Now a days we’re seeing organic everything. Even clothes come in organic options. Maybe it nurtures that part in us that wants to make the world a better place. Or maybe it just gives us a slight sense of moral superiority? Either way, it’s time to dig a little deeper into what “Organic” really means.
Organic Isn’t the whole story
Although organic is a much better choice than factory farmed meats and vegetables, its not quite the slam dunk it’s been marketed to be. I’d be wrong to assume products labeled “Organic” are of the highest quality. It really comes down to the practices of the farm. I know this may sound like just another step you have to take in the endless journey of food options, but since eating is the one thing we’ll never stop doing, a little research goes a long way.
According to the USDA Organic vegetables must be grown in soil that has been free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides for 3 years prior to harvest. As far as vegetables go this is about as much as we can hope for. Unless you want to grow your own garden which of course I think is awesome if you have the time.
Meat, poultry and eggs are a different story. This is where I’m skeptical of the “organic” labeling. There are advantages however, especially from an animal cruelty standpoint. The USDA requires “that animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behaviors (like the ability to graze on a pasture), fed 100% organic feed, forage, and not administered antibiotics or hormones.”
All great stuff as long as the farmers actually commit to these practices. From a nutritional standpoint the argument for organic is a little less compelling.
Organic Is More Nutritious, Right?
According to a 2012 publication by Harvard’s Medical School “Researchers discovered very little difference in nutritional content, aside from slightly higher phosphorous levels in many organic foods. Organic produce did have the slight edge in food safety, with 30% lower pesticide residues than conventional foods. Organic chicken and pork were also about a third less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria than conventionally raised chicken and pork. However, the bacteria that causes food poisoning were equally present in both types of foods.”
So it appears that the main upside with organic is better treatment of animals and lower levels of pesticides. A big plus! However, pasture raised animals in my opinion is still the optimal choice. This is where we see the highest levels of nutrition, the least amount of animal cruelty and the most environmentally sustainable farming practices. Go Pastured!