Why eat organic foods?
Feeding your family wholesome meals can mean adding organic foods to the diet.
Almost everyone remembers hearing an older relative say, Apples just don't taste the way they used to. There are plenty of reasons we can ascribe to that statement: no one's taste buds have the zing they did in childhood. Allergies, medications and smoking all affect how we taste food. At the same time even from random new-stories, we suspect that something else may be at work when Aunt Jen complains about her piece of fruit.
We have all become increasingly informed about and sensitive to the impacts that air and water pollution, chemical use like pesticides and antibiotics and medications can have on our bodies, both to our benefit and to our detriment.
One Reason For Organic Food
Aunt Jen is probably right. The apple she remembers grew on a tree in her backyard. No one did anything to the tree except check the rope on the tire swing once in a while. The apples weren't beautiful, and you had to check for worm holes. Nobody remembered just what kind of apple it was, but the taste was wonderful. You have just determined one of the reasons why increasing numbers of people eat organic food.
Another Reason For Organic Food
Aunt Jen's tomatoes were good, too. When her family moved to the city, they would still drive out to Miller's Farm Stand for the Millers' tomatoes, corn and peaches all summer long. You could see the trees and the plants, and the Millers said the only thing they used for fertilizer was manure. Here is a second reason why people may eat organic food. You know more about what you're putting into your body.
A Third Reason For Organic Food
A third reason to eat organic food is based on the concept known as biodiversity, support for the wealth of varieties of food sources that do not meet the criteria (predictable growth, temperature tolerance and long-distance-shipping durability) that most fresh grocery-store foods must meet.
Remembering rain-forest discoveries, we are likely to wonder if a not-so-pretty fruit or an enzyme from a hard-to-find animal might possess keys to health that have not yet been discovered. We as a society are becoming aware that we do not live on earth alone.
The Definition of Organic Food
What is organic food? The 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, part of the Farm Bill, authorized the U.S. Department of Agriculture to establish a National Organic Program, setting national standards for production of organic food. The standards address how organic food is produced including environmentally-beneficial conservation of soil and water; the absence of antibiotics, hormones, conventional chemical pesticides and fertilizers; and humane growing practices including grass feeding and free-range feeding.
Critics point to exceptions or interpretations that allow farmers to sidestep organic regulations. But organic-farming advocates cite the helpfulness of regulations in producing wholesome food. Both farmers and producers of multi-ingredient foods are required to be very specific about food sources in order to earn a USDA organic rating.
- Organic: This is the the certification seal used on fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products. The Organic seal on a multi-ingredient food like cereal certifies that the food contains at least 95-percent organic ingredients by weight.
- 100% Organic: This is the certification that means all ingredients (except salt and water) are organic.
- Made with Organic Ingredients: This is the certification that means the food contains 70- to 94-percent organic ingredients. The label must explain and may feature as many as three organic ingredients on the package.
How to Find Organic Foods
In addition to farm stands and urban green markets, grocery-store chains are joining health-food stores in providing a wide range of organic food products. Enough variety now exists to assure that you will not have to wrench around your family's food preferences to eat organic food. There is, after all, no reason to serve organic eggplant to a family that dislikes eggplant of any kind.
Some organic foods are priced higher than their conventional equivalents. Higher prices used to be a function of rarity. The small farmer growing delicious organic beets had to include costs of production that would have been lower for a huge agribusiness. These days, as more and more people seek out organic food, higher prices are a function of scarcity: the beet-farmer is besieged with demand for more, more, more.
As you begin to explore organic food, you may wish to try organic alternatives to some of the conventional foods your family eats the most. Starting with a few staples helps you control both your food budget and menu planning better than trying to go organic all at once.