Transitioning To Organic And Local Food

In Western society, much of our diet depends on a collection of methods and processes by which our food is grown, shipped and sold. Unless you’re growing your own food, many of the foods you eat–even vegetables and fruits–likely contain man-made chemicals or are sprayed with pesticides. Those who are uncomfortable with this fact may opt for an organic or local diet.

What Are Organic Foods?

Much of the fruit you purchase has likely been grown using chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and the meat you buy may have been treated with antibiotics and growth hormones. These are common and legal methods growers use to increase output. But chemical treatments leave residues on and in food that may be linked to a host of serious health problems, both for those who eat the food and for the environment in which the food was grown.

In response, many people are now transitioning to organic food. Organic foods are grown with minimal or no chemical treatment.

Transitioning to Organic Food

Transitioning to organic food can be a simple matter of reading food packaging before we buy. Look for certified organic products to ensure that you are truly getting organic goods. The USDA National Organic Program allows food producers to use three types of organic labeling:

  • “100% Organic”: Product is made with 100 percent organic ingredients
  • “Organic”: Product must have at least 95 percent organic ingredients
  • “Made With Organic Ingredients”: Product must have at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

Since pesticides increase a farm’s output, organic foods are typically more expensive to produce than foods grown with chemicals and hormones. Eating locally and purchasing produce directly from farmers at markets–as opposed to your grocery store–eliminates the “middle man” and may help reduce some of this cost.

Because babies are especially sensitive to chemical toxins, some parents make a transition to organic baby food without necessarily changing their adult food habits. Organic baby food is available in many of the same stores and aisles that sell organic meats and vegetables.

What is Local Food?

Food origins are also becoming an increasingly common concern. For example, an apple in a supermarket in Pennsylvania may have been picked in an orchard in Oregon that can provide apples cheaply to the Pennsylvania grocery store. However, this apple–along with all of the other apples, and all of the other produce in the store–was likely transported across the country in a truck, which has serious environmental implications.

Also, apples grow perfectly well in Pennsylvania. Of course, this is not true during the winter months, but if we make an effort to buy seasonal fruits, vegetables, and meats that were grown close to where we live, we reduce petroleum use and support farmers in our own communities.

Transitioning to Local Food

Choosing local food is also a matter of reading packaging. But local eating may also mean committing oneself to seasonal food, which means waiting for apples and fresh strawberries until the winter ends. Foods for every season are grown in almost every climate in our country, but so-called “locavores” must often make sacrifices during the winter months. Pickling and preserving seasonal foods is another way to have local fruits and vegetables during the cold months. Local eating also means buying milk and vegetables at dairies and farmers markets instead of supermarkets, and it may necessitate exploring and researching the specific farms in your area.

Resources

Mayo Clinic. (2010). Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious? Retrieved August 27, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255

Organic.org. (2010). Organic myths. Retrieved August 27, 2010, from http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-207