Organic food is booming. In my local supermarket it has about half an aisle dedicated to it, excluding fresh organic foods and breads.
So why is it so popular?
Do people buy it for environmental reasons (‘it is better for the environment to eat organic’), animal welfare reasons (‘a free range chicken is happier than a barn raised one’), or for health reasons (‘organic is better for you’)?
The Omnivore’s Dilemma is a great book I finished recently that addresses some of these issues.
I think it is important that you can answer the following question if you do buy organic: Why? And then ensure that your ‘reason’ for buying organic is being addressed.
For example if you are buying organic because they are better for the environment, then consider where out of season organic vegetables come from. Probably flown and then trucked from a far away country (where they have to be refrigerated along the way, and then stored until they are out of season). An example in the Omnivore’s Dilemma is organic pieces of asparagus purchased in January in the States that are flown up from Argentina that week in a 747. Solution: Buy locally produced goods that are in season.
Or perhaps you buy organic for animal welfare reasons. To quote OD:
Organic raised chicken live in very similar conditions to regular birds. They do have access to an outside area after they are 5 weeks old, which sounds ok, but when you consider they are slaughtered at 7 weeks it does not really represent the picturesque ideal of chicken frolicking in wide open fields that we would like to believe from product packaging. By all accounts the chickens do not often make it outside as it represents a potentially dangerous unknown for them. This is fine by the farmers though, as going outside makes the chickens more susceptible to infections and diseases for which they are prone seen as they are not resistant.
Solution: Buy ‘Free Range Chickens’, not ‘Organic’.
And finally, maybe you buy organic for health reasons. The bad news is there is little scientific evidence to back this up. Personally I feel organic is probably better for you (certainly no worse), and some studies suggest organically grown food has more micro-nutrients that are good for us than regular fruits and vegetables, but this difference has not been shown to result in improved health markers. Solution: Do what makes you feel good. The science is still out on this one.