Under pressure by Wal-Mart, many multinational food corporations have developed organic versions of their best-selling brands, including Heinz, General Mills, Kellogg‘s, Groupe Danone, Nestle, Unilever Bestfoods, RHM, Mars/Masterfoods, Kraft, Premier Foods, Northern Foods and Pepsi-Co.
You can now get “organic” ketchup, rice crispies, and ready meals -- what started out as a method of producing healthy and nutritious food is now turning out highly industrialized multi-ingredient products.
These industrial organic foods are being marketed along with vitamin-enriched products and functional foods; in the eyes of General Mills, “organic is not a revolution so much as a market niche.”
I’m not at all surprised at this development; it was bound to happen. How could any self-respecting, profit-driven, integrity-challenged food company ever let a swelling “market niche” go untapped?
That doesn’t mean you have to buy into their watered-down, kinda-sorta-organic-even-though-mass-processed versions of what could be real food, however.
You still have the power to circumvent these con-jobs and demand the real deal.
It’s mainly a matter of knowing where to find locally harvested organic foods, buying from sources you want to see thrive, and reading packaged food labels like they’re the hottest thing from Oprah’s book club.
The fact of the matter is; true organic IS better. Both for you and for the environment.
What is Organic?
To be labeled “certified organic” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the food must be free of most:
- Synthetic fertilizers
- Genetic modification
But many argue that true organic food also entails respect for locally produced food, respect for livestock and employees, and environmentally sustainable practices -- something that is rarely a goal of large-scale food manufacturers.
Now there is also "organic" food being imported from countries such as China, Sierra Leone and Brazil, where standards, wages, and growing conditions are difficult, if not impossible, to monitor and enforce.
This is one of the reasons why buying locally farmed organic produce is your best bet when making your shopping decisions.
Organic -- More Nutrients, Less Toxins
Back in 1998, Regina Hildwine of the National Food Processors Association told the press during the debate over organic standards, "Organic does not mean safer. Organic does not mean healthier."
Well, those famous last words were NOT the last word on this issue. Studies have demonstrated, again and again, that organic foods are FAR more nutritious than their conventionally grown counterparts.
One four-year long, $25-million study into organic food -- the largest of its kind to date -- found that:
- Organic fruit and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants
- Organic produce had higher levels of beneficial minerals like iron and zinc
- Milk from organic herds contained up to 90 percent more antioxidants
They even found that eating organic foods can help increase the nutrient uptake in people who don’t eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables per day!
And, that doesn’t even take into account the health benefits of simply reducing your chemical intake, hence reducing your overall toxic load.
The 2007 report “Hazardous Pesticides in the European Parliament” reveals the disturbing truth that conventionally grown fruits are far more toxic than you might think.
Eight fruit samples, randomly selected at the GB express supermarket in the EU Parliament building in Brussels, were found to be contaminated with no less than 28 different pesticide residues, averaging almost five residues per fruit.
These chemicals included:
- 10 known carcinogens
- 3 neurotoxins
- 3 reproductive and developmental toxins
- 8 endocrine disruptors
Two of the chemicals are classified as “Highly Hazardous” by the World Health Organization (WHO), and three of the samples contained such high levels of residue that they were, officially, illegal.
That said, do keep in mind that even though organic vegetables (just like fruits) are better, don’t use this as an excuse to avoid non-organic vegetables. If for whatever reason you can’t obtain organic vegetables, non-organic veggies are a much healthier option than none at all.
Remember also, if you’re a Carb Type, most of your carbohydrates should actually be in the form of vegetable carbs, not grain carbs. Loading up on grains instead of vegetables because it’s difficult to find organic veggies will likely lead to a health disaster.
Organic Farming Protects Your Environment and Your Health
Organic farming differs from conventional farming in the methods used to grow crops, which has a major impact on your environment.
- Where conventional farmers apply chemical fertilizers to the soil to grow their crops, organic farmers feed and build soil with natural fertilizer, which is far less likely to cause any long-term environmental complications.
- Conventional farmers use insecticides to get rid of insects and disease, while organic farmers use natural methods such as insect predators and barriers for this purpose.
- Conventional farmers control weed growth by applying synthetic herbicides, but organic farmers use crop rotation, tillage, hand weeding, cover crops and mulches to control weeds.
While herbicides are not nearly as dangerous as insecticides, they still are synthetic chemicals introduced into the environment and clearly are not something that will improve your health.
The article “Better Beef,” written by California rancher Dave Evans and published in the March 2008 issue of Best Life magazine, gives a great in-depth view of the many benefits of grass-fed beef, from environmental sustainability to the sheer difference in taste and nutrient content of the beef.
Evans also offers this list of grass-fed beef ranchers in the United States, where you can find good-quality meats:
- Panorama Meats – Black Angus and Red Angus
- Country Natural Beef – Hereford and Angus
- Tallgrass Beef
- Niman Ranch – A network of more than 600 independent farmers and ranchers, and probably the easiest to find locally
- Pacific Village – Entirely grass-fed cattle since 2002