Organic Food, What and Where

Food is a part of everyone’s life, every day.  Where we can make better choices in the food we eat, we can improve the environment, treatment of animals, and social conditions as well.  Read more about choosing organic.

Here in the US, organic foods are regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP) and generally limit the types of pesticides used to grow food, limit growth hormones used on animals, and exclude genetically modified foods.  The “organic” label does not regulate all environmental and social aspects of food, such as living conditions of animals grown for consumption.   The US does not regulate the use of the term “Natural” and therefor these products may contain artificial ingredients.  It’s also difficult to determine meat products produced using cruelty free  methods.  Advertising terms may not be regulated and may give the wrong impression, more detailed info here.

Cage Free:  The terms “cage free” and “free range” are used on many egg packaging.  According to Wikipedia, the US does not regulate these terms.  A common practice is to house chickens in small cages where they do not get exposure to the outdoors.  Some chickens are raised in tightly packed coups or barns, with little extra room to “range free.”  This applies to egg laying chickens and chickens grown for meat consumption.

The major concern in beef production is what type of diet the cows are fed, see more info on factory farmed food.  A common practice is to feed the cows grains for faster production, but grain is not good for their digestive system.  Grass Fed is not regulated and is compulsory by the farmer.  This website for New Hope 360 gives a good review of labels and definitions.

The Food Alliance and Protected Harvest is starting to certify food grown using sustainable practices that address the environmental impacts of agriculture.  As this is a producer based initiative, there are not a wide variety of products certified.

Certification and labeling using the term “Fair Trade” or “Ethical Trade” is regulated by multiple groups, so there can be multiple labels using the term Fair Trade that may vary in their requirements.

Here are some suggestions for finding food sources of improved quality and practices:

Purchase from local farms:

  • Search the Animal Welfare website for certified farms
  • Shop local farmers markets. http://www.localharvest.org/
  • Get more from your Farmers Market
  • Research the products you frequently purchase.  If something in the store is advertised as “All Natural” or “Organic” or whichever luring label you’re attracted to, research the practices of that brand.
  • Read the labels to determine which product was produced nearby.
  • Some restaurants are using local sources.  In my area this include: Flatbread Pizza, Chipotle (national chain), The Fireplace Grill
  • Visit local farms: http://www.pickyourown.org/
  • Some communities have a cooperative (co-op) relationship with where you contribute a set $ each week or month, then the produce from that farm is distributed among the participants.  This system helps the farms by providing a reliable income.
  • Search for local foods grown near you: http://www.eatwellguide.org/i.php?pd=Home
  • Cook meals with ingredients in season (where you live).  Info on another page coming soon.
  • Perform a Google search for information in your local area.  It turns out that the Boston area has some indoor farmers markets this winter. http://www.mass.gov/agr/massgrown/docs/winter_farmers_markets_2010-2011.pdf

Purchase Quality

  • Elevation Burger offers Organic, Grass Fed, Free-Range Beef and is opening new stores around the US.

More intense research

Info for Appropriate Food Sources

Teaching your Children

7 Strategies http://planetgreen.discovery.com/food-health/7-strategies-for-teaching-your-kids-what-real-food-is.html

Movie “What’s on your Plate?

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6 comments on “Organic Food, What and Where

  1. It’s so sad to me how much leeway there is for labeling, and also how many labels are so incredibly misleading. Especially “natural.” For the person who does not have the luxury of coming across a post like this, or of doing their research, “natural” actually means something. I am happy though that so many local farms in many areas are stepping it up and offering more CSAs than ever, and finding a market for them. Or maybe it’s just that I finally notice them. Either way, hooray for local food and extra knowledge and posts like this! 🙂

    • It sounds like maybe you already knew about this issue with food labels. Have you done some research on this already. I’d love to hear about anything you know to add to this collection of knowledge.

      Thanks for commenting on this post.

      • 🙂 Most of my knowledge is not super-solid, and it has been gathered from the last 15 or so years, since I became interested in how we get our food. Whenever there is money to be made, there are lots of icky people rushing in for a piece of it..therefore, we get lots of major-brand labels that make their own mini-organic or natural labels, and we think we are really great by buying those products, when the money is all being funneled into the same place as if we had bought Coke and twinkies. There is a char somewhere that shows who owns what companies and their whole web- but really, my knowledge is quite limited, I just pick up pieces and always feel skeptical whenever I see food that looks healthy but is wrapped in plastic or shipped from far away. It’s all a game to get money, and farms are the way to go, when possible. Your collection seems pretty extensive 🙂

      • Yeah, I read labels now to see where the food was made/packaged. I feel like a dork doing it but I think it helps our society. Thanks for your comments. I’ll have to look for that chart.

      • I’m trying to find the chart, and having a hard time. it was in a book. Maybe you’ll have better luck than me, and it seems that there are some useful ones out there!
        And never feel like a dork, the more people see others looking closely at labels, the more they may consider doing it 🙂

  2. Pingback: fresh Fruits and Vegetables: According to seasons | Enhance The Human Experience

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