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I'll preface this with the fact that I am not one to care about 'these things' generally. I don't care about GM foods, a bit of drugs in my meat, and I restrict my conspiracy theories to all things Google.
However I'm really starting to lean towards organic food. Chicken's what got me started. I've long refused to eat our store bought chicken. It's tastless, it's only weeks from being an egg, and it's pumped full of water. I can't bear the taste. However, range fed organic chicken, well, watch your fingers! So now all of our chicken either comes from a friend's farm, or we drive 35 minutes and buy it from an organic farm.
Same thing with beef. We no longer take chances with store bought beef being tough/not tough/tasty/bland. We buy so many pounds once a year from a local farmer, from beef he's run outside on his land with nothing else added.
This coming growing season I'm going to build a reasonable sized vegetable garden, in our back yard in suburbia, water it with rainwater and feed it with the compost we've been creating for the last year. We're going to have fresh beans/radishes/lettuce/peas/carrots and so on. Not really all that much work and I know a small amount of space can produce a lot. And I figure I can hold the kid's interest for about 2 weeks before they're bored with it.
Now I look at all that and it sounds like I'm some sort of beard-growing hermit unibomber :). But I'm not, I'm a family aged western civilized guy. And if I'm doing all this, then all this organic stuff has truly gone mainstream.
What say you? Are you all just eating the local supermart produce? Or are you careful with the source of your food? Or something in between?
I worked for several decades in agriculture and saw the organic movement start from nothing to where it is today, a economic powerhouse.
Your experience is not unusual. But, as you seem to realize, it has nothing to do with the organic food being more safe. And, its production may or may not harm the environment more or less than conventional food production.
But, you are likely paying more for it and what you are getting for that extra you are paying, is some but not all cases, in more care and higher quality. The consumer gets roped into buying a brand that is "organic," and the maker needs that to be a very good experience. You are paying more (most usually, but not always), and you have to seek it out. It needs to be high quality. But, that doesn't come from being "organic" directly.
The result is organic has become a weird, twisted way of seeking out quality. Sometimes.
Safer? Doubtful. Better for the environment? Sometimes, but often not. Helping the small farmer over the big corporate farm? Well, I know very honest, responsible large corporate farms and lying jerks who are small family farmers. And some corporate farms are high quality organic and some small farms selling unsafe junk. But, it's it nice to be able to talk to the guy who is providing the food so if you don't like it...
Growing the garden with the kid is a great idea. You know that in your gut. Soon, you'll know it in your head, too. And, you'll learn a lot, too.
(Tomato tip: Grow the new, disease-resistant stuff, not the old standbys.)
Me? I'm married to a foodie. Quality is number one. So, it's often organic. And expensive.
For meat, if it tastes right then there is a good chance that it is sourced responsibly.
I am lucky with a good butcher in my town, another in a nearby village and accessible farmers markets.
Grass fed beef is far better than corn fed. Cows were not meant to eat corn. It's fed to them because it fattens them up fast and it's cheap. But it's not healthy for them (or you) and produces meat higher in bad cholesterol. Grass fed beef is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids (good for you). It's what beef is supposed to taste like, it's best for the environment, and it's humane for the animal.
Conventional chickens cost as low as 59 cents a pound but I don't touch it. I'd rather spend more for organic range chickens.
Organic vegetables aren't what they used to be. They used to taste more flavorful fifteen to twenty years ago. They might be technically organic but they look and taste like the other stuff. I'm lucky because I have friends with farms in their backyards and it's always a revelation to eat something plucked fresh from the plant.
Also, there have been scandals recently in California (where most organic produce is grown in the US) involving chemical fertilizers sold as organic.
It's more expensive to live in the SF Bay Area but it's worth it for the opportunity to eat the kind of food that's available here that isn't in other parts of the United States. The beef we eat is raised on a ranch about a four hours drive away. The chickens we eat are closer. If I want Catalonian cheese I can have it. Local hand made cured meats? We have it. Hand crafted organic goat cheese? We have it. The opportunity to eat so well is one of the reasons I stay in the SF Bay Area (the others are cultural, recreational, and educational), even though housing is cheaper elsewhere.
