Organics on the rise

I just caught part of a show called “American Consumer” on PBS. On today’s show they discussed something that’s been particularly important to me lately – organic foods.

In the U.S., organic foods are regulated by the government, which is reassuring because you know that if you buy something labeled organic, it truly will be organic. Here’s a little bit about the labeling process per USDA Organic Standards Fact Sheet.
Products labeled:

1. 100% Organic must be just that—100% organic ingredients.
2. Organic with the USDA Seal must contain 95% organic ingredients by weight.
3. Made with Organic Ingredients must contain 70% organic ingredients by weight.
4. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list specific organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

The show mentioned that the demand for organic foods is majorly on the rise which is encouraging to me because organic farming is so much better for the environment and organic animals are treated much better. Plus it shows that consumers are interested in improving their health by buying foods without heavy pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals.

They mentioned on the show that arsenic is fed to conventional chickens. It seemed so preposterous to me that I thought I misheard it. So I looked it up and found an article called “Chicken: arsenic and antiobiotics” on the Consumer Reports site. It may not be as scary as it initially sounds, but still – I wouldn’t want my child to eat chicken that had consumed arsenic in any form, though I know she must have when we were still eating meat (and not buying organic at the time). And how many years did I eat chicken (after I stopped being a vegetarian but swore off beef) that was tainted in this way? Eep.

The expert from Consumer Reports that they interviewed said the most important things to buy organic (to get the most bang for your buck so to speak) are produce first; dairy, eggs, and meat second; and then processed foods third.

When I first started buying organic, fruits and veggies were my main priority (though I don’t buy all of them organic – just can’t afford it). Now that I’ve been doing it for a little bit, we’re trying to budget for organic dairy (cheese) and eggs as well. And our soy milk/tofu/tempeh are all organic as well.

I really think that the investment in organic foods (which, according to the program generally cost 50% more than conventional foods) at this point will only be beneficial to our health down the road. It sucks that there is such a big difference in cost for something that is better for you, but perhaps as the demand for organics grows and more farmers pick up this method, the price will go down. That’s my wishful thinking anyway. ;) Maybe if the demand is high enough and people stop buying conventional foods, all farmers/producers will convert to organics. How awesome would that be? :)

For more consumer information about The National Organic Program, click here.