I’m hoping you can guess from the title of this blog post that I support both organic and non-organic [conventional] grocery and/or food items. And by reading this post please know I’m not trying to sway you one way or the other when it comes to feeding yourself and your family. I want you to make an informed decision for yourself, and hope you’ll continue to make my healthy recipes and read my family-feeding tips even if we agree to disagree. And for those of you who decide otherwise, I’ve shared a few bloggers on the bottom of this post who I’d say are more pro-organic [I love their stuff too] and they have some great posts on this discussion as well. So let’s get back to my grocery cart, where you’ll find a mix of organic and conventional foods. And ok, maybe a few processed foods. Because I want my kids to eat a S’more with a graham cracker!!! Here’s why:
Healthy to me encompasses so much more than just food. It’s relationships with my family and friends. It’s getting enough sleep at night [which is hard to come by these days]. It’s surrounding myself with positivity and things I enjoy— such as walks listening to a favorite podcast, playing outside with the kids, and a third cup of coffee. It’s also eating foods I KNOW that are good for me and my body: whole [meaning minimally processed] fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. My viewpoint is similar if not the same as USDA’s MyPlate recommendations—- which was developed based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I choose minimally processed when I can but I’m not stressing over the processed when I do eat it. I just make it a point to choose the simplest ingredients whenever possible. Healthy to me is also having the opportunity to teach others to be confident in the kitchen [by providing you with simple, healthy recipes]. You may know all the nutrition and health facts in the world, but if you can’t figure out how to sauté a vegetable you might be in trouble.
I purchase food with three things in mind: nutrition, taste, and cost. It might seem naïve that there’s no mention of environment, animal welfare, or sustainability in my purchasing equation. But that’s because I firmly believe the majority of farmers producing our food, whether its produced conventionally or organic, are doing what they can to ensure they are using less resources [pesticides, fertilizers, water] and are treating their animals with care and well being. Why? Because producing food is their livelihood! And more often than not, they went to school to learn how to do their jobs better, more safely, and more efficiently than previous generations. And thank goodness I get to not only enjoy the fruits of their labor but also talk about it for my profession.
Both organic and conventionally produced foods are equally wholesome and nutritious—- this is ensured by strict government standards. The Food and Drug Administration and United States Department of Agriculture routinely monitor the food supply for chemical residues and post the results on their websites. The difference is in on-farm management practices, including feed and antibiotic use, but again there’s no significant difference in the end result: the food and it’s nutritional quality! The quality and nutrients in organic and conventional food are more often than not the same. There’s no doubt that the farming practices are different [minimally]. But again, I trust the regulations in place and feel that most farmers, if not all of them, will follow the rules [again based on my experience in the beef industry].
Here are some of my go-to resources for friends, clients, and consumers when it comes to questions about raising beef:
Choices of Beef
Beef labels can be helpful, but they can also cause confusion in the meat case. Terms like grain-finished, grass-finished, certified organic and naturally raised may be confusing to some; this fact sheet breaks down the four common labels and what they actually mean, based on U.S. Department of Agriculture definitions.
Antibiotics in Use
Antibiotic use in livestock is a hot topic with consumers. It is also top of mind for the beef producers who want consumers to know that we care about the issue and what we are doing to address it. The Antibiotic Use in Cattle fact sheet addresses consumer questions about how and why antibiotics are used and what the Beef Quality Assurance program is doing to educate producers about best practices. This tool helps consumers feel confident knowing that antibiotics are only given to cattle to treat, control or prevent disease.
Hormone Usage in Cattle Ranching
Hormones are naturally occurring compounds in different animals and organisms that promote healthy growth. For cattle, their natural hormones stimulate the pituitary gland and help cattle enhance their muscle-building ability while also decreasing the amount of fat deposited in and around muscles. Supplemental hormones are sometimes used to raise beef more efficiently with fewer resources. Learn more about this topic from the experts.
So instead of reading a headline or the story of the day, I’d encourage you to talk to a farmer. Talk to the experts and learn the process on both sides. Lord knows you can find a farmer on Google! Or reach out to the land grant university in your state to get more information. Don’t use this blog as your final deciding point— even though I’m glad you are reading! And remember, more often than not, all farmers, whether they use organic or conventional farming practices will be willing to share WHY and HOW they do things on their farm! And in the end, we should be thankful that we have the choice between purchasing organic and conventional foods and make food purchasing decisions that reflect our values, concerns, and lifestyles. The truth is that consuming more fruits and vegetables, from either organic or conventional processes, is a healthy choice. I’m far from an expert on antibiotic use, hormones, and pesticides— so please refer to my resources below. Straight from the source. AKA the FARMER!
And as I’m about to step off my soapbox here’s what I know: As a Mom, I’m worried about many things. I’m worried that my 7 year old struggles with anxiety. I’m worried that my 3 year old has to repeat preschool. I’m worried that all of my kids will catch on to habits of yelling since they sometimes [keyword, sometimes] hear Mom raise her voice. Oh and yes, I’m worried that they more often than not turn their noses up at vegetables. Isn’t that enough to be concerned about at this point in time in their life? So forgive me if my worries aren’t focused on this great debate. This blog isn’t meant to be a place for that, hence why I don’t frequently post on this topic. I just felt like I needed to share an update as to where I stand.
While I’m OK with buying conventional foods and yes, the occasional processed [S’more example], I don’t discourage you from buying foods based on the organic vs. conventional premise. BUT PLEASE, make sure you yourself are FIRST sticking with the BASICS of healthy eating with plenty of fruits, veggies, whole grains and high-quality protein. And minimally processed when you can. But I ask you one thing: Don’t judge. Because my budget, priorities, and worries may be different than yours and are likely different from the shopper in the next lane over. And I promise not to judge you. Because if dye free, organic, gluten-free, etc. is important to you, there has to be a reason. And I respect that!
A few of my favorite resources on this topic:
Blogs/Posts to Read:
Organic Mom by Sally at Real Mom Nutrition [Sally has a way with words…]
Leann at Real Fit, Real Food Mom [inspires me to exercise!]
Amelia at Eating Made Easy [aren’t her recipes gorgeous?!]