Organic Food 101
April 16, 2014
Organic food has become a lucrative business with every grocery store trying to get a piece of the pie. Industry experts estimate that organic food sales were $28 billion in 2012 with expectations for continued growth. So what’s the benefit of buying organic? Is it more nutritious? Is it worth the extra cost?
First, let’s define what classifies a food as organic. According to the EPA, organically grown food is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors, be given organic feed and may not be given antibiotics, growth hormones or any animal-by-products.
Is it more nutritious? What are the benefits?
A recent Stanford study shows little evidence to back the claim that organic foods are packed with more vitamins making them more nutritious. Although studies do show that organic foods contain higher antioxidants which have been linked to certain types of cancer prevention. There is also a decrease in negative health effects and issues associated with toxic residues that result from pesticide use. Consistent pesticide exposure has been shown to contribute to deficiencies in neurodevelopment, a factor in autism, ADHD and other neurological impairments in developing children. Eating organic produce and meat could potentially decrease this exposure.
Weighing the costs and benefits in choosing organic foods is up to each individual person. While those unbothered by pesticide use opt for the cheaper conventional items, others take a stand against industry farms fighting for removal of all pesticides. For more information please visit the USDA’s website here.
If you choose to buy organic, it is important to understand the labeling. The USDA issues three categories of labels:
- 100% organic: foods that do not contain any non-organic ingredients
- Organic: Food containing 95% organic ingredients with the remaining 5% not containing growth hormones
- Made with organic ingredients: Foods that have at least 70% organically produced ingredients (can contain up to 30% of nonorganic ingredients!)
So keep an eye out for buzz words and companies misleading use of the word ‘organic’, making sure it has a UDSA seal of approval. Keep in mind that organic is not synonymous with healthy; organic food can still be packed in bad fats, calories and sugar!
Be sure to check out upcoming blogs that will give in depth looks at which foods to buy organic, which to skip and recipes for in season produce!
While choosing organic may be important, it is also just as important to shop local in season produce. With asparagus being one of April’s peak in season produce, here’s a simple recipe from the local Durham Farmers’ Market incorporating asparagus into an appetizer or side dish.
Fresh Asparagus Salad – (Chef Christy Quirk from Bull Street Gourmet & Market)
- 1 Bunch ASPARAGUS, Thinly Sliced
- 1 LEMON, Zested and Juiced
- 1 SHALLOT, Shaved (you may want less)
- 1/8t LAVENDER BUDS, Rubbed
- Pinch SEA SALT
- Pinch BLACK PEPPER, Freshly Ground
- Pinch NUTMEG or MACE
- Drizzle OLIVE OIL
Prepare a medium bowl. Combine all the flavoring/seasoning ingredients, mix well, then add the asparagus. May serve immediately or chill until use.
This salad may also serve as a relish for sandwiches, grilled proteins, etc.
As a side, welcome additions to the salad might include nuts, goat cheese, fresh tomatoes, or mushrooms.
For more local produce recipe ideas visit Durham Farmers’ Market.