Organic food, until some time back, could only be sourced from certain health stores. Since these foods did not find any shelf space in the supermarket, it presented a dilemma to those people who wanted to adopt an organic diet and move away from processed or hybrid produce. Today is a different story altogether. From your local farmer’s market to the supermarket in your locality, all have a clearly marked organic food aisle. Clearly, it’s the dynamics of demand and supply. The demand for organic foods has compelled supermarkets to make it more accessible.
Some time back, we wrote a post on organic living and what it entails. It only made sense to give a little more insight into organic living and write about organic food to help consumers understand its subtle nuances and then make informed dietary decisions.
To start the conversation let’s understand that ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are not the same and most certainly are not interchangeable terms. Organic farming practices promote soil and water conservation and aim to be environment-friendly. They use natural fertilizers to feed the soil and use crop rotation or mulch to control weeds. Farming of ‘natural foods’, on the other hand, may or may not use pesticides and fertilizers. Natural foods are generally minimally synthesized and have no stringent standards of certification simply because of the lack of strict guidelines to enable the same.
In most cases it is assumed that natural foods are minimally processed and do not contain antibiotics, artificial flavors and hormones. So if you are looking to buy fruits and vegetables that do not contain any toxic synthetic pesticides, chemical petroleum based fertilizers, toxic synthetic herbicides and no hormones then only organic foods guarantee this.
Having established the difference between natural and organic, we also need to say that organic doesn’t extend to the vegetarian section of the aisle. Meat produce such as poultry, cattle, and pigs etc. too can be organic. So what makes meat organic? The principles essentially remain the same.
* There should be no use of growth hormones or antibiotics in raising poultry, cattle or beef
* The animals must be raised on certified organic land
* They should consume organic feed that is free from pesticides and hormones
* They should have outdoor access and should not be bred in captivity
Just like the vegetarian section, there’s confusion between natural and organic meat. To begin with, for meat to be labeled organic, the animals have to have access to direct sunlight, fresh air, have clean bedding and an opportunity to exercise. Natural or traditionally bred livestock might or might not have access to all or none of these. Often livestock reared traditionally live in such close quarters that they have no place to move. Chickens are cooped up in cages one on top of the other.
Secondly, unlike conventionally raised poultry and livestock, organically raised livestock and poultry are not fed plastic pellets or formulas that contain slaughter by-products, manure, and urea. Organic poultry is not fed any genetically engineered grains, antibiotics and hormones for growth. They are also raised organically no later than two days after they hatch.
The other category of chicken is the Free Range Chicken. Unlike organic chicken, the only consideration of Free Range chicken is that the poultry has ‘free, continuous access to the outdoors for more than half of their lives’. Free Range producers can feed their poultry standard feeds that are used in conventional production units. Seeds and grains for Free Range Chicken can contain synthetic amino acids and feedstuffs which have been solvent extracted.
Animals and poultry reared for non-organic meat are often given antibiotics and growth hormones. While these antibiotics seemingly do not affect the nutritional component of the meat, they can easily enter the bodies of the people consuming this meat. Increased exposure to such hormones has seen to increase incidences of thyroid problems, endometriosis, cancer, allergies, asthma, uterine fibroids etc. Antibiotics in the food of animals can cause resistant bacteria strains which can disrupt and damage healthy human gut bacteria.
So if you believe in the philosophy of ‘we are what we eat’ then it’s time to give organic food a serious thought. After all, organic foods, both fruits and vegetables, and meat and poultry are reared and produced using the highest quality of control. While organic food might be more expensive on the pocket it is only so because of the exhaustive and extensive practices that go into making them not only safe and good for our bodies but sound for the environment as well.
So what have you decided? Will you be taking the organic turn?