When I published my $20 meal and menu plans, they quickly became the top most viewed pages on the entire site, easily blowing number three – healthy no-bake cookies – out of the water.
Surprisingly (to me), a lot of people seemed to be shocked at the lack of organic produce, but the truth is, I don’t buy organic produce because certified organic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Not All Organic Produce Is Created Equal.
Sad, but true. The fact is, if you aren’t absolutely certain of the source of your produce, you may as well not even bother.
The truth is, the types and amounts of chemicals legally used in CERTIFIED organic produce fluctuate from year to year, and to meet the certification requirements doesn’t mean that chemicals weren’t used by the way, it just means that organic methods were tried first.
Years ago, my dad looked into buying a hydroponic tomato farm. We visited the farm and learned a lot about how hydroponic tomatoes are grown, the chemicals used to grow them, how the chemical balance is adjusted when the tomatoes need to be ripened, and how the tomatoes are harvested just as the tomato begins to “blush” toward the red we all know and love in order to be marketed as vine ripened.
Scientifically, it’s a very interesting process, if not exactly natural, so imagine my surprise at finding out this greenhouse supplied our nearby Whole Foods Market.
It’s a cruel joke to shoppers who think they’re getting a superior product that I can go down to the local Save-A-Lot and get tomatoes from that very same greenhouse for a fraction of the price. The. Same. Tomatoes.
I’d rather eat a lot of conventional vegetables than a few organic.
I’ll be honest: I’m on a budget in every area of my life, and food is no exception.
I can either buy one pound of grass-fed ground beef, or three of conventional, I can buy a head of organic broccoli or a 3 pound package from the freezer aisle. And don’t even get me started on raw cheese. I’d blow half my weekly budget on a pound and a half.
From my point of view, it seems like common sense. I will not go into debt over food. The end.
I also can’t ask my family to eat a bland diet in the name of it being organic. Nor do I want to do so myself.
I recently paid exactly the same amount of money for a five-pound bag of chicken leg quarters that we used to charge for ONE pound of pasture-raised chicken.
So I know from experience that raising truly organic, pasture-raised food is expensive and, therefore can’t help but be expensive on the retail end.
I have no doubt that that sort of food is the highest quality, and I’m sure that most of us who are the least bit health conscious would love to buy exclusively from our local farmers, but here’s the thing:
The standard American diet is filled with chemically processed foods. Preservatives, and flat-out junk that wasn’t meant to be eaten.
Cut those out, and what do you have? Whole foods.
So maybe my dish of steamed broccoli isn’t perfect, but I have to think that a whole food diet is a pretty healthy diet, regardless of whether the produce was perfectly, ideally raised, don’t you?
Update: Here’s an interesting article from Forbes.com which goes into quite a bit of detail on why you might want to rethink buying organic produce.
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I understand your want and need to buy less expensive meat and vegetables, but I have to stick up for us organic farmers! Maybe growing vegetables is different than growing grain and legumes, but we are truly not allowed to spread synthetic chemicals or fertilizers on our fields. We would lose our organic certification if we were caught doing that! (And it takes 3 years to re-certify a field as organic). We can use weed control – our choice is cover crops and ground tillage – as well as fertilizer – our favorite is chicken manure. So, even though you don’t trust this one tomato farm you have seen, please don’t spread the word that USDA organic is not what it’s cracked up to be; because we believe it is. My husband, his father and brother, and my father all work extremely hard to produce what we believe is a healthier product.
Sadly, the only “proof” that some products are actually organic is the farmer’s say-so. My husband used to work for a dairy company. They paid farmers more for producing organic milk and the only thing the dairy had to prove it was an affidavit the farmer signed each year stating that it was. They EASILY could simply lie, collect their pay and the consumer paid more for their “organic” milk. On another thought, I heard Dr. Oz say buy your meats from local farm sources that you can go see how its raised. That’s so much more important than exactly how organic it is or not. And produce…if it has a rind or something typically cut off, don’t bother with organics. Save your organic purchases to things like tomatoes and items that are eaten as you buy them, with thin or no skin.
That’s really sad about the dairy, but I totally agree that buying meat from local farmers is the best way to go! The key is to get to know the farmers, so you know what they mean when they say things like “organic” and “grass-fed”. Not that they would knowingly lie, but I know one produce farmer who genuinely believes his produce is organic because he grows it in real gardens oil – regardless of what he fertilizes with.
I’d like to know more about why you don’t raise pasture reared chicken anymore? I am looking to do this so am exploring all angles. It’s obviously a huge exercise setting up something like this but we live on a farm, we have pastures, we should be eating our own chicken at the very least!
Two main reasons: We aren’t living on the farm right now (it’s a long story lol), so we’re focusing on less labor intensive animals (mostly pigs, and small flock of laying ducks we we keep here at our ‘town’ house).
And my husband was diagnosed as “highly sensitive” to chicken meat, so he’s taking a break. Eventually, after working on his gut health, we will probably raise a few and see how he handles it, but for now, it’s a no-go.
Raising your own chickens is pretty awesome, and the taste quality of the meat is superior. I don’t think you’ll regret it for sure! The only thing we tried that we didn’t care for is raising red heritage-breed chickens. Their feed conversion was not as good (meaning it took more feed to put on a pound of meat), and when it came to butchering, they were more difficult both to pluck, and to skin. And since they were read, any missed pin-feathers really stood out. Even then, being older when we butchered them because of their inefficient feed conversion gave them much more flavor, so we couldn’t complain too much. 🙂
Grammar Nazi says
Good article. I agree and eat the same way myself.
You could do better proofreading though. The phrase “When I published my $20 meal and menu plans, they quickly became the top most viewed pages on the entire site, easily blowing number – healthy no-bake cookies – out of the water.” doesn’t make sense. Was something omitted?
“The standard American diet if filled with chemically processed foods.” Isn’t a sentence. Maybe “if” should be “is”?
Oh wow, that’s embarrassing. Thanks for catching those!
I think I’ll stick with organic. Conventional meat? Better to go jnto debt for food than for cancer.
Thanks, for this article. We’re a family of now four, was five. My son moved out six years ago when he turned eighteen. He ate A LOT of food! I’m trying to eat/cook healthy, but I’m on a limited budget. My bag of organic apples, organic carrots, and as often as possible minimally processed milk from the local college’s dairy farm is about as far as I get with spending extra. I would love to buy grass fed meats and everything organic, but it’s the difference between my family eating for four days or eating for a week and a half. I sometimes wonder if it’s pointless to be eating the produce I buy at the grocery store, but then I think at least it’s better than donuts, koolaid, and chips. I’m glad I’m not alone with this. And proof read shmoof read. I get so passionate sharing bible verses, quotes, and experiences on facebook that I have to edit two or three times; and I was top of my English comp class in college! Go figure. Have a blessed day, and thanks, for these blogs you write. 🙂
Teenagers are scary. 😉 I’m with you, I’d love to buy everything truly organic, but if you don’t personally know the farmer who grew it, it’s not worth the extra money to get something that may or may not be any better than conventional.
Thanks for sharing!
Like anything else, USDA organic produce isn’t perfect, and there are people who abuse the system and practice fraud.
However, even with those limitations, I do believe that it’s a good standard. I grew up on an organic farm and my Dad is still an organic farmer to this day. The certification process is very rigorous and difficult and he farmed for years, before being able to become certified organic.
It’s not a weekend process, by any means.