Morphed out of 1960s radicalism and stimulated by growing interest in health and nutrition, the organic movement was based on the idea that the food we eat should be produced in accordance with nature’s logic. But does the organic label today, truly guaranty more nutritious food?
Today, the organic label conjures a rich narrative that our food comes from some Utopian farm where animals can graze in endless love and care and free from any stress. And although that may have been true of some of the smaller organic farms, when a movement expands and becomes mainstream, their practices have to mimic the industrial system.
Today “organic” is an 11 billion dollar industry and the shear quantity of its produce forces the imperative to buy from farms operating on an industrial scale. Stores such as Whole Foods have adopted the grocery standard for a regional distribution system, which makes it impossible to support small farms. Tremendous warehouses buy produce for dozens of stores at a time, forcing them to deal exclusively with tremendous farms.
Most organic milk comes from a factory farm where thousands of cows never even see a blade of grass – you would need an acre of grass per animal and more hours than there are in a day to herd them along the pasture. Instead the cows are confined to fences eating certified organic grain and tethered to milk machines 3 times a day. The reason most organic milk is ultra-pasteurized is so that companies can sell it over long distances.
It is a mistake to assume that the organic label automatically signifies healthfulness, especially when that label appears on the heavily processed and long distance foods. An industrial organic meal is nearly as drenched in as much fossil fuel as its conventional counterpart, when you consider the distance of travel. And nutritional value diminishes with each day that passes until the food reaches our table.
But the healthfulness of food goes beyond toxicity. You must also consider the nutritional quality which is impacted by several variables such as climate, soil, geography, freshness, farming practices and genetics. And because it is difficult to isolate these variables, demonstrating the nutritional superiority of organic produce over conventional produce has been a challenge.
Furthermore, as the organic farms have expanded into industrialized farms, their expansion was in need of subsidy. Today, many of the organic farms are owned by companies like General Mills which is on the list of companies that use GMO produce to make their products.
Just something to think about the next time you go grocery shopping and you reach for the $8 organic asparagus that has traveled 5,681 miles from Argentina. Keep in mind that there is a reason that Whole Foods got the nickname “Whole Paycheck” and the money that spend on buying organic may not be worth it.