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Organic Foods A Waste of Money? (Controversy Alert!)

The organic vs. conventional debate rages on … and will continue to for a long time.  And now even more fuel has been added to the organic fire. 

We wrote thorganic food controversyis blog earlier this year, but with a recent study coming out just the other day, it was time to update and edit.

You may have seen snippets from the study — here’s a summary that was published online in the New York Times: "Study Questions Advantages of Organic Meat and Produce."

To summarize, the authors analyzed data from 237 other studies — something called a meta analyses — to determine the differences between conventionally grown and organically grown foods.

Two of the main conclusions "…fruits and vegetables labeled organic were, on average, no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts, which tend to be far less expensive. Nor were they any less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E. coli"

Hmmm, an interesting wrench into the mix. 

People on the organic side have been screaming for years that the produce they buy is MUCH higher in nutrients.

People on the conventional side have been screaming for years that there’s no difference.

But there’s more to it than that.  It’s not just about nutrients — in fact, we think that’s the smallest part of the story. 

As we’ve talked in the past when reviewing studies, it’s impossible to control or measure everything … and, to be honest, sometimes research only brings up more questions that need to be answered. 

They did find the conventional produce had more pesticide residue than the organic produce.  This research study also found "no obvious health advantages to organic meats."

But what they didn’t look at is how pesticides — though arguably the levels found were below what’s ‘allowed’ by the EPA — may accumulate over time in the body, may affect pregnant women, children or the fetus.  Again, though, those are all a ton of factors that may have been out of the scope of this review.

One finding that supports our personal belief — with the organic meats they found less antibiotic resistant bacteria, though they noted these would be killed during cooking anyhow.  However, in our minds, this is a concern.  Another recent study showed chickens had the highest levels of antibiotic resistant bacteria to begin with …

… and with a culture that medicates for everything, this concerns us in the long run for us and our kiddos. 

It’s why all of our meats — beef, chicken and pork — are from our local farmers market, from farmers where we know their farming practices, like the quality of their products, and of course enjoy the taste.

We buy organic meats.  We buy organic dairy products. 

But back to one of the original questions at hand — nutrient content.  Maybe organic produce doesn’t have more nutrients than conventionally grown produce.  But you know what — when you buy foods locally, they WILL have more nutrients because you’re eating them closer to when they were picked.  We stand by that and buy as much local as possible. 

We don’t always buy organic vegetables.

We grow many of our own.  We use a CSA. 

When we shop to supplement both, we use the "dirty dozen" list and buy organic of the top 12 "worst" offenders.  Others are usually conventional.

Our conclusion of the last blog … and still … is that local is best.  If organic, great — but we would even say local over organic.  Sometimes the other option is an organic vegetable that was grown 3000+ miles away, like much of it is when shopping at the grocery store.  At that point it’s picked weeks before it even gets to your kitchen vs. something picked just days or hours before you eat it. 

Our conclusions to the Organic Food "Controversy":

  1. Local Produce is Best
  2. Meats (inclusive of all animals) are best from farms where you know their farming practices
  3. The less pesticides we can eat, the better
  4. Eat what you can afford.  Conventional produce is certainly better than none, so if you can’t afford organic, still eat it.  A lot.
  5. Make it easy — find a local CSAsearch this website and type in your zip code.  

We’re also fortunate that there is a local company that does food delivery from local farms — produce, meats, dairy, etc.  Great to have options. 

Please share this with a friend on Facebook if you enjoyed it and found it helpful!  Just click the link below.

14 Responses to Organic Foods A Waste of Money? (Controversy Alert!)

  1. Bob D April 20, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    The CSA link
    http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

    • Chris and Kara Mohr April 20, 2010 at 10:17 am #

      I appreciate that direct link and I made that edit in the piece too. Chris

      • Greg March 13, 2012 at 9:07 am #

        I also found http://www.eatwild.com to be a great resource that tells you location, about the farm, and the methods used at the farm (ie – pasture raised, organic, etc).

        Excellent article!

