This is one of those things that I struggle with every time I grocery shop. Organic produce seems so much more expensive and hard to find on sale. Do I need to spend the money? The regular produce is right next to it and is much cheaper. I debate, go back-and-forth, question, wonder, and randomly make a decision. I get home and wonder why I bought some things organic and others not. So, I’ve decided to put together more information to gain a better understanding of what I’m buying and why. I have also downloaded the iPhone app listed at the bottom to use while I’m in the heat of buying in the store and don’t know exactly what to do. SIDE NOTE: I love my phone!
WHAT IS ORGANIC?
Farmers who grow organic produce and meat use alternative methods to fertilize, manage weeds and prevent disease. Organic farming also conserve soil and water and reduce pollution. Farmers use natural fertilizers such as manure or compost; use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease; rotate crops, till, or mulch to manage weeds; give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors using rotational grazing, balanced diets and clean housing to minimize disease.
These items have all been found to be high in pesticide residue based on statistical analysis of testing conducted by the USDA and the FDA. The following lists are put out by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
These “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables that carry the highest pesticide load. If you’re going to be buying these, make sure they’re organic:
MEATS & DAIRY
In addition to the notes in the WHY ORGANIC section above, here are some reasons to choose organic meats and dairy products.
- No bovine growth hormones (BGH) are allowed to increase milk production in cows.
- No genetic mutation or irradiation is allowed.
- No antibiotics are permitted. If an animal is treated, it will not return to the herd for a year to be sure the antibiotics are out of its system.
- Organic animals must have “access to pasture.”
- Organic milk stays fresh significantly longer than regular pasteurized milk. That is because different process is used to preserve the milk called ultra high temperature (UHT) treatment.
- No preservatives.
- Organic grass-fed beef has more Imega 3 fatty acids, higher vitamin E content, and a higher conjugated linoleic acia (CLA) content which increases metabolic rate, immunity to diseases and muscle growth.
- 100 percent organic – completely organic (can use USDA seal)
- Organic – at least 95 percent organic (can use USDA seal)
- Made with organic ingredients – contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients (can’t use USDA seal)
- Check PLU numbers at the store – a number beginning in 9 means organic, 8 means genetically modified.
- Buy produce that is in-season to ensure the highest quality.
- Go locally to the source. Buy from your local organic farmer or farmers market. (I will be exploring the option of CSAs in the future.)
- Don’t be fooled by the terms “natural” or “grain-fed.” These may be fine for what you’ve decided to buy, but don’t think that they are certified organic. There are no standards for these types of terms.
- “Free range” does not include any guidelines for the animal feed
This is a great site where you can find local farms that deliver to your local groceries, sell at farmers markets, or offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) near you.
This will give you all of the information you ever wanted to know about the USDA laws and regulations on organic certification.
A great iPhone app to help you choose and store produce as well pesticide levels from worst to best.
The Organic Trade Association is full of detailed information. It is geared more towards the trade, but could be just what you intellectual-researcher-types are wanting.
Do I buy all organic? No. Do I understand all of these terms and differences in what is truly good or bad for you? No. I approach it in a manner of what makes sense to the budget and what seems natural. Since I depend on others to raise, grow, and package my food for me, I must sacrifice much control. But, I want to get it as close to how it was put on this earth for my consumption.
In conclusion, I can’t say that I have a complete grasp on what types of foods to buy for my family yet, but I’m getting there step by step. The produce list above is definitely helpful, but I’m still trying to figure out meat and dairy as well as some packaged foods. I guess it will just take time to learn and understand.
Please share your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.