This was published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.
Most people assume that eating organic is the healthiest choice, all of the time. Well, not quite. Let me explain.
Here’s where you’re going to benefit from buying organic. It’s what you DON’T get that’s important: pesticides, herbicides and genetic modifications. As for nutritional differences, some studies say yes, some no. The good news is that many local and regional farms are switching to organic growing methods, so we have more produce that is not only grown organically, but hasn’t spent weeks in shipping and storage.
Tip: many farms grow by organic methods, but don’t go through the costly, time-consuming steps to get organic certification from the government. I’m fine with that, and you should be too. Who needs labels when you’ve got the healthiest produce, tasty and fresh? Let’s support our local farm families! Many offer co-ops or CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) that provide less expensive ways to have a seasonal share from late Spring through Fall.
Here’s where you don’t necessarily want organic. Instead, look for products from animals that were raised appropriately for their species. What does that mean? It means that they were given food that was natural to them, and space that allowed them to develop normally.
Why this matters Did you know that a juicy steak from a pastured, grass fed cow gives you healthier fats than a salmon steak from a fish that was farmed? It’s all about nutrition: their nutrition. Soy, corn and other grains are not normally found in an underwater grocery, yet that’s what provided when they’re farmed. And that nice orange color? It’s dye, not the natural sources that provide antioxidants to you. So farmed fish aren’t giving you the healthy Omegas that are probably the reason you bought them in the first place.
Know where you can get some healthy fats? From a cow that was pastured. That means not only was it eating the food it was meant to eat (grass, whether fresh or dried as hay), but that it moved around to do so, developing more leanly. Same for other animals. Look for pastured/grass fed, not organic here (goes for milk and butter too). Organic only means they were fed organic grains, and that’s not healthiest for them, or you. Yes, it’s better than factory farmed meat that’s not organic, but healthy animal products come from animals that move and graze.
Poultry and Eggs
Same principle here. You want birds that moved, and ate a diet natural to them, and eggs from hens raised that way. We kept chickens for years, and they thrived on a combination of forage from the yard and scraps from our kitchen. I used to take young clients up to the barn to gather eggs and, even here in rural Orange County, most were surprised eggs came from hens, not boxes! The eggs looked and tasted completely different from supermarket eggs. If you’ve never tasted a truly fresh egg from a healthy hen, you owe it to yourself to find a local source. Many people still keep small backyard flocks, so ask around.
In a future column, I’ll discuss grains, and the least and most important produce to buy organic.