According to the U.S. Government National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health [nlm.nih.gov]
|To help protect yourself and your family from pesticides on fruits and vegetables, remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables and then rinse the vegetables. Peel hard-skinned produce, or rinse it with lots of warm water mixed with salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Alternatively, you may want to buy and serve organic produce. Organic growers do not use pesticides to produce their fruits and vegetables. |
If the big-agriculture-friendly United States government is recommending peeling produce and washing it in warm water, salt, and lemon juice/vinegar, that kind-of sends a signal that there's some pretty funky stuff on your cucumbers and spinach.
With the way things are going it might not be a bad idea to drag out the shovel, rake and hoe .We've done a combination of both, grow our own and pickup local produce at our farmer's market. The market bylaws don't allow any product produced further than a 60 mile radius to be sold. Over time we have come to know the vendors, visited their farms and know what we are buying. There is also several organic co-ops in our area that will deliver produce right to your house if you can't make it to the market.
There are people I know and trust who say they can taste the difference in grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. That said, from what I have seen, the higher quality comes from many factors, not just the "organic" management. More care, better food. But, let's face it, it is much more expensive to produce. And everyone has to eat. That might not be a concern for you, but others worry about it.
|Organic growers do not use pesticides to produce their fruits and vegetables. |
One, that simply is not true. They use "organic" pesticides, some which can be as harmful as "conventional" controls. Also, organic production doesn't mean that the produce is handled in the shipping or the retail environment safely.
But, more to the point, it is irresponsible to imply that organic produce does not need to be washed. This is the kind of strawman argument organic fans put forth that distracts us from spending real money and energy on real problems.
Example: The toxins in the processed peanuts that sickened many and said to have killed several people had nothing to do with pesticides and everything to do with the handling.
Common sense would tell you to wash all fresh produce. The hands of the people handling it can shovel real bacteria that can make you real sick, not to mention flies.
Household hygiene isn't the only thing that suffers when the focus is moved from where it should be. All totaled, the organic movement has done more harm than good.
|some sort of beard-growing hermit... |
Hey, wait a minute, that's my reflection I see.
I love my garden vegetables, watered in part from captured rainwater and composted with on-site clippings, etc. The other day I pulled up a few remaining carrots from last season. They're extremely tasty, still. I'm hoping to expand asparagus production this year.
When I travel around this town I see vacant lots that could, and maybe should, be planted. Manpower is the largest obstacle. There's plenty of it, with unemployment up, but finding people who really want to, and who will take care of a plot is a challenge. As to ownership of the lots, I say "who cares!" If its empty, plant it. And if the owner appears and wants a slice, or wants to build, then simply move to the next lot. (I'm such an anarchist.)
|This is the kind of strawman argument organic fans put forth... |
Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down. ;) Talk about a straw man argument. I did not say or imply that organic produce doesn't need to be washed. My point is simply that non-organic food is so laden with chemicals the US government not just advocates washing it before eating, but washing the hell out of it.
|it is much more expensive to produce. And everyone has to eat. |
Now that's a straw man... Americans eat too much animal protein. In fact, the poorest people eat more beef than their wealthier neighbors. The amount of beef and other animal proteins that Americans eat is unhealthy. Restricting beef consumption will bring them in line with healthy eating habits as they increase the amount of fruits, grains, and vegetables in their diet, which means the cost of beef will be negligible since they would be buying less of it- which is what they should be doing as part of a healthy wholesome diet.
Creating factory chickens under horrific conditions that makes the animals ill does not justify the inexpensive price that results from the abuse the animals are put through. Poor people have traditionally eaten badly. But the cost of chicken isn't about poor people, it's about consumers willing to tolerate chemicals and antibiotics if it means they'll get it cheaper. Farm raised salmon from Chile contains chemicals that are banned for use in the United States. Their farming methods have been a disaster. But it's cheap.
I agree that the term organic has been abused. Monoculture farming isn't good for the environment, regardless if there are less chemicals being used. It's an unbalanced way to grow things that works against nature but it can still be labeled organic. Nevertheless, despite those shortcomings, and a few others to be sure, I would still rather pay more for that produce than produce exposed to any number of chemicals.
|Common sense would tell you to wash all fresh produce. The hands of the people handling it can shovel real bacteria that can make you real sick, not to mention flies. |
Household hygiene isn't the only thing that suffers when the focus is moved from where it should be. All totaled, the organic movement has done more harm than good.
Actually I have never heard anyone say: Hey you do not need to wash this apple, its organic.
