Food for Thought

The recently released results of a metadata analysis found that organic meat and dairy products do indeed have some nutritional differences when compared to conventional beef and milk. The organic meat and dairy has significantly more Omega-3 fatty acids (yay!) and significantly less iodine (boo!) than ‘regular’ meat and milk. As usual, the benefits of this are being touted by some and downplayed by others, making the “debate” over organic v/s conventional same old flustered cluck as always.

Part of the problem is that not all “organic” is really the what you are thinking of when you pay extra for the label. An animal that has left to forage in a farm yard, as opposed to being held in feed lots or pens or coops on a factory farm, will produce healthier beef, pork, milk, and eggs. Considering the damage factory farms do to the environment and its role in antibiotic resistance in humans, its worth getting grass-fed or pastured food from a local non-factory farm even if the products weren’t so much better.

organic cow

organic farm chickens

However, you can factory farm using organic feed and still call the products “organic” … even though they carry almost none of the benefits conferred by grass-fed/traditional farm methods. This is especially pernicious in the egg agribusiness.

fake organic eggs

Why buy that kind of “organic”? It’s not what you actually want vis-à-vis health. It’s not really the organic you thought you were buying. Of course it will test the same or only marginally better than a conventional factory farm! That’s why the EU is passing laws to make sure when you buy something with an organic label, it’s the kind of organic you were hoping for.

Then there is the debate over buying organic fruits and vegetables. While it is true that conventional vegetables and fruits have roughly the same nutrition as organic produce, organically grown foodstuffs have FAR less synthetic pesticide residue on them. Of course, some people would argue … so what? It’s not like it is a risky amount of pesticide right? And you get more pollution from the air anyway! Then there is the fact that “organic” farms can use harmful pesticides as long as those pesticides are “all-natural”. Again, the factory farm version of “organic” is not really what the consumer is after or thinks they are getting from the label.

When it is done right, organic or small farming make food more nutritious and less chemically laden. But how to tell if it is done right? Well, buy local and don’t shop for your organics at big chain grocery stores, Wal-Mart’s, or the skanky monstrosity that is Whole Foods. A little due diligence and research can help you avoid scam-organics like Horizon dairy and Natural Prairie. In fact, don’t buy anything bragging it is “natural” or “all natural” or any other vague greenwashing malarkey. Arsenic and saltwater are all natural and can thus be pumped into all natural chicken.

Greenwashing-Infographic

It is no wonder that some scientists are disdainful of organics and think those of us concerned about the impact of GMOs on the environment and our microbiota are idiots or scientifically illiterate and thus panicky over small stuff. They are looking at organics and non-GMO concerns through the lens of a big lying liar like Whole Foods Market. Well, that and the knee-jerk “all science is good because science is a objective and neutral entity”, even though whomsoever funds the research controls the results and can spin it like a whirligig. Oh, and also the “nothing to worry about here because we said so” belief system. Because wanted something tested thoroughly (like modified rice or maize, which seems to have no adverse effects) instead of just assuming it is safe before we eat it is crazy talk, I guess.

The next time you read about the results of “organic” v/s “conventional”, look deeper to find out if the organic was just conventional with a thin coat of greenwash on it and who paid for the research.

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