Eating nutritiously can take many forms -- vegetarianism, low-carbohydrate diets, meal plans high in fiber. No matter how you eat, you may consider adding organic meat and produce to your diet. While organic foods, both certified organic and noncertified organic, can be cost-prohibitive, there are a number of pros for eating organically.
U.S. standards for certifying organic produce and meats prohibit the use of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, and farmers are not able to claim organic status until the land on which produce and livestock are grown has been pesticide-free for three years prior to harvest (see References 1). As such, by eating organic you consume far fewer pesticides that may negatively affect your health. If cost limits your ability to purchase organic food, consider buying organic produce for only those items that often contain high levels of pesticides. The Environmental Working Group lists celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, nectarines, blueberries, spinach and sweet bell peppers as the fruits and vegetables with the highest pesticide contamination (see References 2). Many commercially produced meats contain pesticides due to chemicals used to rid storage units of pests and the pesticides used on animal feed (see References 3), which makes organic meats a good choice for avoiding contaminants.
The claim that organic meat and produce is more nutritious than nonorganic food is contentious. The American Council of Science and Health contests the idea that eating organically means you're consuming foods with higher nutritional value, asserting that such claims “have no basis in fact” (see References 4). Other sources disagree; the Organic Trade Association (see References 5) and Organic Consumers Association (see References 6) point to studies that confirm the improved nutritional value, such as evidence published in the September 2010 issue of the journal “PLoS One” that measured a higher level of antioxidants, vitamin C and phenolic compounds in organic strawberries over nonorganic strawberries.
Many of the pesticides used on nonorganic crops and livestock seep into the ground, polluting groundwater and soil. This contamination can cause problems for wildlife that drink water in the area or eat insects from that soil, as well as fish that live in contaminated waters. In addition, overuse of chemical pesticides contributes to the very pests targeted developing an immunity to poisons, resulting in the use of stronger pesticides to make them effective.
Improved Animal Welfare
While federal organic standards do not directly address the treatment of animals other than to specify animals cannot be kept in cramped quarters (see References 8), the animals used for organic meats often have better treatment. Some grocery stores understand consumers' concerns and seek ways to allow them to make an informed choice. According to a March 2010 article in the "Santa Cruz Wire," Whole Foods offered an animal welfare rating system for meat sold in its stores nationwide.
- National Agricultural Library; Should I Purchase Organic Foods?; Mary V. Gold; October 2008
- EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides: The Full List -- 49 Fruits and Veggies
- Sustainable Table: Pesticides
- "American Council on Science and Health"; The Organic Food Nutrition Wars; Joseph D. Rosen; September 2009
- Organic Trade Association: Nutritional Considerations
- "The New York Times"; Is Organic Food More Nutritious?; Marian Burros; July 16, 2003
Nicki Wolf has been writing health and human interest articles since 1986. Her work has been published at various cooking and nutrition websites. Wolf has an extensive background in medical/nutrition writing and online content development in the nonprofit arena. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Temple University.
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