There has been much in the news lately about the advantages of eating organically produced meats, vegetables and fruits. National sales of organics have risen about 20 percent every year for the last few years. It is favorable to animals when they are raised in healthier environments, and studies show there are health benefits for consumers who eat foods produced without hormones or pesticides. Here are some quick facts that support the reasons to purchase organically produced meat and vegetables.Standards
There are certain guidelines that a farmer must adhere to in order to certify an animal as organic. Unlike conventionally raised livestock, organic herds must be kept in an environment that accommodates the natural behavior of the animal. For example, livestock such as pigs, goats and cows have to have access to pasture property. Healthy animals may be given vaccinations against disease, but may not be given any hormones or antibiotics in the absence of illness. While animals that become ill may be administered medication, they may not carry the label of “organic” when slaughtered. Along the same lines, food for animals raised organically cannot be produced with the use of pesticides.Environmental Benefits
Raising animals and plants organically results in a decrease in overall detrimental environmental effects due to restricted growing practices. By feeding the animals organic foods and not using pesticides in plant growth, there is a decrease in pollution from pesticide run-off affecting the water system. Organic crops are produced through sustainable means, using measures such as crop rotation, natural soil enrichment and pest predators, which assist in maintaining the integrity of the land and soil. In addition, certified organic foods cannot contain any genetic modified organisms, which promotes biodiversity in agriculture and livestock.
Conventionally produced meats contain antibiotics and growth hormones as a consequence of normal farming practices to grow healthy, large animals. In contrast, organically farmed animals are not given any hormones or antibiotics, unless they become sick. Medication is sustained in the meat of the animals and passed along to the consumer. Although there has not been any research proving a direct correlation between consumers of conventional meats and the proliferation of disease, there has been much speculation about the effect these drugs have on the health of the public. The growth hormone that is typically given to cows during conventional farming has been linked to higher rates of hormone-based cancers, such as breast, prostate, ovarian and testicular. It is not surprising that the bovine growth hormone given to cows in the United States is banned in Europe due to these possible health risks. In addition, the antibiotics given to cattle have been linked to the high rates of resistant strains of bacteria in this country.
While there have been many studies that show organically produced fruits and vegetables have more nutrients than their conventional counterparts, there are not a lot of studies that show the same for organically produced meats. One study did report, however, that the meat of an organically produced chicken has a higher level of antioxidants and essential fatty acids.1Cost vs. Benefits
There is no question that organically raised animals will have fewer pesticides, hormones and antibiotics than their conventionally raised counterparts. The farming practices will be gentler to the animals and the natural landscape. However, is there any benefit to outweigh the cost of these food items?
Organic foods are typically 10-40 percent higher in cost to the consumer than conventionally produced items. This fact is due to the lower demand compared to production, higher labor input and increased marketing/distribution costs of organic foods. However, when you take into account the health of the environment and the individual, it seems that the benefits of organic foods can outweigh the cost. If you don’t want to spend the extra money up front on organic foods, here are some tips to buying organic more economically:
- Buy in bulk. Most organic farmers will sell a whole animal to individuals. Buy in conjunction with family, friends or neighbors who can also benefit from these wholesale purchases.
- Buy from the source. Most organic meats and vegetables are cheaper when purchased directly from the farmer. Find a community shared agriculture farm in your area, here.
- Purchase the majority of foods organically. If you only purchase some items organically, choose wisely. The pesticides, hormones and antibiotics causing harm to the health of consumers accumulate in children at a higher rate than adults. Thus, there are greater long-term benefits to feeding organic foods to young people. Fruits and vegetables such as berries, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, cherries, cantaloupe, peaches, celery, apricots and green beans have been shown to have the highest pesticide residues. These should take priority when incrementally changing your diet from conventionally raised foods to eating organically.
At Dr. Harter’s Botanicals we purchase organic herbs to use in all of our products and are proud to bring you all the benefits to give you the most optimal health!
1Lahan, K, et al. Relationships between flavour, lipid composition and antioxidants in organic, free-range and conventional chicken breasts from modelling. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2006 May-Jun; 57(3-4):229-43.