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Do You Buy Organic?

Have you watched Food, Inc yet? The documentary exposes the changes in the food industry since the creation and prominence of fast food restaurants like McDonald’s.

Filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Since watching the film last week I’ve been thinking more and more about our weekly choices at the grocery store. I wonder if I shouldn’t spend more time and attention researching organic options, particularly when purchasing beef, poultry and produce.

After watching the film my primary concern is the antibiotics and hormones in meat and poultry. I currently wait for buy-one-get-one chicken sales on chicken, and stock up with fifteen to twenty packs of chicken breasts each time I find this sale. I know that each pack of organic chicken costs at least $2 to $3 more than the non-organic variety and I doubt I’ll ever find a buy-one-get-one free deal on organic chicken. I very rarely cook with ground beef or steak, but I’m even more concerned about the industrial food practices of red meat.

Still I can’t help but think that the health benefits of organic meat and chicken might be worth the additional expense. After all, can you put a price on the chance at a longer and healthier life? Having experienced many health related issues already in life I certainly want to think twice about how I nourish my body.

Strangely enough I’m not as concerned about the pesticides in produce than I am about the antibiotics and hormones in poultry and meat, but I have read that apples, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries, bell peppers, celery, potatoes and spinach are more susceptible to pesticides than other produce with harder rinds.

Last spring I planted an organic garden and I plan to expand the number of fruits and vegetables this year. After watching Food, Inc, though I’m not certain that this is a big enough change for us. While my frugal self wants to save more and more money at the grocery store, my health conscience self doesn’t want to make decisions that might impact our long term health.

At the end of the day I’m trying to decide on whether or not to expand our organic food based budget. Should I cut back on other aspects of our budget in order to spend more on organic products? What do you think? Do you buy organic products? If so, where do you focus your money, on meat, poultry, produce, other products?

Carrie

Thursday 7th of January 2010

i buy organic when i can, or at least with the things that make a difference. also, like elizabeth, we don't eat many processed foods in our house, so the money we save from that is spent on local, healthy meat and dairy. while i try to be thrifty with groceries, i don't mind spending a little extra on things that are important to me -- like supporting local farmers and buying humanely raised meat and organic dairy.

www.snowvillecreamery.com has a wealth of information about farm fresh milk.

also, why not consider a CSA for your produce or even your meat? i love the idea of knowing exactly where my food comes from.

i really enjoy your blog... it provides me plenty of food for thought (bad pun but i couldn't resist!)

OrganicTrade

Tuesday 5th of January 2010

Thank you for this thoughtful post. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) would like to share its perspective on some of the issues you raise. First is the issue of cost.It is true that organic can cost more than its non-organic counterparts. That is because the cost of organic products reflects the true cost of production. By contrast, there are hidden costs of non-organic production for which everyone will pay indirectly. Called ag “externalities,” they include damage to water sources, damage to soil resources, damage to wildlife and ecosystem biodiversity, and damage to human health from such things as exposure to pesticides. These costs are subsidized by and absorbed through government subsidies to non-organic producers. Organic producers receive no such subsidies; therefore organic prices must include the basic cost of production as well as the costs related to the aforementioned externalities.

OTA would also like to point out that when you buy organic, you support a system of sustainable agricultural management that promotes soil health and fertility, foster species diversity, help combat climate change, prevent damage to valuable water resources, and protect farmers and farmers’ families from exposure to harmful chemicals.

For these and many other reasons, Organic. It's worth it.

One Frugal Girl

Monday 4th of January 2010

Thank you all for your comments.

While local farmer's markets won't be open until the spring I did jot down addresses and created a small map of markets in my area. I also plan to explore smaller grocery stores that sell organic products.

Since I'm participating in the Eat From the Pantry Challenge I plan to finish off the food we've already stored away for winter. Once everything is gone I hope to fill the shelves with healthier, organic, local products.

countrylivingmom

Monday 4th of January 2010

We purchase all of our meat from a local organic farmer. While his prices are still higher than non-organic meats from the super store, they are still quite reasonable. I purchase my milk from a local dairy that does not use hormones, etc.

As far as produce is concerned, we grow our own or buy from the farmer's market. Given that it is Janaury in the midwest, we are currently doing none of the above. I try to buy as much organic produce as possible at the store this time of year. I need to do a better job of preserving our garden and market produce this year, so as not to have to rely on the supermarket as much.

We buy very little convenience food items, so that leaves room in the grocery budget for the organic meats, veggies, etc. Check localharvest.org for local farmers in your area. You might be surprised at all the options available!

Jessie

Monday 4th of January 2010

It's hard to find the balance in the grocery store when it comes to financial and personal health! You've made the first step by becoming more aware. I think it's important not to beat yourself up, but to make slow positive changes. It will make a difference.