Thursday, March 02, 2006

Organics on the rise

I just caught part of a show called "American Consumer" on PBS. On today's show they discussed something that's been particularly important to me lately - organic foods.

In the U.S., organic foods are regulated by the government, which is reassuring because you know that if you buy something labeled organic, it truly will be organic. Here's a little bit about the labeling process per USDA Organic Standards Fact Sheet.
Products labeled:

1. 100% Organic must be just that—100% organic ingredients.
2. Organic with the USDA Seal must contain 95% organic ingredients by weight.
3. Made with Organic Ingredients must contain 70% organic ingredients by weight.
4. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list specific organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

The show mentioned that the demand for organic foods is majorly on the rise which is encouraging to me because organic farming is so much better for the environment and organic animals are treated much better. Plus it shows that consumers are interested in improving their health by buying foods without heavy pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals.

They mentioned on the show that arsenic is fed to conventional chickens. It seemed so preposterous to me that I thought I misheard it. So I looked it up and found an article called "Chicken: arsenic and antiobiotics" on the Consumer Reports site. It may not be as scary as it initially sounds, but still - I wouldn't want my child to eat chicken that had consumed arsenic in any form, though I know she must have when we were still eating meat (and not buying organic at the time). And how many years did I eat chicken (after I stopped being a vegetarian but swore off beef) that was tainted in this way? Eep.

The expert from Consumer Reports that they interviewed said the most important things to buy organic (to get the most bang for your buck so to speak) are produce first; dairy, eggs, and meat second; and then processed foods third.

When I first started buying organic, fruits and veggies were my main priority (though I don't buy all of them organic - just can't afford it). Now that I've been doing it for a little bit, we're trying to budget for organic dairy (cheese) and eggs as well. And our soy milk/tofu/tempeh are all organic as well.

I really think that the investment in organic foods (which, according to the program generally cost 50% more than conventional foods) at this point will only be beneficial to our health down the road. It sucks that there is such a big difference in cost for something that is better for you, but perhaps as the demand for organics grows and more farmers pick up this method, the price will go down. That's my wishful thinking anyway. ;) Maybe if the demand is high enough and people stop buying conventional foods, all farmers/producers will convert to organics. How awesome would that be? :)

For more consumer information about The National Organic Program, click here.


At 3/02/2006 11:11 PM, Blogger Tiffiny said...

This has always been an issue for me. Cost of good food. So poor people cannot eat organic, healthy food? We eat organic when I can afford it. It sucks because I'll go to Whole Foods and walk out with one bag, and $40 less in my wallet. I always buy organic milk, and then produce. I've been trying to do the same with meat as well. We don't eat much meat, at least that I cook. Otherwise it's horrible fast food. I swear it's always from one extreme to the other for me. Anyway...I just wish that it didn't cost so much. Just think, many years ago all food was organic, and cheap. Now we have to pay extra for more natural type stuff? Makes absolutely no sense to me.

At 3/03/2006 12:33 AM, Blogger amygeekgrl said...

I totally hear you, Tiffany. It sucks that eating healthy is something only the well-off can afford. Why isn't everyone's health important or affordable?
And those damn fast food companies keep up w/ their dollar menus, etc., and make it very convenient for the less-well-off folks to go there for a quick, easy, cheap (and totally unhealthy) meal.
I could go on and on about all of that, but I will stop. Must sleep. ;)

At 3/03/2006 12:50 AM, Blogger SonjaOutdoorMama said...

Thanks so much for the information Amy! I find that when I spend good $$ on food I am more likely to use it with care and enjoy it. Back in the old days people had to make do with what was in season. Sometimes I wish I lived back then. We do all of our fruits and veggies organic from "doortodoororganics", and I try to purchase meat from sources that I know and can go visit here in CO. But that's where it ends for me...I need to get more informe...locally!
Thanks for the reminder

At 3/03/2006 8:24 AM, Blogger Amy said...

I couldn't have said any of this better myself. I agree that organic food should be affordable for everyone and that might come about by the higher demand. We already spend nearly $600 a month on food, we don't eat out, I make Aidan's baby food, and while we don't eat cheap crap, we eat healthfully but that's without organic food. Imagine my food bill if we did!!!!! We can't afford any more than that for groceries.

At 3/08/2006 7:49 AM, Anonymous Miriam said...

I had a tough time switching to organic a few years ago. I couldn't justify the cost. Then we visited this vegan/organic bed and breakfast in vermont and the owner said to me, "if you don't start buying organic the it will never become in high enough demand to become cheaper." That really made sense to me - we have to support it in order for it to be accessible again. So we bit the bullet and pay the extra money. I think in the end it evens out anyway. Other people spend less money on produce and more on meat. I spend most of my grocery expenses on produce but I am getting less pesticides and more viatmins and minerals, nevermind giving the environment a fighting chance with saner more ethical farming methods.

Pretty much everything we buy now is organic. I think it's totally worth it in the long run! Thanks for sharing this info.


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