Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bringing the Blog to an End

This is my last post on this blog, so I'm going to look back on my whole experience of switching to both conventional and organic foods. This whole thing really changed the way I think about each type of foods.

The starting point for me was when I watched Food Inc. This is when I realized how horrible factory-farming is, and now I think about it when I get factory-farmed products. I'm also more aware of the preservatives and other food additives in some non-organic foods that can have some potentially serious side effects. Before, I had absolutely no idea how much of these chemicals one food could contain.

As for organic foods, I learned about the many benefits they have, and what makes these benefits so important. I also like knowing that organic farming is safer and more humane towards food animals. Along with this, I figured out some useful labels to look for on organic products, and the price differences between certain organic and non-organic foods.

Overall, I think this has been a very useful and positive experience. I learned what my brain can handle about this subject, and I hope I also pass this information on to others. Remember, the choice is yours: should you buy factory-farmed foods or organic foods?

Inside an Organic Warehouse

Back in December, I got the chance to tour the Destiny Organics distribution center. It was pretty interesting to learn about the specific ways organic foods have to be grown, organized, and delivered. First, here's a few pictures of the warehouse:

Did you know that a piece of land has to be empty of non-organic materials for 3 years before organic food can be grown on it? There's a lot of other  regulations about organic soil, including materials and machinery that can be used. I also learned that the organic foods must be kept far away from the non-organic foods because the materials can't come into contact with each other. Along with these, there are so many other requirements for organic farms. It seems like organic farming is much more complicated than conventional farming, which is one of the reasons why organic foods cost more. Now I know that if a company says their food is organic, they're not playing around!

I thought it was a pretty cool experience to visit the warehouse and see the process behind shipping organic foods. Plus, I got some free apples out of it!

Looking Back on Organic Week

Before I started my week of organic meals, I thought it would make things drastically different in my household. Turns out, it didn't! In terms of actually making and eating the organic foods, it was exactly the same as eating the non-organic foods. This is why some people are against buying organic foods, since they think it won't make any difference. The real differences, though, are the ones behind the production and treatment of the foods. In this post, I wanted to mention how physically buying and eating the food was different.

First, I'll talk about buying the organic foods. We all know that organic foods cost a tad bit more than their non-organic counterparts, but nobody really mentions actually finding it in the grocery store. For products like vegetables, most stores have an organic section. But, at my store at least, this section is pretty small. This is the organic vegetable section in my local Publix:

Not only is the selection small, but you have to look closely at the food to see if it's truly organic. I mentioned before that produce has to have the USDA seal on it, and I noticed that not all of the food in the section had this. So, this means that some grocery stores have a limited selection of organic foods.

On the plus side, though, preparing organic food is exactly the same as making conventional food, and it doesn't require any additional steps. It's true, I even have proof from my mom!

I also wanted to mention the way organic food tastes. To me, most of them don't taste any different from regular food, with the exception of a few things. Organic milk, for example, has a very distinctive taste, so it's a good idea to try some and see if you like it. (Some kids my age think it's gross.)

I added a new poll about the taste of organic food. Let me know what you think: is it better, the same, or worse?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's Wrong with Organic

The title of this post might seem a little weird considering I think organic food is a good choice. However, it's important to look at both sides of the equation and see what those opposed to organic food have to say.

The first argument is that buying organic food does not benefit a family because the food itself is the same, except is costs more. To buy organic milk alone for a year could cost an extra $200. Some also think that just because organic food is produced differently, doesn't mean the food itself is any different. Personally, I think organic food production makes a HUGE difference in the product. I've mentioned how awful some common food additives can be, and how inhumanely the factory food animals are treated. If that doesn't make a difference, I'm not sure what does.

Some also believe a pitfall of organic food is that it is not any better for the environment. Some foods, like milk and chicken, require more energy to produce organically, and could emit more greenhouse gases. As long a food is grown locally, though, it takes less energy to transport.

This represents the amount of miles some conventional and local foods have to travel in order to be transported. I had no idea local food made such a difference in this area. It's good to know that local and organic food saves energy in some way. I've never really bought or looked at local foods, so maybe I could visit a farmer's market and see what it's like now that I know the benefits.

Those were just a couple of the arguments people make against organic foods, and after so many months of research and discoveries, I personally disagree with them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Misleading Labels and Phony Organic Food

If you walk through the produce section, meat section, or virtually any other area in a grocery store, you will find many products with labels like "all natural" or "fresh." These are supposed to make buyers believe that the food is healthier in some way. You may even find some products that say they have organic ingredients, even though it's a little iffy. Plenty of food companies are trying to trick their customers, so here's how to tell if a food is actually organic.

The first thing you need to look for is the USDA organic seal, because this ensures that the product is at least 95% organic. You can find this on single-ingredient foods like produce.

This video explains more "organic" labels and what they mean exactly:

Unfortunately, some food labels are much more misleading, specifically  "natural" and "all natural." The USDA's rules on these sort of labels are very vague, which means that companies can use these terms on their foods whether it's really "natural" or not. Click here to see a slideshow of specific examples of these food labels, plus other common terms that can be misleading.

Never be fooled by food companies ever again! If you want organic food, it better say "organic" on it. If you want your food to be "all natural," well, good luck with that.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Shopping Trip

I went to the grocery store so I could compare the prices of organic and non-organic foods. I knew that organic foods are more expensive, but I wanted to find out exactly how much more people have to pay for organic foods. I'll start with the produce I looked at. To my surprise, there wasn't a very big price different between the organic fruits and vegetable and the non-organic ones.

Non-organic: $2.69
Organic: $2.99- 10% higher

Baby Carrots:
Non-organic: $1.29
Organic: $1.99- 35% higher

Granny Smith Apples:
Non-organic: $1.99 per pound
Organic: $2.49 per pound- 20% higher

I also compared the prices of milk and ground beef. These types of food had slightly higher price differences between them.

Non-organic: $3.19 per gallon
Organic: $4.29 per gallon- 26% higher

Ground Chuck:
Non-organic: $3.89 per pound
Organic: $5.49 per pound- 30% higher

I thought it was interesting to compare the different foods because I've never really noticed what the price differences were. Before I went to the store, I was actually expecting the organic foods to be more expensive than they were. I think spending a little extra on organic foods is worth all the nutritional benefits they provide.

Starting Organic Week

This is the week when things are really starting to change in my house. We're switching our meats, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products all to organic. Last night, we had our first completely organic dinner, so I thought about some of the differences between that and our normal meals.

Okay, I'll admit, I can be a picky eater sometimes. But I actually liked the organic vegetables because they tasted really fresh. We also had steak and potatoes, which I thought tasted the same as their non-organic counterparts. However, it turns out that the whole meal was more nutritious because it was organic. It's been proven that organic foods are richer in vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus than non-organic foods, and also have higher levels of antioxidants. Remember when I wrote about all the harsh preservatives and food additives in many non-organic foods? People who eat organic foods have less exposure to these preservatives, which is especially important for children because they're still growing. Oh, and did I mention that organic foods have shown an improvement in taste and quality? Now things are starting to make sense!

So far,our organic switch has had postive effects. I mean, I actually liked the vegeables! I like knowing the nutritional aspects, too. Soon, I will go on a shopping trip to compare the costs of organic and non-organic foods. I want to answer a big question in this debate: how much more do people have to pay for organic food products?