When my daughter was born nearly six years ago, Mr. Crumbs and I committed to buying organic milk, chicken and eggs. Shortly thereafter, we also decided to buy organic produce according to the dirty dozen and clean fifteen, as often as the budget allowed.
As the price of food continues to rise, we fight back by evaluating the food we buy. We consider what we buy, the quality of what we buy, and whether or not our original decisions still fit into our real food mentality.
For example, we’ve noticed that the price of milk has gone up $1.50 since last year. We’ve been experimenting with dairy-free options, and have even considered forgoing all milk unless it has been cultured into yogurt or kefir. No definitive decision has been made yet, but we’re not sticking our heads in the sand and pretending the issue doesn’t exist.
So when a reader made the comment that she wasn’t going to buy organic produce anymore after doing some research for her own family, I started wondering about our own decision to buy organic produce too… especially since I’ve heard practically nothing but rave reviews about organic foods since day 1.
Why would a fellow real food eater purposely stop buying organic produce? What skeletons did she uncover in her research that I should know about? Were they really so bad that it warranted swearing off buying organic produce entirely?
I decided to do a little digging myself and as it turns out, there’s a plethora of “hidden” information on organic food and the organic industry as a whole. I say “hidden” loosely, because it’s not buried beneath links and PDF files to the point of no return.
It’s just that unless you choose to look, you won’t find anything.
That was the reasoning behind my asking the question “Why do we do the things we do?” in the Crumbs weekly newsletter last week. After reading several books and articles and coming across enough little known facts about organic food to make my head spin, I wasn’t so sure about our commitment to organic food anymore.
These 16 facts I’m sharing today are only a small glimpse into the organic industry – an industry that has grown at a rate that is all but sustainable for the long term.
I’m prefacing these facts with a disclaimer that I’m not calling organics bad or good, nor am I calling conventional bad or good. I firmly believe, and will continue to encourage every family to make the best decisions that suit their needs.
But I also believe that your decisions should be well informed.
With that said, here is some background information to set the stage.
DEFINITION OF ORGANIC
Many people don’t know the true meaning of the word “organic.” Some take it to mean natural, pesticide-free and local. Others take it to mean certified to the utmost degree.
Here’s what it means to the United States Department of Agriculture, and for our purposes, the REAL definition of organic:
Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
I know that language is somewhat ambiguous, so here a few highlights to help explain what those “approved methods” include, in plain English:
- that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used
- pesticides, if used, must be derived from natural sources
- these pesticides must be applied using equipment that has not been used to apply any synthetic materials for the past three years
- the land being planted cannot have been treated with synthetic materials for that period either
- producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors
Another post that you might find helpful is one that I wrote on the labeling of foods in the supermarket. You’ll want to read that one too, if you haven’t already, so you can understand what all the stickers on our produce means.
14 FACTS THE ORGANIC INDUSTRY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW