If you care about your personal health, the environment, or the economy, you may have heard the suggestion from a friend, read it in a magazine, or got it from a wellness seminar that you should buy food that is organically farmed or locally produced.
What’s the difference, and what are the pros and cons to each of these? To even consider this question, let’s assume that any time you buy any type of consumable product, you do so with your personal health, the environment, or the economy in mind.
This is not to say that those who purchase exclusively organic or local foods are somehow better or more mindful than those who do not; this article is simply to point out some benefits of each. After all, sometimes it’s just not practical, feasible, or affordable to find what you need in the organic section of the grocery store or at the market stand. So, we do what we can as often as we can.
In the U.S., organically farmed foods can include any type of harvested plant or livestock that was grown or raised in strict accordance with various guidelines that would qualify the item as being organic. These guidelines include, but are not limited to, raising livestock without the use of any growth hormones, steroids, or antibiotics. Additionally, for livestock to be considered organic, the animals must be fed only organic feed throughout the course of their lives.
For crops to be organic, they must be non-genetically modified plants grown in organic soil without the use of non-natural chemical fertilizers and pesticides. If you are most concerned with personal health, organic food is probably the best choice. Of course, food that is certified organic usually comes with a higher price tag.
There are many certification institutions that monitor various farmers seeking to have their products certified organic. In addition to strict guidelines, organic farmers must adhere to certain standards and practices. There are factors that can potentially interfere with the organic quality of certain foods. For example, if a cow raised for organic beef or dairy products suddenly becomes ill and needs antibiotics, just one administration of an antibiotic would render the cow non-organic.
As far as plants are concerned, without the use of fertilizers, pesticides, and genetic modification, plants are more susceptible to harm from nature, so farmers may not have high yields as with non-organic crops. This is the principal reason the price of organic food tends to be considerably higher.
The benefits of eating organically produced food come in two forms. It is said to be more suitable for human consumption because it lacks artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, fertilizers, pesticides, and steroids, which are frequently added to non-organic foods.
Many health gurus insist that these substances are large contributors to some of today’s common health problems, such as cancer, diabetes, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, and so on. Research is still being conducted in this area.
Aside from health reasons, food produced organically avoids introducing these substances into the environment, which is also good for those concerned about eco-friendliness.
In addition to food that is certified organic, if you shop discriminately, you may find products on the market that are not labeled as being certified organic but which are produced without the use of drugs, hormones, and antibiotics. Some producers decide not to have their products certified as organic.
For a product to be labeled “organic,” it must be certified through an accredited third-party organization. Some producers simply choose not to use synthetic chemicals in their products, but don’t want the hassle and cost of working under the stringent guidelines of a third party. So their food is in essence somewhat “organic,” but it just does not carry the stamp of approval required by the FDA to call itself so. The only way to know is by reading food labels thoroughly or contacting the producer.
Non-certified products, though more costly than non-organics, are less expensive than organically certified food. Look at produce labels, and you can contribute to the organic cause without having to pay organic prices.
Locally produced food includes items raised or grown and processed within approximately 20 miles of your local area. Although these foods may not have the health benefits of organically farmed foods, considerable resources were saved in the transportation of these goods because they were produced close to home.
Of course, depending on where you live, the quantity, quality, availability, and variety of locally produced food may vary quite a bit.
Shopping at farmers markets can provide you with a vast array of locally grown food to choose from. When it’s not the season for farmers markets, you can read the labels of the produce at your grocery store. Usually, the product label indicates the item’s origin. Purchasing items that were produced in close proximity ensures that fewer resources were used in transporting the food to your table.
Although locally produced food may not lack drugs or chemicals like organic food does, this option is good for the environment in the sense that shipping and transportation resources were significantly diminished.
Consuming both organically farmed and locally produced food contributes to the green movement. Both contribute to a less harmful impact on the environment.
Organic food tends to lean more on personal health, while locally produced food leans more on conservation of resources. If you can find locally produced food that is organically grown, that would ideally be the best of both worlds.
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