Organic Romance

To buy or not to buy organic? That is the question.

But why does it have to be?

I thought about this question alot, while preparing this post. In fact, most of my posts are written in a very short amount of time, usually 10 minutes or less. Sometimes it’s as if the words were already there, I just needed to type them out. But not today.

As a farmer, I am proud of almost every aspect of agriculture. I truly value the organic movement, because anything we can do to continue to provide food is important. We NEED every farmer, every type, every size, to continue providing food for our world.

Over the weekend, a slideshow by WebMD was brought to my attention. At first, I was kind of excited about it…hoping it was going to put to rest some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding conventional and organic foods. But it didn’t. In fact, it went a step or two further than most articles. And I feel the need to set some “facts” straight.

1) It was stated in the slide show, that fruit and vegetables such as apples and peaches should be bought organic whenever possible, to reduce the exposure risks of pesticides.  The site said, “If you can’t afford to buy organic apples, scrubbing their skins under running water can help reduce pesticide residues, too.”

Well, to tell you the truth people, no matter where you get your apples, you should ALWAYS wash them. Period. The same is true for organic, just as it is conventionally grown fruit and veggies.

2) Directly quoted from WebMD, “According to the Organic Trade Association, livestock on an organic farm cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones unnecessarily — a common practice in conventional agriculture. Some experts think using antibiotics this way may contribute to the rise of superbugs. And although the risk to humans isn’t clear, added hormones do show up in supermarket beef.”

Let me shed some light on what happens on our farm (since I can’t speak for everyone, but know that most follow the same type of protocol). We give antibiotics only when necessary, such as when an animal is showing sign of being sick. We would never consider giving all of our animals antibiotics on a set schedule for many reasons, including: a) cost, b) time and feasibility and c) we need those antibiotics to work when we truly need them. To say that most conventional ranchers use antibiotics unneccessarily is simply not true.

And on the hormone subject…let me break down the actual facts for you:

4 oz. beef from steer given hormones: 1.6 nanograms of estrogen

4 oz. beef from untreated steer: 1.2 nanograms of estrogen

4 oz. beef from non-pregnant heifer: 1.5 nanograms of estrogen

4 oz. raw cabbage: 2700 ng estrogen

4 oz. raw peas: 454 ng estrogen.

3 oz. soy oil: 168,000 nanograms of estrogen

3.5 oz. of soy protein concentrate: 102,000 nanograms of estrogen.

3 oz. of milk from cow given rBST: 11 nanograms of estrogen

3 oz. of milk from untreated (non-BST) cow: 11 nanograms of estrogen

Data from Foodstuffs Foodlink

Hmmm…so those extra hormones are a problem, but raw peas have 400% more estrogen in them. Perhaps we need to lay off the peas? I’m kidding, of course. That would be obsurd. Right?

3) This one I found funny. Broccoli. Yep, you should grow your own organic broccoli. Have any of you grown broccoli? I have no problem with growing your own food, even broccoli. I just appreciate the ability to choose not to. I don’t like the extra protein.

Mmmm...worms.

 
Well, those are just a few of the examples in the slide show…there are 29 slides to go through, all with varying degrees of ridiculousness. What’s funny to me is that it wraps it all up with this advice, “One thing the experts agree on: Regardless of whether you choose locally grown, organic, or conventional foods, the important thing is to eat plenty of produce. The health benefits of such a diet far outweigh any potential risks from pesticide exposure.” Oh, so the first 28 slides are supposed to make you terrified of all food not organic, and the last one says, “Eh, the risks aren’t that great, just eat.” Whew. I was worried for a minute.
 
Let’s cut to the chase. When it comes down to it: eat. Eat what you want, eat sensibly and get it from whatever source you have available. Supermarket, farmer’s market, online…just eat. If you have the desire and time to grow your own, do it. If you have the desire and time to shop farmer’s markets, do it. If you are a busy person with limited time and whatever is at the one-stop-shop is what you can grab, do it.
 
It’s time we stop making parents feel guilty for what we eat and just relish in the fact that we can feed our children. And by that, I mean HEALTHY foods, not just fast food.
 
That all being said, I respect organic farmers and see a true need for their products. There isn’t a single method of agriculture that isn’t needed for our future. I have not one problem with their product. Not one.
 
Organic farmers: thank you for all you do and the food you provide. Conventional farmers: thank you for all you do and the food you provide. WebMD: quit making me scared of the people that feed me, they’re nice.
 
I know, because I am one.
Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Organic Romance

  1. Thanks for your blog today. I appreciate farmers….I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a long line of farmers. Although I don’t live on a farm anymore, my brother is still farming the home place. I try to be a locovore, and so I don’t worry so much whether it’s organic or not, as long as I know where it came from. I’m guessing you’ve read it, but if not, run – don’t walk to the nearest library and read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle…it is one of my food bibles.

