Written by: Craig Holmander
In this modern day, it’s hard to believe that the risk of contaminants is still present in our food chain. And, while there has been a lot of hype about organic food products over the past decade, we wonder if eating organically can provide a refuge from this risk. While organic products continue to grow in popularity, many consumers still are not convinced it is worth spending the extra cash shopping at their local market or in the health food section of their grocery store. At first we weren’t convinced either, thinking all the hype reflected a typical fad with no grounding in medical or scientific knowledge. But after doing a little research, we found the following reasons why paying a few dollars extra for organic food may be worthwhile. Read on for just a few of the things we discovered.
Undesirable Contaminants Found in Conventionally Raised Meat:
Believe it or not, there are several unseemly impurities that the FDA actually allows meat to contain. This includes animal byproducts, antibiotics, pesticides, steroids, and sewage sludge. Yes, that’s right folks, sewage sludge. The FDA even labels some defects, such as bugs, mold, or grit, “natural or unavoidable defects…that present no health hazards”. So next time you are at your local grocery store, try to keep that image in mind when deciding what to put in your shopping cart!
What is Organic Meat and Dairy?
In order to be considered organic, meat and dairy must be produced from animals fed only organic feed (i.e. food grown without pesticides or artificial fertilizer). These animals must be allowed access to the outdoors. The animals must be kept in conditions natural to the specific animal. For instance, ruminants are required access to a pasture to graze in. Organic livestock and poultry cannot be given antibiotics unless being treated for a disease, and must not be given hormones or steroids to promote faster growth.
More Omega 3 Fatty Acids- Omega 3 is mostly present in seafood, but is also found in meat derived from ruminants that consume grass growing on pastures. These fatty acids are associated with a number of health benefits including a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, allergies, depression and autoimmune disorders. Since conventionally raised livestock often are fed grain rather than grass, Omega 3 is much more abundant in organic meat.
CLA- Conjugated Linoleic acids are a type of fatty acid found in the meat and dairy products derived from ruminants. CLA is believed to reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, and may help to reduce body fat. Studies show that organic meat contains as much as five times the amount of CLA as conventionally raised meat.
Vitamin E- Organic livestock and poultry also yield meat with higher levels of Vitamin E. Vitamin E has antioxidant properties and while the data is still a bit unclear, studies have shown it helps reduce the incidence of cancer and heart disease.
Less saturated fat and calories- regardless of whether you cut off the outer layer of fat in a conventional piece of meat it is still going to contain more fat content throughout the cut, because the animals are usually fed grain rather than grass, and receive significantly less exercise from having lack of access to a pasture. The amount of calories is also lower, so if you are looking for an effortless way to cut calories–simply switch from conventional to organic meat–for every 1 gram of fat, you save 9 calories!
Does the Same Apply to Fish?
Many experts also recommend eating wild fish rather than farm raised fish. Fish, especially salmon, is known to be one of the best sources for beneficial omega 3 fatty acids. Wild fish tends to contain more Omega 3 and is also lower in mercury and other contaminants.
Additionally, organic fish tends to come from reputable sources, like certified offshore fisherman, or sustainable “farms” that pride themselves on transparency and credentials. The organic stamp is an expensive one to get, so producers take much pride in maintaining the standards. However, a cheaper route for some distributors is to buy from conventional producers in other countries. This applies to both fresh and frozen products, so take a close look when buying from the local grocery store. Did you know, over 75% of the catfish consumed in the US comes from China? How about shrimp? Close to all of the commercially available shrimp in the US comes from Thailand or Vietnam. Tilapia? Sources are mostly in Southeast Asian and South America. The problem is not that these items come from abroad, but that they are subject to only the regulators in that country. Once the supply from a source is inspected and deemed safe by the USDA, it continues into the country virtually unregulated.