And I do not see any connection with me prefering meat, eggs and cheese, fruit and vegetables from local organic farms to eggs from battery cages and meat from large pig farms where the animals are stuffed with antibiotics to farming in Africa or any other developing countries.
Organic products are bad because some people are too stupid to wash their vegetables? Organic products are bad because there are people who can not afford those products? Come on! I think everybody will acknowledge that a "normal non organic apple" is still better than no apple at all. And when it comes to meat: We are eating to much anyway. So I prefer less meat at a higher quality to daily low quality meat.
I think the debate betweeb organic and mass produced produce will go on for ever, but there may not be a firm answer. regarding meats, animals that are put on a diet to fatten them up quickly, will produce fatty meats, You can see this just by grilling a steak, the mass produced meats have a lot more fat content, you can see it jucing out. If the steak came from a more organic source and was grass fed, you will still see the juces, but not to the same extent.
When it comes to the taste, the organnic meat not only tastes a lot better, but the texture is noticably different.
Another side to this, I have found, is that coming home at night, exhausted, and heading for the veggie patch, spending half an hour or so there, actually relaxes me far more than anything else I have tried. Apart from enjoying the very tasty produce, of course!
I grew up in London through the 50s and 60s, and have seen the change in both quality and price of food. I believe the quality has descended just as much as the price, over the years.
As to meat, most can now afford a cut of meat when they wish, but still few can afford a cut of good meat, just as in the 50s and 60s.
Just my take on things, naturally.
|Chicken's what got me started. I've long refused to eat our store bought chicken. It's tastless, it's only weeks from being an egg, and it's pumped full of water. I can't bear the taste. |
This is so true. While I still eat plenty of normal store bought chicken, that range free stuff is unbelievably good. Its just more difficult for me to acquire because the store I buy it is out of the way and they are very religious folks and limit the hours they are open.
But, WOW! what a difference. It tastes like chicken did when I was a kid. The birds do not shrink when roasting (because its not pumped full of water like you mentioned) and the gravy is fantastic. Notice that the drippings from a free range bird are much darker than a factory chicken.
I dont mind paying extra, its worth every penny.
I cant tell the difference with the beef and pork, like I can with the chicken.
We used to drive by a famous brand name ranch on the way to visit relatives and the stench was unbearable. It simply can't be healthy to eat meat from a ranch with a stench so bad that you feel like vomiting when you get within 2 miles of the place.
I used to shop at Whole Foods. Twice I had calls from my credit card security groups verifying my purchases after I got home from shopping at Whole Foods because I spent so much money there. But it costs a lot to buy organic food for a family of four and years ago the regular grocery stores didn't carry organic products so I didn't have much choice.
These days even our local Costco actually has a lot of organic items like apples, assorted greens, pasta sauce, pasta and some meats. They have organic chicken for 5.59 a pound, which is a bargain compared to paying $9.49 at the corner grocery store.
I just bought a composter and ordered The Square Foot Gardening book, and hope to have the time to plant an organic garden in the backyard this year.
[edited by: Jane_Doe at 12:20 am (utc) on Feb. 19, 2009]
>>It simply can't be healthy to eat meat from a ranch with a stench so bad that you feel like vomiting when you get within 2 miles of the place.
Eating misery can't be healthy. Misery in humans can lead to all kinds of nasty things. If I did eat meat, I'd much prefer a free-range chicken that used to have its head screwed on straight to a psycho chicken that's been crammed in a cage with four other birds all its life.
We call "Whole Foods", "Whole Paycheck".
|The Square Foot Gardening book |
My backyard bible.
|We call "Whole Foods", "Whole Paycheck". |
I'm glad they have competition now. I try not to shop there anymore at all because I feel they really price gouged their customers when they were the only organic store in town. Trader Joe's has a wide assortment of healthy and organic foods at much more reasonable prices.
|My backyard bible (re the Square Foot Gardening book) |
I don't exactly have a green thumb, and I'm not the type to rent a rototiller for the weekend, but the basic instructions seemed simple enough that even someone like me could have a garden this way.
We buy chickens a few dozen at a time from a local farmer. And once a year we buy 1/4 or 1/2 of beef from him. We bought an extra deep freeze to keep it. The chicken, per pound is less expensive than the store. And the beef (steaks, roasts, ground - all of it) is less expensive than lean ground at the local grocer. For us, it's not more expensive, going this route actually saves us money. Though I would pay extra for it - the savings is a bonus.
