Good News For Organic Foods
Organic food is defined as food produced in a sustainable, safe, and healthy manner through the use of specific organic farming methods. Organic farming uses natural alternatives to manufactured pesticides and fertilizers. If meat is labeled organic, it means that the animal was fed organically grown grain and was not treated with growth hormones or antibiotics. There is an elevated interest in organic products these days, and organic food distributors and natural food brokers are busy keeping grocery store shelves stocked with organically grown food.
Several Concerns Regarding Conventionally Farmed Food
One reason that consumer interest in organic food is ever growing is that people are learning more about the harmful impacts traditional farming methods have on the environment. For one thing, traditional farming represents more than two thirds of the world's water use through leaking irrigation systems and plants that need more water than the environment can naturally provide. In addition, pesticides and synthetic fertilizer, manufactured through the use of fossil fuels, pollute the soil and groundwater. Traditional farms may not provide adequate crop rotation to keep the soil healthy, and the reliance on vast mono-crops is decreasing overall biodiversity. Organic farming is beneficial to the environment through its lack of reliance of chemicals and fossil fuels and through its land management practices.
Many consumers are drawn to organic products because of a concern for animal welfare. Organic farmers consider animal welfare to be a priority. Animals on organic farms must be given clean and sanitary living conditions, and they must have freedom of movement. Their environment must allow them to carry out their natural behaviors, such as grazing or nesting. In addition, they are fed healthy, organic grain and are given no growth hormones, antibiotics, or other chemicals.
Consumers also choose organic products because they believe the products are better for their health. They are aware of dangers associated with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, growth hormones and antibiotics, as these have been well publicized. People may also believe that organic food is more nutritious, but until recently there was not a lot of data supporting this view, and this has caused some debate among scientists. Recently, though, there is good news for consumers and organic food brokers regarding real nutritional benefits in organic foods, specifically meat and dairy products.
New Research On The Nutritional Benefits of Organic Food
The news comes from the Nafferton Ecological Farming Group, a research team associated with Newcastle University. They have analyzed data from 196 studies comparing the nutrient content of conventionally and organically produced cow milk and 67 papers comparing conventional and organic meat. Using a large number of studies can decrease the impact of any single flawed study on the conclusions drawn. So what conclusions did they draw from their meta-analysis?
The researchers found that organic meat and dairy products contain higher amounts of good fatty acids, like omega-3, which are known to promote cardiovascular health, healthy neurological function, and a strong immune system. In fact, the milk of grass-fed cows was found to contain 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than that of cows fed on grain. In addition, the organic products were found to be lower in the harmful fatty acids that are associated with heart disease and other health conditions.
In looking at produce, scientists found that antioxidants and some minerals were much higher in organic foods than conventionally grown crops. In fact, antioxidants were found to be up to 40% higher in the organic products. Antioxidants are nutrients that are associated with a lower risk of heart disease and some types of cancer. In addition, zinc, a beneficial mineral nutrient, was found to be significantly higher in organic fruits and vegetables. Moreover, the toxic chemical cadmium, a heavy metal that increases the risk of heart disease and cancer, is considerably lower in organic produce.
Some Nutritional Advantages Of Conventionally Farmed Food
Some scientists are less enthusiastic about these findings. For one thing, the fatty acids in organic milk would represent a very small dietary increase for the average consumer who switches to organic from conventional milk. Besides that, conventional products also have some nutritional advantages over organic ones. Conventional milk, for example, contains much more iodine and selenium than organic milk. Iodine is especially important for pregnant women, and conventional milk is a one of the main dietary sources of it. In the US, salt is often iodized, but in the UK, it is not, so conventional milk is an important source of iodine for women living there.
Overall Good News For Consumers and Organic Food Industry
Overall, the news is good for consumers who want to eat safer and more nutritious food. It creates more demand for specialty food brokers and specialty food distributors who get the organic products from the farms to the grocery shelves. Organic food is widely available nowadays. Many local farmers sell organic products at weekend farmers markets. Some grocery chains like Earth Fare and Whole Foods Market specialize in organic food. Nowadays almost all of the large grocery chains like Kroger, Walmart, Publix, and Costco, to name just a few, are responding to consumer demand for natural, organic products.