  2. We also run a beef cow/calf operation in SW Wisconsin and love it when we have a meal that came from our own farm….from the meat to the veggies….it’s awesome and not something that we take for granted. If people are concerned about where their food is coming from take a class on container gardening. If you have sun, rain, pot of soil and some plants you can feed yourself seasonally. On the flip side, the organic farmers have done an outstanding job marketing their product, much like the Angus breeders have done.

  3. You felt the need to blog about the slideshow, yet it appears that you didn’t bother to read it. Ten of the slides recommend conventional over organic. Washing all produce is recommended in the slideshow as normal practice. Estrogen is not the only hormone given to livestock, and phytoestrogens from plants are not the same as animal hormones. The broccoli with worms? Nowhere to be found. It took me about 10 minutes to view the entire slideshow, so are you intentionally misleading, or just a lazy researcher?

    • Actually, I read the whole thing…several times over. And no, conventional was never recommended over organic. And the photo of the broccoli was never stated to be in the slide show, but broccoli that’s not treated tends to be full of worms, that’s something I’ve discovered on my own, through actually growing it when we were younger. And the whole point of my post was not to mislead or instruct people on where to get their food. Did you read the whole thing, or did you quit at the beginning? The point is that we should all be able to make our decisions…with the means that we decide to use. My point is for consumers to do their own research and make up their own minds, not just rely on media sites to instruct them on what’s right for them. And I’ve never claimed to be a researcher, I’m simply a mother of four, farmer, rancher and consumer. This blog is my opinion, and my opinion only. Thank you for your thoughts.

    • I forgot to address the hormone comment, but had to tend to a 2-year-old, so excuse me for the delay. I did some research, as you requested, and have found (according to MY sources) that the growth hormone given some cattle, generally contains estrogen, progestins and androgens. Since the argument most given against hormone usage in beef is that it causes premature puberty in girls, I focused on estrogen, since that IS the hormone that triggers puberty. And although there is a difference in estrogen and phytoestrogen, both hormones have similar results. The main difference that I was trying to point out was that steers that are treated with growth hormones are not significantly higher in estrogen levels than those that are not. And the phytoestrogens that are available in some vegetables are not minimally higher than beef…it’s a staggering number. Yet people aren’t aware of those numbers.

      The reason that I felt the need to blog about the slideshow is that many people view sites such as WebMD as an expert source in all things having to do with diet, lifestyles and health. I caution anyone to take information that they’ve gleaned from the internet as the gospel from which they live. And if I’m able to help one person become more interested in their food, and find out where their meal truly comes from, then I’ve accomplished something in my day.

  4. We appreciate your insights, Val – even if you are (as you put it) “simply a mother of four, farmer, rancher and consumer.” When we asked our University-based food experts what they thought of recommendations to avoid specific produce based on whether it was conventionally or organically grown, (which came from sources like family as well as from the Environmental Working Group’s “dirty dozen” list), they concur with the last slide of WebMD’s presentation. Dr. Carl Winter, Associate Director of the FoodSafe Program and Extension Food Toxicologist at the University of California-Davis and Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Iowa State University professor and chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, said:
    Winter: “We have a saying in toxicology “it’s the dose that makes the poison.” It’s the amount of the chemical rather than the presence or absence that determines the potential for harm. In the case of pesticide residues on food, we can detect them, but generally at very tiny levels. I think consumers are concerned because they’re aware that these chemicals, which have potential toxic effects, show up on foods. However, the levels at which we detect these pesticides are so low consumers have nothing to worry about” (per: http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/main/food_for_thought/0/42)
    MacDonald: “Washing of fruits and vegetables prior to eating will eliminate surface contamination.” (per: http://www.bestfoodfacts.org/main/food_for_thought/0/10)
    Feel free to check out these interviews and all our expert information at BestFoodFacts.org.

    • I don’t doubt that consumers are concerned, as they should be, about anything they put in their mouth. Unfortunately to me, common sense seems to be the road less traveled. Again, I have no problems with any method of production, conventional, organic, homegrown, supermarket-purchased. We have a growing population and a shrinking agricultural base…the two do not add up to a happy, well-fed world. It will take all types, shapes and sizes of farmers, ranchers and growers to work together to feed us all. But we also need the consumer to be not only informed, but willing to stand up and realize that they need to be responsible to make their own decisions. Thank you for your response, and I appreciate WebMD’s slideshow, in the way that it asks consumers to think about the foods they eat. And if it wasn’t for the slideshow, these conversations here wouldn’t have happened. And that I’m thankful for most of all.

  5. I like it, my mom in law gets on my case for all things organic, but it is a lot more expensive. I agree with you on just feed your family good home cooked meals.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s