Thursday, January 21, 2010


Back in July of 2009, a major study comparing the nutritional value of organic food to conventional food was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study conclusion was that organic food, was “no healthier” than ordinary food. They also decided there were "no significant differences in nutrient content,” and "there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organic over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority."

Surprised? Don’t be. The real differences and reasons for eating organic are not wholly based on nutrition. You should actually consider the "who, what and where from" when selecting your food.

Sure, we instinctively know that organically grown food is better than conventionally grown, if only because it is free of potentially harmful chemical residue. But, for the sake of argument, lets accept the study findings at face value. The fact that produce or meat is organic doesn’t change the basic make-up of a food item. A rib eye steak, organic or not, is still beef and broccoli, despite the use of artificial pesticides or fertilizers, is still broccoli. The nutritional value of the food item is still inherent regardless of how it is grown.

The real issue is large scale or corporate farming.

The “Big Boys” have figured out that they can command a premium price for the organic label and now, most of the major corporate producers have either created or acquired an organic division. Up until the last fifteen or so years, organic produce and beef was a small niche market deemed worthy only to "health nuts" and "hippies". Anyone who wanted organic had to buy at specialty health food stores or visit a farmers market that featured locally grown organic crops and commodities. Now, because of growing public awareness that conventionally produced food may have certain health risks, everyone from Walmart to the large regional grocery chains carry organic food. Furthermore, these large retailers don’t get their organics from small, local farmers who take great pride in providing healthy and delicious tasting food. Instead, they buy from large industrial organic farms, many of which are owned by the same "name brands" that deliver the conventionally produced foods . These large scale organic farms aren’t concerned with growing the richest, best tasting products. What they want are products that meet organic certification, can be grown on a large scale, and survive mechanical harvesting. Because of the lead time required for shipping, organically produced foods (just as conventionally produced items) must be harvested before it is truly ripe, which causes it to decline in nutritional value.

Finally, and most importantly, is what society and civilization are losing because of the advent of large corporate farms…..the family farm. It’s a rich part of the American heritage and it is being pushed to the brink of extinction by corporate farm entities and big box food retailers. Local farms are operated by people dedicated to providing high quality foods. They are stewards of the land, that squeeze out a significant part of their income from local markets or direct sales. They pick the crop when it is ripe, ready to eat, and at its nutritional peak).

When you buy local, you are helping to keep a part of history alive while also rewarding a true craftsman for his or her work.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


 Warning: Author’s Opinion and Self Indulgent Pontification

Okay, it is time to step back and take a deep breath. So far, I have written several pieces that take a rather scathing approach to our current food industry. However, I would like to clarify my stance and hopefully, try to limit collateral damage caused by trying to effect change.

It is pretty much a fact that the buying public is being mislead by food labels (a topic coming to these pages soon). It is common knowledge that highly compensated food lobbyists can influence safety regulations, chemical giants continue to promote questionable use of their products for farm production AND giant agri-business continues to push small local (read family) farming to the brink of extinction. We still must look at the big picture.

Whenever I feel my anger over our food production practices I am reminded of the song by the OSMONDS: “One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch...” (Yeah, I know, I’m showing my age). The point here is that “green activism” often uses “carpet bombing” tactics to try to literally shut down whatever is perceived as an antagonist. Protest, in its varying forms from extreme to non-aggressive, often have a domino effect that may cause unintended harm.

When I write about health dangers in feedlots, the use of chemicals on crops, or “rage against” industrial farming, I have to remember against “whom” I am ranting. The truth is that all the bending of rules or regulations, the promotion of various production methods, as well as the ambiguities in marketing and labeling can be blamed, basically, on the very few…AND therein lies my point.

Industry means employment and employment means economic health. A lot of fine, hard working folks work in industries that many find objectionable. The fact that a person is a meat plant worker, a lumberjack, works on a whaling boat or any potentially objectionable job does not make them evil, cruel, or unjust. Most likely he/she is someone who is a member of the community, feels fortunate to have a job and is just trying to make ends meet while supporting a family. No, our rath should be reserved for the “bean counters and politcal wonks”. Our methods should be geared toward change that is manageable and measured…not radical or extremist.

So, when trying to effect change, aim at the “one bad apple” not “the whole bunch”.