Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Eating Organic

Farmer Tom called into question organic foods over at Astro's. Being a firm believer in organics I feel I should explain some of those reasons and Haloscan isnt a good forum for that.

Organic means grown with no man-made fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals. To qualify for organic the land cannot have had those chemicals used for several years so that the ground is free, or fairly free, of contamination. I say fairly free because it has been proven that some chemicals can be found in the soil decades after their use but the majority will leave with the next couple of years crops.

Why eat organic? Because you are what you eat. What you take in is what your body has to both build with and deal with. All food is a combination of fats, carbs and proteins and all of those are needed. But one can get all three of those from a typical McDonalds meal. What one cannot get is the vitamins and minerals that the body also needs to function. Vitamins are essentially a byproduct of plants, made in the creation of their fruits of leaves and stalks. Man oftentimes adds additional things that get into us when we eat those foods. And so your body has to do something with it. Some get passed, many others get placed into the only holding-pen in the body: fat cells.

Do we know what all stays with us? Not really, and we dont even know exactly which chemicals to look for, and even if we did very few labs are capable of finding them. One study of infant cord blood showed some IIRC 300 checmicals. These are chemicals that made it past the barrier and were then used as building blocks for the developing fetus(tangent: Fetus means "child" in greek. Just why do pro-choicers think that is a better word to use?) It goes without saying that a developing child would be affected far more by pollution than an adult would as we are not developing the various organs and systems necessary to life.

Organic avoids some of the more disgusting practices of modern ranching. As a well fed cow fetches a higher price, conventional ranchers went to a cheap sources of protein. Pig blood and (worse) chicken manure. With the advent of Mad Cow disease the practice of adding back cows blood and organs has thankfully been stopped already. The pig blood has been deemed acceptable because there has yet to be an instance of "mad cow" transfered from pigs to cattle. The other source fixed two problems. The feed for the cattle and the need to dispose of the chicken's manure. So it is gathered up and added to the feed. Need I mention that ALL cattle are herbivores? What in the world are we thinking giving them a type of food that G-d never ever intended? The USDA is banning blood and manure and it may have done so already, I cant remember when those rules were to take affect, but with organic that was never an issue.

The slaughter house is a large penned in area where cattle go to be butchered for our consumption right? Well, not exatly. Those yards are actually kept so that if the ranchers ever get out of hand and start asking a living wage for their product the slaughter houses have enough previously purchased cattle that the simply dont buy, forcing the ranchers to seel at the lower price. Those yards keep cattle close together, in crowded small and dirty pens. (There is a reason those yards smell so bad.) This often leads to unhealthy cattle. Those same cattle which they then place on your grocers shelves. Sometimes these cattle get so sick that they cannot even get to the killing floor by themselves. They have to be dragged, sometimes dead to the killing floor. The killing floor is where the do nasty gruesome stuff to make icky cows into yummy beef. I dont want to ruin the magic of that beloved transformation so I wont discuss it. But those things leading up to the killing floor? You guessed it! Doesnt happen with organic. Now I am not terribly interested in the "happiness" of the cow. I do believe it should be treated decently but I am rather more concerned with the health of the animal we will soon be eating.

Earning a living wage is a real issue with farmers and ranchers. Organic supports them with better rates than conventional buyers. The only way to help them out more (short of giving them money) is to support your local farmers markets and possibly butcher shops. At a farmers market you get fresh local produce at a better than supermarket price in most cases and the farmer benefits as he is making 10 times or more what he would get selling to a co-op. For instance, a potato farmer is doing good to get $13 for a hundred pounds of (conventional)potatoes. If he sells 10lbs to you at $3 then he is making $30 per hundred pounds.