Saturday, December 30, 2017

Do You Know if Your Food is Organic?

Is your food organic?  How would you know?  That's a good question if you're looking to eat healthy.  The problem is that just like anything, food fraud abounds, according to this one article.So how do you really determine whether your food is grown with no dangerous pesticides and without hormones and antibiotics?  Here are ways to ensure that you have organic food.

What is Organic, anyway?

The term "organic" is a USDA trademark that requires a lot of money and a lot of paperwork to prove
that your produce is truly organic and produced without GMOs, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. There are plenty of loopholes in the USDA law that companies have skirted around.  What's more, there are countries that ship "organic" foods that are simply not organic.

To add to the confusion, there is Certified Naturally Grown, which is food grown to USDA organic standards without the USDA cost and paperwork.  Technically farmers can't call their food "organic" without the USDA seal, so the Certified Naturally Grown is a nice alternative.

Other foods that are labeled "natural" and "non-GMO" aren't organic, and could be grown with pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and other no-nos. "Natural" is a throwaway word and marketing gimmick that even I will fall for, but it has no regulation.  Non-GMO means that there aren't genetically modified organisms in the product, but again, the product can be produced by conventional means.

So, how do you determine what's organic other than looking at the label -- which may or may not be correct?

Buy Local--and Know Your Farmer

No matter where you live, you have a chance to buy local and know who is producing your food. Even in New York City, a friend of mine joined a CSA and was able to get fresh produce from a farmer she knew used sustainable methods to grow her food.  Do you have a farmer's market?  You can learn a lot about the farms in your area even if you live in a major city when you talk with the farmers there.

You'll get the freshest food from them as well as food that isn't grown with pesticides and other nasty chemicals.  Not sure if the farmer uses sustainable methods?  Ask. Most are quite honest how they produce their food.  By establishing trust, the farmers learn what you and other patrons want and may change their farming methods to compete in a very difficult market.

Buy Food Produced in a Reputable Country--and One Source

It's generally a good idea to purchase food produced in your own country.  I suspect that most of my readers are in the United States or Western developed countries.  So, if you're buying meat, make sure it was raised and slaughtered in your country. If you buy fruits, ask where the origin is.

Now, obvious there isn't many fresh fruits and vegetables in the wintertime.  In this case, you're going to have to do one of three things: preserve your own food (i.e., freeze, can, or dehydrate), buy frozen and canned food at the store when it is out of season, or buy imported food.  It's not that you can't find a reputable source of food outside your country, but it's much harder to follow trail back to see if it is organic or not.

If you're buying food that is constantly imported, you need to be certain that the country of origin has strict laws governing organic certification.  While this isn't a surefire guarantee that what you're getting isn't fake, you're more likely to have organic food than buying from a country that has a corrupt government. At the same time, be sure that you buy foods from a single source.  That means that you shouldn't trust foods that are mixed up from different countries, especially if the countries have lax standards.

Do Your Research

The Cornucopia Institute is a watchdog organization for organic and sustainable foods. They investigate where your foods come from and rank them according to their ingredients.  They even provide a handy guide for determining if the food is organic even if there are no ratings.  They offer pocket guides and full guides for you to print out and read.

Hunt, Raise, and Grow Your Own Food

This is probably the most time-intensive way to get food for you and your family. That being said, you know what went into the animals and crops you raised, you know how the meat was handled when slaughtered and butchered, and you know where it came from.

All that being said, not even I get all my food from hunting, gathering, raising, and growing my own.  It's difficult, which is why I do rely on store-bought foods.  You can confidently reduce the amount of food which were raised in chemicals instead plan on healthier meals with this guide.

Recommended Articles

You Need to Start Saving Seeds -- Easy and Sustainable!

Do You Know the Difference Between Organic and Non-GMO?

Becoming Locavore 


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