Saturday, February 11, 2012

What is Organic?

 I remember when the term "Organic" first came out.  It was the butt end of so many jokes and derision that few people took it seriously.  I mean if it's living isn't it made from organic matter?  Honestly in the beginning the term "organic" was not controlled by the FDA and thus anyone could slap the term on their product charge 3 times as much and separate a fool from their money.  Today the situation is different though as anything organic is controlled by the FDA to mean raised in a certain way free from antibiotics and growth hormones.  Of course the FDA also cottons to the mega food corporations by telling us that there is nothing significantly different between organic vs. commercial... yeah right, if you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in buying... cheap.  The difference comes in ways not measured by the FDA so in this instance lets examine 3 things that comprise the major organic items sold in the supermarket, Eggs, Butter, and Meat.

Eggs - Here is something that probably takes 2nd place to meat on the Vegetarian-Food Nazi parade of "Things I despise and you should too because I said so!"  As we are finding out, the cholesterol in eggs is actually of the good type that the body needs for brain health.1  That being said, our real comparison here is between commercial eggs and pastured eggs (organic).  The FDA uses a quality metric to compare the two and yes you're comparing eggs to eggs but the comparison has to do with quality not nutrition.  Commercial eggs are from chickens kept in inhumane spaces so small they can't even move around.  Such factory farming leads to the use of massive amounts of antibiotics and growth hormones to be able to get the hens to produce.  These antibiotics and hormones show up in commercial eggs along with Arsenic that has been put into the feed to prevent fungal growth.2 According to Mother Earth News3 Pastured Organic Eggs contain:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
Quite a difference from what we have been lead to believe by the FDA. Seems to me one can eat eggs without worry of dropping dead from coronary disease as long as one sticks with the old adage, "Everything in moderation."  When looking for eggs look for the terms "Organic, Vegetarian Fed, and Hormone/Antibiotic Free", these are all terms that are strictly defined by the FDA/USDA.  The term "cage free" is fairly useless as it is not a controlled term but this may change in the future.

Butter -I wrote about butter yesterday but I can summarize here again, butter made from grass fed cow's milk = good, butter made from grain fed cow's milk = bad.  Real butter from the former is full of easily utilized vitamin A required for some of the most important aspects of the human body like the immune system, endocrine glands and healthy skin. It is also full of antioxidants, especially vitamin E, good cholesterol that is vital for brain function and Conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLA) that the latest research points out may be vital in holding weight in a normal range and in preventing diabetes.4  This nutrition however has only been observed in butter made from proper sources, i.e. grass fed cows.  Grain fed cow's milk has greatly reduced amounts of these and is essentially just a rectangle of saturated fat with no real nutritional value.  Couple this with the fact the commercial feed grains are usually GMO and contain harmful arsenic (used as an anti-fungal) and you begin to see how greatly compromised our food supply is.

Beef & Chicken - Chicken is an easy one as what I really look for is the same as eggs, Antibiotic/Hormone Free and fed a vegetarian diet.  Purdue has started doing this and it makes their chicken taste better than most anyone else.  Beef is another matter, you will find beef with the same description as chicken and then there's 100% grass fed beef.  To tell you the truth I'm not as concerned with beef being 100% grass fed as I am with dairy cows.  Organic beef free of hormones and antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet is actually pretty close to the kind of beef available in the early 1900's.  What this all means is that organic beef is pasture kept longer than commercial beef and the vegetarian diet cannot include any animal by products (and depending on the producer is usually non-GMO grain).  Without growth hormones speeding up the process, cattle are allowed to develop naturally and their flavor is outstanding compared to commercial beef which has lost any semblance to real food.  Naturally the organic stuff is more expensive since the yield is lower, but it's still less than 100% grass fed beef which is not to my taste in my opinion.  As for health benefits, good organic beef has less fat than the commercial grade stuff and is of course replete with more vitamins and minerals.5 

In short, part of the research project that is this blog was trying to find out was this: Why were people so much healthier in the early 1900's than now even though the teaching is that they ate an unhealthy diet?  The conclusion I have made so far is this:  Their diet wasn't really unhealthy.  You need fats in your diet because they help you to absorb certain vitamins and minerals.  Without fat to break them down they're as useless as a yo-yo without a string. While my study is far from scientific, some of my conclusions are being borne out by true scientific studies.  Mine is still a work in progress and my only observations are the effects of the 1930's diet on myself and my family.

References:
1) The Truth About Fat And Cholesterol
2) Healthier Store Bought Eggs
3) Mother Earth News: Pastured Eggs Vitamins
4) Life Balance Northwest: Butter Up Buttercup
5) Health Benefits of Natural Beef 

(All images courtesy of Wiki-Commons)

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