals come from an organic farm just means that they were fed organic feed and allowed outdoors for some time.
Just like there are bound to be some conventional farms that walk the line of animal mistreatment, there are going to be organic farms that do the same. It’s not going to depend on the type of farm, but the farmer.
Myth #3 Organic foods are healthier
If you are making the decision to eat organic based solely on your health, you may be wasting your money. This study out of the UK and then another one coming later from Stanford gained a lot of popularity from organic-skeptics when they concluded that organic foods are not any more nutritious than non-organic foods.
The USDA certified organic label does not signify that the food is healthier or more nutritious. All it indicates is that the food was grown, handled, and processed without the modern-methods of conventional farming.
Also, just because it’s organic does not mean it’s local, and therefore does not mean it’s fresher than non-organic. It can still come to your grocer from China and say “organic”.
It is better to create a healthier lifestyle by focusing on eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Packaged organic foods are still processed. They are not going to provide you any more nutrients than a non-organic version would. Packaged foods contain a lot of salt, sugar and calories, organic or not. Eating more fruits and vegetables, however they are grown, is more important.
The organic industry is making billions of dollars from marketing their products by instilling a sense of fear in consumers. Backed by the government approved USDA Organic Seal, the organic pushers have allowed even untruths about conventional farming methods to spread in order to increase their own wealth.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t be buying organic, but that you should know what you are buying. Just because the mainstream media says it, it doesn’t make it true. Everyone needs to make their own decision about organic food.
Don’t make a decision out of fear from what you heard somewhere. Don’t just read one Facebook post or listen to one organic eater and make your decision based on that. Do your research, explore both sides of the argument, and decide what’s best for you!