Thursday, May 27, 2010

Soap Box Wednesdays: Organic Foods- Health or Hype?

So this past weekend I was in D.C. and had Sunday brunch at one of my new favorite eateries, Le Pain Quotidien, which is an all organic French inspired cafe. You may remember me raving about my first experience here with Alihah in this post.  This time around it was Hillary's first time there, and I'm sure her expectations were high because Alihah and I hyped it up so much.  Unfortunately, it was kind of a bust. Their world class coffee was burned [and they refused to admit it was burned--eye roll] and Hill didn't seem to really enjoy her meal, which really sucks, cuz this place ain't cheap! Having tried her yogurt parfait, I have to admit, for the price it could've tasted better, more sweetness, less ginormous chunks granola that seemed (read sticks and twigs) than traditional granola.  Anyway, Hill's not so great meal led to a discussion about organic foods, healthy eating and how much of it is just overpriced hype, etc. 

Parfait? Everybody loves parfait!
cue Donkey from Shrek

Here's what I think: *steps on soap box*

In general I think that organic foods are worth the cost--and there is a reason why they cost more.  For me, organic foods aren't about what's in them, because some organic enthusiast will SWEAR that organic foods have more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc, and that they taste better. I'm more concerned with what's NOT in organic foods, and that is that they are NOT grown using chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics--which CURRENT research has linked to increased food allergies, reproductive problems, and cancers. I'm not in it for better taste--cuz American produce is as bland as it gets [am I right anyone whose been abroad and had the fruit?] and I'm not in it for increased amounts of vitamins and minerals because a well balanced diet [currently a work in progress for me] will take care of that. What I KNOW is that I have lots of produce allergies that I didn't have as a child and that those allergies magically disappear when I eat produce abroad.  What I KNOW is that as far as the modern American food industry is concerned, we have strewn TOO FAR from what God intended, interfered with nature, and we're the one's suffering for it--as the trend of 7 year old girls getting their periods indicates. 

It also seems like common sense to me, I mean why would you saturate the food we eat and the ground we grow it in chemicals.  How exactly is that NOT supposed to be harmful? As it turns out, I'm a bit of tree hugger, and modern/conventional farming techniques are not Eco-friendly. Back in the day long before modern food science started changing the way food was grown, farmers rotated their crops to preserve the nutrients in the soil and understood and more importantly respected that role of nature--i.e. bugs, birds, etc's role in growing crops.  Don't get me wrong, modern food science has done a multitude of good for our society--mass production of crops, food safety, etc, I'm just saying the pendulum has been too far to the "let's alter it to make it easier" side, and its becoming evident that its not to our benefit. Anyone female who has every been on a round of antibiotics should KNOW what kind of unpleasant side-effects they can cause, so why the hell should our beef and chicken be pumped full of that stuff, not to mention the fact that over use of antibiotics leads to drug-resistant bacteria--or did NO ONE really see that shit coming?? Cows are herbivores with four stomachs designed especially for digesting grass [I would know, I was an animal science major my freshman year] so why the hell are they being fed corn and soybeans? You have start asking yourself, what's been done to this food on my plate, and what is that doing to my body, my cells, my metabolic processes??  We are the experimental generation.  When modern farming started making these changes, there was no body of research that extended 30 and 40 years back--we're the lab rats. 

Its' More Expensive for a Reason
  • Organic food supply is limited as compared to demand
  • Production costs for organic foods are typically higher because of greater labour inputs per unit of output and because greater diversity of enterprises means economies of scale cannot be achieved
  • Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods results in higher costs because of the mandatory segregation of organic and conventional produce, especially for processing and transportation;
  • Marketing and the distribution chain for organic products is relatively inefficient and costs are higher because of relatively small volumes.
This is a hot topic, and there's a lot of stuff online, here are a few articles you can browse through to make up your mind