  2. Carrie Grant April 20, 2010 at 10:40 am #

    We signed up for a CSA for the first time this coming summer.  Not only are we able to get fresh fruit and veg, but eggs cheeses, meats and fish, but there is also a "payment plan" so we can budget this out over several months.  I was so excited about this!  We chose to go with a package that includes, fruit, veg, eggs, and milk…for 26 weeks.  I am a person who loves suprises…and I love to try new foods and recipes, so this will be like a little bit of Christmas every week!  They are also includung preparation ideas for "unusual" things they may send us…I haven't been able to come up with a down side to CSA's yet!
    -Carrie

  3. Newkirk April 20, 2010 at 10:48 am #

    I love your bit about the CSA.  I have joined an all natural CSA which uses the same farming procedures as organic but isn't certified organic.  One of the many things that I love about my CSA is that there is a newsletter with recipes relating to the items I receive for the week.  The recipes are very helpful in my weekly meal planning.   

  4. Jessica April 20, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

    Try different CSA's on different years – they vary so much. It took me a few years before I found one I really love!

  5. Jenny Habig April 22, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    This marks our 3rd year with our CSA. I look forward to my weekly box of goodies the way a little kid fantasizes about her birthday. Going with the flow of what's abundant means learning new techniques, trying new recipes, and flexing your creativity in new ways. With our farmer, last summer was the Year of the Carrot, and the season before was the Year of the Beet. I learned that my dog will do somersaults for carrot trimmings, and that Chocolate-Beet Muffins are pretty tasty, especially with a dab of cream cheese.

  6. Jenny Habig April 22, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

    <p>This marks our 3rd year with our CSA. I look forward to my weekly box of goodies&nbsp;the way&nbsp;a little kid fantasizes about her birthday. Going with the flow of what's abundant means learning new techniques, trying new recipes, and flexing your creativity in new ways. With our farmer, last summer was the Year of the Carrot, and the season before was the Year of the Beet. I learned that my dog will do somersaults for carrot trimmings, and that Chocolate-Beet Muffins are pretty tasty, especially with a dab of cream cheese.</p>

  7. anne April 29, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    Thank you for this guys…didn't even know they existed!  I have already checked into a few and they are plenty affordable.  I always get my best info from the Mohr's…and I have a lot of information coming in!!

  8. Anna March 12, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you for addressing the common myth about organic being better than local. My family sells produce to restaurants and supports local farmers by contracting with them for growing fresh, local produce. The local farmers are often Amish or Mennonite, and aren’t organic certified. The organic certification movement in my opinion only encourages huge factory farms because it’s expensive. But CSAs and farmers markets are local. Get to know your farmer. Buy local, eat local. Thanks!

  9. Tracy March 12, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Thank you all for supporting your local farmers. I grow a large garden and sell my produce, but since I work it mostly myself I can’t do the deliveries. It’s all I can do to keep up with 2 acres of garden. We have over 200 acres and will eventually start our grapevines but for now it’s a variety of veggies. We have some fruit trees that should have a good crop this year. I’m looking forward to that. I really appreciate the customers that I have. Some of my customers will ask me to grow a specific veggie and I will always try. I like to keep everyone satisfied. It’s a very healthy lifestyle and I try to pass along the health benefits of fresh grown veggies. Again, thank you for your support. Chris and Kara, thanks for the great article. Keep up the good work.

    Tracy

  10. Chris and Kara Mohr March 13, 2012 at 1:42 am #

    Thanks, Joe!

  11. Heidi September 5, 2012 at 7:44 am #

    Great response Chris and Kara – I completely agree and follow the exact same personal guidelines as you do for your family. I’m always extra jazzed when I’m doing something like the Mohr team! Keep up the great work – Heidi

  12. Ken Danz September 6, 2012 at 10:59 am #

    Enjoyed the article but came across an argument for organic in that they aren’t genetically altered which can effect the amount of nutrients and a couple other things. I would enjoy your take and info. on that. Also because a link to the Mayo Clinic’s site came up next to your article I checked it out and found they have a very informative article on labeling organic, USDA organic, natural etc. Thanks, Chris and Kara.

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