Organic is not always the way to go, especially when you have the choice to buy locally-grown and raised food. Here are 5 reasons not to buy organic.
- USDA Certified Organic produce can come from many miles away, or even another country, which means it’s lost a lot of nutrients–and taste–along the way. There are many small farmers that simply can’t afford to go through the process of USDA Organic certification, but instead opt for natural, chemical-free and sustainable farming methods. In these cases local farmers are organic farmers in the true sense of the word. During those times when you can’t get to the farmer’s market and find yourself at the grocery store you’ll have to decide for yourself if the organic produce from Mexico looks as fresh as the conventional produce. If it’s wilted, it may be better to go with the conventional broccoli instead. And take the opportunity to tell the manager that you want organic produce that comes from local farmers instead of so far away.
- Organic produce that comes from far away doesn’t taste as good as food grown locally, picked fresh and delivered to your local market. It just doesn’t. Anyone who’s tasted a store-bought organic tomato versus one grown in their own garden knows that there’s a huge difference between the two. Locally-grown fruits and vegetables are grown for taste instead of shelf-life and they’re picked when they’re ripe, full of flavor and nutrients. And studies have also shown local produce at farmer’s markets costs the same, and sometimes less, than conventional produce–and certainly less than USDA Organic produce.
- Aside from the GMO-free feed, those organic eggs at your grocery store may not be what you think they are. It’s common to assume that organic eggs are produced by free-roaming chickens that are eating and doing what they naturally do. That they have as natural as possible a life that is free, social and pastured. The truth is that when very large egg producers say “free-range” they don’t mean the hens are out in a pasture walking around. They’re cooped up in a large building, ranging within the tight spaces available among the multitudes of chickens. The other major problem with these eggs is that the chickens are eating grains instead of bugs, which affects the nutrients in their eggs. In fact the FDA has just published a new draft guidance on Egg Safety that would allow these huge organic producers to add a small covered porch, which would give only 1-3% of their hens access to the outdoors. If you can find someone locally, it doesn’t have to be a farm, who is raising egg-laying hens in a humane way, where they’re allowed to range free eating insects and such, buy your eggs from them!
- Locally-raised chicken, beef and pork is better than organic because it comes from a farmer that you trust and know. Maybe you’ve visited the farm with your kids for a tour to see their farming practices and how the animals are treated. Maybe you’ve talked to the farmer at the market and she’s actually told you that although she can’t afford USDA organic certification she believes she’s better than organic–that she goes above and beyond the USDA recommendations. You can be sure that the organic beef at the grocery store doesn’t have growth hormones, antibiotics and has been fed an organic diet, but you don’t know how the animal lived, nor how it was treated. Besides wouldn’t you rather support your local cattle farmer than a big organic beef operation?
- Buy local–from farmers, artisans and even your neighbor. This isn’t about food elitism or policing what other people eat. It’s simply about choosing, when possible, to support the people who live near you that work so hard to grow, raise and make the food we eat. These people care about the quality of the food they produce and although they might not be USDA Certified Organic, they’re practices are probably even better. If you can’t always afford it, that’s fine. But the idea is to be committed to this goal so you carry through on it when you can. Remember it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing situation.
Aside from the reasons above buying organic food is the best way to go if you’re trying to avoid toxins in your diet, as a lot of us are, and if you want to support companies that feel the same way. The USDA Organic standards aren’t perfect, but it’s all we’ve got at the moment. An even better certification would be “Sustainable” because food coming from this type of farm has been grown with inputs, practices and processes geared to sustain not only the environment, but the animals and people too. Read how sustainable farms do it better here.