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Organic Foods A Waste of Money? (Controversy Alert!)

The organic vs. conventional debate rages on … and will continue to for a long time.  And now even more fuel has been added to the organic fire. 

We wrote thorganic food controversyis blog earlier this year, but with a recent study coming out just the other day, it was time to update and edit.

You may have seen snippets from the study — here’s a summary that was published online in the New York Times: "Study Questions Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce."

To summarize, the authors analyzed data from 237 other studies — something called a meta analyses — to determine the differences between conventionally grown and organically grown foods.

Two of the main conclusions "…fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive. Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli"

Hmmm, an interesting wrench into the mix. 

People on the organic side have been screaming for years that the produce they buy is MUCH higher in nutrients.

People on the conventional side have been screaming for years that there’s no difference.

But there’s more to it than that.  It’s not just about nutrients — in fact, we think that’s the smallest part of the story. 

As we’ve talked in the past when reviewing studies, it’s impossible to control or measure everything … and, to be honest, sometimes research only brings up more questions that need to be answered. 

They did find the conventional produce had more pesticide residue than the organic produce.  This research study also found "no obvious health advantages to organic meats."

But what they didn’t look at is how pesticides — though arguably the levels found were below what’s ‘allowed’ by the EPA — may accumulate over time in the body, may affect pregnant women, children or the fetus.  Again, though, those are all a ton of factors that may have been out of the scope of this review.

One finding that supports our personal belief — with the organic meats they found less antibiotic resistant bacteria, though they noted these would be killed during cooking anyhow.  However, in our minds, this is a concern.  Another recent study showed chickens had the highest levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria to begin with …

… and with a culture that medicates for everything, this concerns us in the long run for us and our kiddos. 

It’s why all of our meats — beef, chicken and pork — are from our local farmers market, from farmers where we know their farming practices, like the quality of their products, and of course enjoy the taste.

We buy organic meats.  We buy organic dairy products. 

But back to one of the original questions at hand — nutrient content.  Maybe organic produce doesn’t have more nutrients than conventionally grown produce.  But you know what — when you buy foods locally, they WILL have more nutrients because you’re eating them closer to when they were picked.  We stand by that and buy as much local as possible. 

We don’t always buy organic vegetables.

We grow many of our own.  We use a CSA. 

When we shop to supplement both, we use the "dirty dozen" list and buy organic of the top 12 "worst" offenders.  Others are usually conventional.

Our conclusion of the last blog … and still … is that local is best.  If organic, great — but we would even say local over organic.  Sometimes the other option is an organic vegetable that was grown 3000+ miles away, like much of it is when shopping at the grocery store.  At that point it’s picked weeks before it even gets to your kitchen vs. something picked just days or hours before you eat it. 

Our conclusions to the Organic Food "Controversy":

  1. Local Produce is Best
  2. Meats (inclusive of all animals) are best from farms where you know their farming practices
  3. The less pesticides we can eat, the better
  4. Eat what you can afford.  Conventional produce is certainly better than none, so if you can’t afford organic, still eat it.  A lot.
  5. Make it easy — find a local CSAsearch this website and type in your zip code.  

We’re also fortunate that there is a local company that does food delivery from local farms — produce, meats, dairy, etc.  Great to have options. 

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