Imagine ordering food over the counter. You ordered several of your favourites and before the cashier punched the price, she gave you an option:
“Would you like pesticides along with it?”
What? Of course not.
Think again. What items were you buying? Are these items grown through conventional farming or through organic farming?
Organic farming is a way of growing and processing agricultural products without using food radiation, genetically modified (GM) components and synthetic chemicals found in pesticides and fertilizers.
Organic farming applies to produce such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat.
You can watch this Youtube video for a better understanding of what organic products are:
Do you still want your conventional food?
There is not enough evidence to say that organic food is more nutritious than their counterparts are but they do not have those unwanted, unnatural chemicals.
Going organic benefits the:
Conventional farming uses chemical pesticides that may leave residue in our bodies and cause illnesses.
Also, additives, processing aids, artificial sweeteners, colourings, flavourings and monosodium glutamate are all added in non-organic food – any of these may alter the way our bodies work.
Since organic farming does not use chemicals and food additives, advocates believe that organic foods are healthier, better for weight management and have lesser toxins.
Tending organic farms may be more difficult than conventional farming but it is safer for them because they are not exposed to harsh chemicals to protect their crops.
Plants and animals
Organic farming treats plants and animals humanely with respect. Chickens are free range and not kept in cages, and cows are not kept in feedlots. No growth-regulating drugs, steroids, hormones or antibiotics are fed or injected on them either.
Same goes with plants, fruits and vegetables – no harmful chemicals are used to kill pest and weeds, nor anything injected to preserve them for longer than usual.
Organic farming encourages rotation of crops to prevent depletion of soil nutrients.
It also helps reduce pollution brought about by the unnatural pesticides and fertilisers.
in Australia, organic food is a booming industry currently worth around $200-250 million domestically and $50-80 million in export per year. It is expected to have a 60 per cent growth.
Unfortunately, organic foods cost more than conventional products. The reason behind is that it is generally more labour intensive plus it does not yield as much as conventionally grown products.
The good news according to Margie Osmond, chief executive of the Australian National Retailers Association, “The more people want organic product, and the more readily available they become that must make ultimately some difference to the price.”
In addition, Australia owns some 12 million hectares – the largest amount of farmland in the world that is certified organic according to the study of the Biological Farmers Association.
But while prices are still higher than the conventional produce, here are some tips on how you can save your money if you decide to go organic.
How to save:
Make a gradual transition
Do not attempt to switch to buying organic all at once. You have to get acquainted with the products, the prices and the market.
Plan ALL your meals
Plan your meals from breakfast to dinner and even your snacks.
When planning meals, choose healthy but simple recipes, tweak where possible.
Make a list of what you need including how many of each item you need for the whole week.
Check your fridge and storage so you do not buy the same item. Make sure that items are not yet expired.
Look and compare
Find different stores in your area that sells organic products. Consider the nearest supermarkets, discount stores, farmer’s markets, ethnic markets and online stores.
Consider the distance of the stores from your house – cost of time spent and petrol will add to your expense in the long run.
Ask around about farmer’s market in your area and find out if they are only available on certain days and time.
Look into membership cards and discounts that stores may offer.
Think about buying online and check if you can save more on having your products delivered to you.
Consider your products
Invest on organic meat, milk and cheese. Studies found that “conventional meat and dairy products often contain hormones and show the highest concentration of pesticides.”
Furthermore, “A study in the journal Meat Science compared the nutritional content of organic and non-organic chicken meat. The researchers found that the organic samples contained 28% more omega-3s, essential fatty acids that are linked to reduced rates of heart disease, depression, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and Alzheimer’s disease. Animals raised organically can’t be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or feed made from animal by-products (which can transmit mad cow disease).”
Buy the highest quality product as much as possible.
Always look for labels. The “organic food” label is different from “Natural” and “chemical free” products.
Remember to look for:
Organic Retailers’ and Growers’ Association of Australia (ORGAA) notice. this should be prominently displayed.
Choose foods with the label ‘certified organic’ from one of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) accredited certifying organisations
Check packaging for the grower’s name and certification number
Consider vegetable sources of protein since organic meat and poultry may be more expensive.
When you are ready and you have found the best place to buy your products, try to buy grains and spices in bulk especially when they are on sale. Do not buy things that quickly rot in bulk unless you are really planning to use them at one.
Buy in season fruits and vegetables as they are cheaper that way.
Consider buying conventional items in the Clean 15 list.
|The Clean 15||The Dirty Dozen|
|Frozen sweet peas||Grapes|
|Mango||Sweet bell pepper|
|Eggplant||Snap peas (imported)|
In the US, The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a the list of foods that are high in residue levels or the “Dirty Dozen” and a list of those with the least amount of pesticide residue or the Clean 15.
Preparing and Cooking food
If you have items in the dirty dozen list, make sure to wash and peel them well.
For meat products, always remove the skin and the fat before cooking them.
Portion meat for each meal you are going to cook. According to experts, we only need 3 ounces of meat and poultry, that is about the size of a deck of cards.
Cook in large amounts of food one time, store properly and eat multiple times.
Avoid buying and eating junk food and snacks
Limit eating out and takeaways from fast food stores.
Plant your own vegetables and herbs. Some of the easiest to grow for beginners are: mint, silverbeet, leafy greens, zucchini, cherry tomato, radish, squash, cucumber, spring onions and herbs.
For more tips on your garden:
Lastly, know that the Australian government lay down two key standards for organic food labelling:
The National Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Produce (export standard)
The Australian Standard for Organic and Biodynamic Products AS 6000-2009.
Only seven organisations are accredited to provide inspections and certification services:
AUS-QUAL Limited (AUSQUAL)
Australian Certified Organic (ACO)
Bio-Dynamic Research Institute (BDRI)
National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia Certified Organic (NASAA Certified Organic)
Organic Food Chain (OFC)
Safe Food Production Queensland (SFQ)
Tasmanian Organic-Dynamic Producers (TOP).
Choosing to be healthy is a lifestyle change and it would require a lot of adjustments but shifting to healthier choices always pays off.
So the next time you plan your family meal, plan organic and eat healthy.