The Truth About Eating “Organic”

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The Truth About Eating “Organic”

Trying to be as natural as possible, many people choose to eat organic foods. In fact, they are willing to pay top dollar for this label. Grocery stores are now marketing just for the organic crowd with natural colors and pictures of wide open pastures. The jig is up on most grocery items being grown in your own backyard, but the term organic seems to convince people that it is. It must be fairly local since it isn’t filled with those nasty chemicals and preservatives that give food a shelf life of several years, right?

Organic doesn't mean idyllic. Organic farmers have loopholes regarding the zero synthetic pesticides and zero artificial fertilizers. Find out the truth about organic.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about what the term organic means in the food and farming industry.

Organic produce is typically grown without synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers. Organic animals raised for meat and by-products are typically fed organic feed, allowed some time outdoors, and not given synthetic hormones or antibiotics.

There are some key terms to note in this descriptions. How about we start with typically. Yup, sometimes they allow exceptions to the whole “synthetic and artificial” rules. Are you picturing your beef cow out roaming the fields or your free-range chicken eggs being collected from wide-open spaces? Think again! Some time outdoors means maybe an hour or two in a small, cramped area. Free range means they can see outdoors, but not necessarily get there. It boils down to the fact that the animal is not kept in small cages. I digress.

The most important thing I hope to impart is that organic doesn’t mean idyllic.

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Is Organic better?

Organic foods do tend to be healthier options in regards to nutritional value. Without the use of artificial fertilizers and synthetic pesticides, plants increase their vitamins and antioxidants to protect themselves from weeds and pests naturally. Taste? Well, that all depends on freshness, which brings me to one of my biggest points here.

Organic at the grocery store does not mean that it was grown right down the street. Your food could be days old, maybe months. It depends how long it had to travel. That will affect taste. That will affect quality. Notice how I used the term grocery store? That is where we see the Organic label the most, again with their special setups to draw in the crunchy crowd.

The label is most common in grocery stores because the USDA makes it virtually impossible for your backyard and small-scale farmer to use that term. The term Organic is for the big-time farmer that is sending his food all over the country and probably getting that exemption so he can spray pesticides.

Is there a better option available?

So what is a health-conscience consumer to do? Buy local and put that Organic label on the back burner. Get to know your local farmer and ask questions about their growing/producing practices. Look for keywords like natural that indicate good growing practices. Organic or otherwise, local foods are going to be fresher and taste better. Shop local, support your small-scale farms and discover what fresh foods really taste like, or check out our gardening section and start your own garden plot right in your back (or front) yard.

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Organic doesn't mean idyllic. Organic farmers have loopholes regarding the zero synthetic pesticides and zero artificial fertilizers. Find out the truth about organic.

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I am a non-traditional homesteader. What is a non-traditional homesteader? I'd like to think we are the people who don't fit the mold. I am a busy mom on a small bit of property with not a lot of financial resources, but I am figuring out how to live the life I want. A homesteader's life.

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The Truth About Eating “Organic” — 7 Comments

  1. Very good topic to get people talking about. This issue is what drove me into starting a small local scale farm. Ex., many organic chicken producers still keep the birds in horrible factory houses but the mill feed that they are fed is organic, that doesn’t mean that the feed is any better of a quality. Also sometimes they just don’t have much better of a life than the mainstream production. Once you look into it there are a lot of not so happy things organic producers can get away with. Every time people scream for more regulation it ends up hurting the little guy not the big guy with deep pockets. The best thing you can do for your health is take charge of it. Know where the food you are feeding your family came from for sure. Don’t rely on someone else to be on top of it. Don’t trust some company from who knows where to be honest. Also yes it is true, the word ‘organic’ is copy righted.

  2. Backyard groceries are always better! I tend not to trust labels, they’re very abused, misleading, and have so many loopholes. I really hope that there comes a day where all my family’s food comes from our gardens and neighboring farms and no more worries about label honesty.

  3. Jessica, I always *aim* for *both* organic and local. I don’t care if the peaches sold during the winter are organic, they are from the other hemisphere, so I do not buy them. So I’ll be buying lots of organic summer fruits grown in my state this month and freezing them to enjoy when their season is over. And when apple season is over, I choose cold storage organic apples from the US rather than “fresh” apples from other countries. And I never trust the word “natural,” it gets abused so much — getting to know your local farmers is key. It’s the way to know if “free range” is truly free range, if animals have been treated humanely, etc. Your “organic doesn’t mean idyllic” is so important!

  4. Jess, If you play your cards right, you can preserve/put up MUCH, if not all of the foods your family needs. You have to follow the season, putting up what is in season. Hannaford carries many local foods. Check Uncle Henry’s for blueberries. There are orchards which carries apples well into Feb, sometimes March. I find farmer’s markets are often pricey, so I prefer to go straight to the local farmer to buy. Grow what you can, and can what you grow! Share and trade with friends/family.

    • It’s my hope to be able to feed our family between my mother and I (we each have our gardening highs and lows). I agree that the markets can be a bit pricey. Thankfully I have a Mennonite Farm and Sherman’s just a few minutes away.

  5. Good info, Jess! I too try to stay local, however since I am In Alberta, there is not much growing here in the winter. There are some things I do buy organic, like apples, greens and strawberries. Mainly because of the overload on chemicals on the conventionally grown products.

    • Yes, I am in the same boat. Maine’s growing season is so short, we have to outsource most of the year. I am getting into preserving more when it’s in season to help, but it IS a struggle.

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