There's far too much Chinese grown produce in Malaysia for my liking; I try to find the locally grown vegetables (which are still unhealthily high in pesticides etc.) - but that's all pending my hopes that the new vegetable patch and the now inch-high seedlings will produce table food soon!
Fans of organic will be pleased to learn that one of the key players in the movement, Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, has been tapped to become the USDA's second in command:
Here is a short article she wrote in 2004:
|What say you? Are you all just eating the local supermart produce? Or are you careful with the source of your food? Or something in between? |
Eating healthy for longtime not just sporadically is the essence.
If you want to eat healthy you would need time, patience and put effort into changing any bad habits that you may have.
Eating organic is only one of the options for eating healthy. Sometimes not even that. Don't assume you are eating healthy just because you are using organic ingredients. What's standard several years ago (a big farmer's breakfast) isn't healthy for the life-style currently.
It is very difficult to eat healthy unless you are cooking. It takes lot of discipline to consistently shop, cook, and not getting tempted by quicker/easier alternatives.
How do you do this everyday?
|Don't assume you are eating healthy just because you are using organic ingredients. |
.. and dont assume "organic" food does not have chemicals on it. They drench that stuff with chemicals that are not synthetic but are still chemicals ... and they really drench it. To keep the bugs, disease and fungus away.
Also, what is stopping people from putting non-organic food in with the organic stuff and get the higher price. The answer is ..... Nothing.
The only sure way to make sure you are getting non-synthetic chemically grown foods are to grow them yourself.
|Also, what is stopping people from putting non-organic food in with the organic stuff and get the higher price. The answer is ..... Nothing. |
In US, dept. of agriculture (USDA) verifies and certifies if the product is really organic. You can't label your product USDA organic unless a product is.
Grubs, spiders and other nasties are what make chickens (and their eggs) taste good.
Grass fed beef tends to be leaner. Lacking the marbeled fat, it does not coat the palate allowing one to experience subtle flavors missed entirely in corn fed.
Chickens and cattle make good companions. Cow pies are little maggot factories that bring the chickens much joy.
Now, if you want something really good, get a free range turkey for this holiday season.
|In US, dept. of agriculture (USDA) verifies and certifies if the product is really organic. You can't label your product USDA organic unless a product is. |
and no one ever cheats, i am sure
|and no one ever cheats, i am sure |
I don't know. But not everyone would. Cheating incidence on USDA certification wouldn't be anything different than cheating in other areas.
Of course, a pharmacy could put junk in their pills, restaurants can spit in your drinks/food. But how many actually do? You can get paranoid about it. Or could have unreasonable expectations just like I imagine developing bug-free software. :-)
I think its a whole lot easier for a grocer, or wholesaler, or farmer to mix up the non-organic with the organic and instantly increase profits. It would be impossible for the consumer to tell the difference.
Call me paranoid but I do not see how the USDA can police this issue. They can't keep bacteria and viruses out of peanut butter and hamburger from a multi-billion dollar corporations that have inspectors right on site. Imagine trying to police every farm, warehouse and grocery store to keep the produce separate.?
[edited by: Rugles at 7:36 pm (utc) on Feb. 25, 2009]
Rugles, your concerns are legit. But, at the same time, what's the harm? There is no worthwhile research that shows conventional food to be any less better for you or more harmful than organic.
But, as many have said here and I have confirmed, "organic" food can taste better because of the care it gets and the values of the people who produce it. And, sometimes it is produced in a way that is less harmful to the earth. (But, not always.)
And, if it's local and you know the farmer, even better. But, be just as careful with organic food as you would with any other food. And, if you get that unprocessed goat cheese at the farmer's market on a warm summer day from that skinny women who doesn't shave her legs...
This thread is Food for Thought!
This goat cheese vendor .. is there the smell of patchouli in the air and the sounds of Jerry Garcia eminating from her store? I know her type well ;-) .
It tastes different. Our sense of taste evolved to let us choose food that matched our nutritional needs. Therefore, if it tastes different I will assume it is nutritionally different until it is proven otherwise.
I was diagnosed with hypertension and have the damnedest time finding meat that's not injected with some sort of brine. It's shameful what the food industry has turned into! MSG, salt, aspertame, etc. Men who put people's life in jeopardy to become rich, are truly evil, but we see it everyday. :(
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