Since I was a kid, I’ve always liked sitting at the dinner table and reading the list of ingredients on the back of anything I was eating. Most of the time I read the ingredients out loud… and I hated not knowing how to pronounce the really long ones! But I tried anyway. I don’t know if it was a genuine attempt on my part to figure out what exactly my food was made of, or if I was just being silly and trying to irritate my parents (probably the latter, considering I was about nine or ten years old).
In all seriousness though, I believe in healthy, unprocessed, organic ingredients. It actually hurts to read the really long chemical names (a lot of them being preservatives and artificial flavors) because I strongly feel that they should not have a place in our diet. We were meant to enjoy fresh produce plucked from a tree, not processed through factories and manipulated by chemicals (read: rubbish)!
When I say I believe in organic food, I am not just talking about the packages and produce you can buy at Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s that is stamped with the glorious “USDA Organic” seal of approval from the government. More importantly, I am talking about locally grown organic food, which can be hard to find year-round, especially in or near big industrial U.S. cities. Locally grown organic food is far superior to any food items shipped from miles and miles away. Here is why: Firstly, local food doesn’t need to be transported from far away distances; therefore, it is more fresh, in season, and does not contribute to the pollution of long-distance transportation. Secondly, local farming is most likely done on a smaller scale, which encourages a more holistic approach to farming practices (most notably, crop and seed diversity).
If this sounds fascinating to you, and you’d like to learn more about the history of organic food production and the impact of industrialization on the organic food commodity, you can read my academic research paper at this link: “Green” Food for Thought: Defetishizing the Fantasy of Organic.
As I mentioned earlier, I understand that it is difficult to buy produce from a local farmer’s market, especially during the winter months. But, since I truly believe that locally grown organic is the best way to go, I am making an attempt to find local famers’ markets nearby to buy fresh produce in addition to joining a cow-share to buy fresh, raw dairy and sourcing my eggs, cheeses and meats from a local family farmer who raises his animals humanely and lets them graze on pasture (even ‘organic’ meats can be grain-fed as long as the feed is organic). In case you didn’t know, grass-fed dairy and meats are significantly more nutritious than their grain-fed counterparts, providing us with a much higher ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. Anyway, when I’m in a pinch and I haven’t made an order from the local farms, I stop at Whole Foods to pick up some organic options.
In the future, I am hoping that consumers will form unions and demand reasonably-priced locally grown produce in their local grocery stores, and in the meantime, the government should start subsidizing local farms so we don’t have to drive too far away to find a “local” one. I will do my part by shopping for produce that is organic and in season and once I start making some money, I can buy stock to support my local farm as well!
Update(6-4-2010): Here’s my blog post discussing the debate about organic food that aired on NPR (4-13-2010). The motion being debated was “Organic food is marketing hype.”
Happy organic shopping!