Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sunday Dish: What do to about Big Organic?

Hmmm, well, maybe to make this blog a little more appealing and to get a few more regular followers, I'll have to start doing something regular like "Sunday Dish". Sure, why the hell not? I'll find a story that gets me thinking, come up with some assorted opinions about the topic (I'm full of opinions...), and then share them with you! Maybe get a debate going - post a comment and tell me how you feel!

So anyway, I read a lot of news in the morning, and am usually drawn to food articles (maybe because I'm always hungry, who knows...), but this article from the New York Times got me in a pensive mood. The article talks about how large corporate interests are diluting the meaning of organic - by slowly adding lists of exceptions in food processing, stacking the boards with corporate interests, and placing dollar signs about integrity. This is nothing new, just a reminder of what we knew has been going on since the organic branding started to take off in 1995.

I've often shied away from committing to the organic culture, usually out of convenience or the fact that I'm cheap at heart, plus that I'm not all that convinced that eating organic is really going to improve my health or save the world. Maybe the environment, but things like shipping foods across large areas or requiring more water or "natural" fertilizer (still contributing to nutrient loading to our rivers) to grow organic food also gets me to become a little nervous. Not to mention that there is evidence that we have to find alternative solutions to feed the globe. There are ALWAYS trade-offs, and no decisions are easy or come cheap. The list of damning articles about the pitfalls of organic as a mass produced commodity goes on, and on, and on...

But that's a story for a different day. What I'm saddened by with this story is that the people who do decide to go organic for whatever reason (and this includes 78% of families in the US!)- maybe they are concerned about the health of themselves, or their children, or simply want to know and understand what goes into what they are eating - are being duped by large corporate interests to the tune of 28 billion a year. And slowly and continually. But look at the marketing? Who wouldn't want to buy from these nice honest farmers?
The "certified organic" label, and the faith that goes into it from the consumer, doesn't mean much anymore when a number of synthetically derived items are going into your food. Usually these additives are to maintain texture, promote taste, all the things that go into making processed food what it is and why most people are drawn to it.
Even my favorite store in the universe, Whole Foods, is one of the prime culprits for promotion of additives. I'll still shop there though, call it what you will ;-). But what bothers me is the sad migration and corruption of an honest intent, given the high dollar signs that organic labeling commands.
The solution? If you are one of these religious organic consumers, pay attention to what you are buying and don't trust anyone. Ask questions, look online, google things. An app that I find really helpful is Fooducate, which compares many items and looks at synthetic additives in foods to help you make good choices. Not buying organic foods because you don't trust the certified organic label is the best way to send the message that you don't like what is going on.

Secondly, if you are really concerned, don't buy pre-made packaged or processed food like the one pictured here, and cook yourself, from as much scratch as you can. Buy organic produce, and ask questions at the local store or farmers market. Focus on priorities and spend your money on the produce where you get the best benefits from buying organic such as stone fruits and spinach.
Finally, organic shoppers, relax a little bit, and enjoy good healthy food that is naturally low in fat and sugar and high in fiber and protein. Protecting your heart and keeping your weight down will do many wonderful things for your health, and your life, and might just be more important than following the organic label to religious zeal.
Don't forget to treat yourself to some spaghetti with american cheese every now and then when you need a treat ;-). Did you know that Whole Foods doesn't sell "american cheese"? Cheddar doesn't cut it. Kraft singles, baby! Ok sorry for the aside...
Happy farmer photo courtesy of Organic Valley Coop


  1. Well, not too much here that I can argue with (I know, bad lawyer), but the idea of organic Kraft dinner gave me a pretty good laugh.

  2. I agree that a healthy weight and heart can be a better path rather than "buying organic". But, I love "knowing" that my organic purchases are a smart choice for my 5 yr old son. Now, I question my "knowing". I'll be watching those labels like a hawk! for your "aside"...still haven't tried the American cheese and spaghetti,:)

  3. I'm not sure if people are looking for food that's healthier, or morally superior. I don't think they're the same thing. "Anatomically modern humans" invented agriculture, and for a long time it didn't include anything refined, and it wasn't clean and it didn't keep well. "We all eat a peck of dirt" as the saying goes.

    Higher contrast for links please...

  4. A lot of people seem to think that organic means healthy, but really that isn't necessarily the case. Lots of organic foods are healthy, but there are plenty of entirely organic plants that would not be good for you to eat. Organic Hemlock comes to mind as something that would be bad to eat.