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?

Do You Buy Organic?

12 thoughts on “Do You Buy Organic?

  1. I eat all organic, but I'll be the first to say that it still requires a fair bit of research to make sure you're getting good quality and value. I'm also a vegetarian, and I don't eat a lot of processed food, so our grocery budget goes mostly to fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy, and chocolate. Even though it's all organic (and local for the produce), I feed both myself and my boyfriend on $50/week – not an insignificant amount, but way under the USDA thrifty plan for a family of 2 (http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/USDAFoodCost-Home.htm)

    It can be hard to sift through all the "research" on the web, but http://www.med.nyu.edu/patientcare/library/article.html?ChunkIID=90869 seems to present an overview of both sides of this issue. I definitely agree that meat and dairy are of highest concern, though the "dirty dozen" (as you pointed out) would probably be worth it. We also avoid produce from certain countries.

    I view this as a huge investment in our health – even if the pesticide residues in non-organic produce are benign, I'd still think that produce that's grown locally or handled more carefully (since organics are more fragile) would be more nutritious than anything that was trucked to me across the country.

    That's probably enough of a novel for this comment, but I've been eating organic for 13 years and grew up in the DC area (still have family there), so feel free to contact me if I can be of more specific help. Happy new year!

  2. Food Inc. (which I also watched last week) was one of the main influences on my decision to increase my already bloated grocery budget. You're totally right–your health is worth more than a few saved bucks every month. Slowly but surely, I hope to switch to all organic and local produce and meats.

    I'll have to do a lot more research on this topic, though–not sure what the laws are here in NZ. I expect it to be a bit harder to find, and more expensive for organic food, than in the US.

  3. PS I think I watched Food Inc with the Amazon code for a free $4 credit that you posted about. THANKS!! 🙂

  4. One way to save money and still eat a lot of organic food is looking into options such as Trader Joe's and Local Co-ops. Also, buying meat directly from the farmer is often much cheaper, and usually organic.

  5. How funny that you put this up – I just watched it with my friend last night. It really has me thinking about our groceries – what we eat & what we buy. Right now we simply can not afford to change over completely, but there are small changes I can make now (produce – we live next door to a market!). In a couple years that should change, and we will be able to afford healthier choices.

    Its funny…"regular" milk makes me sick, but organic milk & other diary products are fine. It makes me wonder what they add to milk that my body cant take?

  6. I would say that about 20-30% of my grocery purchases are organic. There are certain products that I always buy organic such as potatoes, apples, strawberries and spinach. I read in Prevention magazine recently that it is expensive to get an organic certification so many farmers and producers avoid that route but they may be using "organic methods". Some conventional products may be okay if they are grown locally. In the same article, I read that we should avoid eating corn feed beef and instead buy grass fed beef. I buy my beef at Whole Foods and it is grass fed. I also usually purchase other meats at Whole Foods as well. I like their chicken and pork. For dairy, I purchase milk that says on the label that no hormones were used. I will purchase organic milk when it is occasionally on sale.

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

    http://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!)

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