I'll admit some of organic trend is pure hype, like organic cookies...while on one hand they're made with organic butter and organic chocolate [which are also probably fair trade, apparently most commerical chocolate is picked my African and Brazilian children for slave labor--damn you snickers!] but at the end of the day its a cookie, full of butter is love and sugar.  I'm just sayin' cookies are one of those items you should limit your intake of, and if you're going to take the calorie plunge, you might as well get it at a better price right? I would apply this as a rule of thumb for any processed foods or fatty/sugary treats.  I would never advocate doing all of your grocery shopping at Whole Foods aka Whole Check. But there are some non organic items I won't go near, mostly milk, apples, and potatoes, see more in this article. I really want to switch to organic berries because If you hadn't noticed, I like to garnish my booze (and water!) with fresh berries, but they cost twice as much as regular berries and they don't exactly have the shelf life of a bag of potatoes. I have to pick and choose my organic foods--but as my earning power grows, so will my organic food selections.

*One more thing of note* if it doesn't have the USDA organic seal on it (pictured above), IT AIN'T ORGANIC. "All Natural" and similar terms are not regulated by the USDA and therefore mean absolutely nothing. So just in case you do choose to get down with the organic get down, don't get taken for a ride...

As far healthy eating is concerned, there's a lot of confusion about what constitutes "a healthy diet". My best advice is eat your damn vegetables (spring mix and potatoes don't count), drink lots of water, limit things that you KNOW are unhealthy (fried foods, processed foods, high sugar foods) and everything else in moderation. Granted I know its not necessarily that simple, but you don't have to eat like a rabbit to be healthy, and those "fat free" cookies aren't health food either, ya dig? But that's not with this SBW post is about--maybe next time around.

So have I convinced you to go organic, or at least swayed you towards appreciating organic foods? Any Topic Suggestions?


  1. You make a strong point! I, for one, have a hard time with the high costs of organic produce, especially when they tend to go bad quickly. It's bad enough spending tons of $$ on regular produce, to only throw it away in the trash a few days later, but then to add the extra cost of organic is ridiculous! And I'm sure that's a problem across the board in low income homes. Most people can't even afford their mortgages, how are they going to squeeze in money for organic foods? I think it's terrible because over time we'll start to see the effects of our unhealthy eating lifestyles, but what choice do most americans have?? And BTW - I rarely see the organic stuff go on sale, so it's not like people can bulk up when prices are low :o/

  2. I hear you Maddy, I hear you! It's a shame that the cost is prohibitive to a lot of families. And I have yet to see organic produce go on sale.
    I've heard that the prices are better for organic at the local farmer's market, but I'm also aware that take extra time and energy to find a FM--I'm guilty of not going because I want to get my grocery shopping done in 1 stop. It will continue to be difficult until the system itself changes--which will take lots of time. until then, a lot of ppl are screwed, especially in this economy. :/

  3. I love this post. Of course, I see it as another strong argument for starting your own garden, if you have the space. You can grow your own fruits and veggies from seeds and keep the chemicals out. It's cost effective (after the initial investment of soil, pots, seeds, etc.) and you'll have less waste because it goes from the garden to your plate. Even in four season climates you can have fresh veggies at least 3 months out of the year.

    If you can't start a garden, you can at least cook from scratch. It doesn't take much longer and although you don't have to use organic ingredients, you'll be staying away from ridiculous amounts of preservatives and chemicals. I'm all about "real" food.

  4. We have this place in New York but I've never tried it. I always wanted to though. I still may because that egg omelet looked DELICIOUS lol i just won't get the parfait : )

    It sucks because places like Whole Foods have some delicious options but it's just so expensive. I hate paying a lot of money for a salad because I keep thinking ... couldn't i just make this myself? Other dishes ... not so much! it's worth paying for because i'd never pull it off but a salad? come on. Throw some lettuce in a bowl, mix it up haha anyway, its really unfortunate that a lot of organic food is so $$$. I saw a woman who created a garden in her window. It was sort of crazy.

    Go to

  5. i buy organic veggies but Imstill not sure how organic they are. I missed a talk on tv by a top health care person in the US but my husband told me that this person says organic is all rubbish. (i dont recall the persons name) .Im confused but I still buy organic cos I dont trust the non organic wh I know FOR SURE are full of pesticides more htan anything else.

    good post ..Ive learned somehting today :)) btw tq for visiting.



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