What's the big deal with organic food anyway!

These days there seems to be a lot of pressure to only eat organic if we want to be healthy - but is it true?

Most of us know that organic food is better for us, better for the environment and in the case of animal products, it's generally better for the animal. And for those who don't know or have forgotten the whys and wherefores and the details, here's a quick run-down.

The term “organic” refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Specific requirements must be met and maintained in order for products to be labelled as "organic". Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications, and must remain separate from conventional products. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers, and sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Because of the lack of preservatives, organic food is generally fresher as it has a shorter shelf life. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and be given organic feed. They may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal-by-products.

More and more these days the large supermarket chains are joining the organic bandwagon and there is a myriad choice of organic products on our shelves, but is organic food always better and worth the extra cost? Not necessarily and here's why;

Some foods are far more susceptible to, and will absorb more of the pesticides than others. The following is a list of the most contaminated products, often referred to as 'The Dirty Dozen' - from worst to least; Apples, Celery, Sweet bell peppers, Peaches, Strawberries, Nectarines, Grapes, Spinach, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Blueberries, Potatoes

Conversely, others are less affected; this next bunch are 'The Clean Fifteen', in that they are the least contaminated. In order of least contamination they are; Onions, Sweet Corn, Pineapples, Avocado, Cabbage, Sweet peas, Asparagus, Mangoes, Eggplant, Kiwi, Cantaloupe, Sweet potatoes, Grapefruit, Watermelon and Mushrooms

So it's my belief that we really don't have to obsess about organic food all the time, and certainly from a cost point of view it's worth choosing carefully what you buy organic and what you don't.

The term organic can be misleading sometimes; organic eggs for example means the chickens must have been given organic feed, have been allowed minimum access to the outside and cannot have been treated with hormones or antibiotics. However...they only need to be outside for a few minutes, (yes minutes) a day, they are still allowed to have their beaks clipped and to be force moulted. As for organic 'feed' - pastured chickens don't eat feed, they eat bugs and worms etc. so the organic feed they eat isn't necessarily the right food for them, it just happens to be organic...

Another reason to potentially avoid organic foods, (although the word avoid is a little strong) depending on where you live, is the origin of the produce; I would much rather buy my produce from a non organic local farm than an organic one thousands of miles away. Not just from the travelling distance point of view but some foods from other countries may not be quite as organic as they seem; not everyone has the same rules. Many smaller producers simply cannot afford to certify as organic and stay in business, so it's more important to check for yourself how local farms operate, many are more ethical and 'organic' in the way they do business than some larger food suppliers who merely tick the right boxes and pay lip service to the rules.

So yes, organic food is, for the most part, the better option but it's really worth looking a little deeper to find the truth. It does take a bit of research but once you know where your food comes from and how it's produced, you will have the knowledge and the confidence to know you're doing the best for you and your family - happy 'hunting'...

(Use the image above as a quick check-list for when you're shopping - just right click and save!)

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