Organic Farming Offers Healthy Choices For Consumers
By Pamela Redwine
If you’ve scanned the shopping aisles you know: Organic foods, once available mostly from health food stores, now sell in mainstream supermarkets. Organic farming is expanding fast – not only with fruits, vegetables, and grains, but also eggs, dairy foods, meat, poultry, packaged foods, oils, baby foods, and even wine and beer! Just what are organic foods? And how do they compare with their conventionally produced counter parts?
The term “organic” is a misnomer. All foods come from living organisms – plant and animal. Because they all contain carbon, they’re all organic. Foods referred to as “organic” are really “organically grown” or “organically produced” – with little or no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and no antibiotics or hormones.
Organic farming offers choice: an alternative to conventional agriculture and an alternative for you at point of purchase. Sold fresh, frozen and canned, organic products have grown in quality, availability, and popularity! And they’re often a good option.
Pesticide-free? Maybe and maybe not. Organic farmers may use insects and crop rotation to control pests that damage crops. Certain insects, for example, are natural predators for together insects that cause crop damage. Or farmers may use chemicals found naturally in the environment, such as sulfur, nicotine, copper, or pyrethrins, as pesticides. When these methods don’t work, organic farmers can use other substances (biological, botanical, or synthetic) from a list approved by the National Organic Program of the US Department of Agriculture.
With organic farming, manure, compost, and other organic wastes fertilize crops; there are some allowed synthetic fertilizers. The soil is also managed with crop rotation, tillage, and cover crops.
The criteria for organically raised livestock and poultry and for animals raised for milk and eggs are equally stringent. From the last third of gestation, or for poultry, the second day of life, animals are fed only 100 percent organic food, and they must have outdoor access and be humanely treated. Although vitamin and mineral supplements are allowed, hormones for growth and antibiotics are not. Any animal treated with medication can’t be sold as organic. Despite common perception, no conclusive scientific evidence shows that organically produced foods are healthier or safer. Both approaches – organic and conventional farming – supply nutritionally comparable foods. Climate and soil conditions, genetic differences, maturity at harvest, and the way food is handled – not the type of fertilizer – affect the nutrient content of raw foods.
Organically produced food often cost more. That’s usually due to higher production costs (more labor, more management intensive, more crop losses, and smaller farms and yields). In the future, costs may go down as organic farmers develop more cost-efficient techniques and farming systems and get larger yields.
On a large-scale basis, today’s organic farming alone can’t produce enough food for the world’s exploding population. However, more large food companies now offer organic options. The marketplace does offer many choices if you prefer organically produced food.
Recipe of the Week
Slow Cooker Chicken
Ingredients: 6 chicken drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds), skinned,
6 chicken thighs (about 3 pounds), skinned, 1/3 cup dry white wine, 1/4 cup instant chopped onion flakes, 2 teaspoons chicken-flavored bouillon granules, 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt-free lemon-herb seasoning, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried tarragon, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper , 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt added stewed tomatoes, undrained and chopped, and 6 cups hot cooked rice, cooked without salt or fat.
• Trim fat from the chicken. Place chicken in an electric slow cooker; stir in wine and next 8 ingredients. Cover with lid; cook on high-heat setting 1 hour. Reduce heat setting to low; cook 3 1/2 hours. Serve over rice.
• Yield 6 servings – serving size: 1 chicken drumstick, 1 chicken thigh, about 1/2 cup sauce, and 1 cup rice.
• Exchanges: 3 1/2 starch, 4 1/2 very lean meat, 1 veg, 1/2 fat
Per Servings: Cal 493, Pro 44.4g, Fat 7.9g, Carb 57.7g, Fib 1.2g, Chol 158mg, Iron 4.7mg, Sod 462mg, Calc 76mg