In a perfect world, every store would sell only organic fruits and veggies. All meat would come from farmers who treated the animals with dignity and fed them an appropriate diet. Dairy would come from cows who haven’t been pumped full of growth hormones. We could walk into our backyards and grab some eggs from our own chickens for breakfast. All coffee and chocolate would be fair trade and the workers who harvested it would be paid a fair wage.
Oh yeah, and as long as we’re talking about a perfect world…..we could all afford to buy this food.
But that’s not the real world. In the real world, sometimes it’s hard to even find organic produce. In the real world, your grocery store only carries commercially raised meats that have been fed GMO corn. In the real world, you could stand all day looking at the egg selection at your grocery store and still not know which one was the best choice. In the real world, even if you have all of the wonderful options at your fingertips, you simply can’t afford to make the best choices all the time.
So let’s get real. In the past year, I would say our family has transitioned to eating about:
30% organic produce
85% responsibly raised (or wild caught) and appropriately fed meat
70% organic dairy (we don’t do much dairy, but I buy organic milk for our yogurt and use organic half and half for my coffee. Cheese has been a massive fail for us. I just grab and go.)
I am so very lucky to have a friend whose parents have chickens. We get our delicious eggs from them, and supplement as needed (which is about 10-20% with cage free storebought eggs).
So in the spirit of these weekly challenges, where our point is to get us all a little bit closer to where we want to be food-wise, here is the challenge:
This week, while shopping, buy at least 3 kinds of organic produce (ideally this would be produce that you don’t already buy organic). Make one “better” choice when buying your meats. Choose wild caught salmon, tuna, or shrimp. Buy an organic chicken. Get grassfed ground beef. If you buy eggs from a supermarket, look for cage free. For dairy, buy at least one item organic (that you would normally buy conventional). Local is also a great choice to make, but do the best you can!
Why is this important? Every time you buy any kind of food, you are voting with your dollars. Every time you pick up the organic strawberries at Target vs. the conventional ones, it changes an amount in a tally box, and if enough people make this choice, eventually the CFO looks at these numbers and says, these organic strawberries are getting popular. We need to carry more organics. Which then helps the organic farmers buy increasing their business. It is also a wake up call to other farmers that they might do more business if they make a switch to organics. (Yes, I just totally over simplified that, but hopefully you get my point.) Alternately, if you keep buying pop tarts and Chips Ahoy, you are telling someone, somewhere: I am happy with shoveling crap into my body. More, please.
Choosing organics is healthier for you, and it is healthier for the people working the farms. It is healthier for our soil and our earth. But don’t walk in the grocery store and simply buy the first 3 organic kinds of produce you see. Every year the EWG (Environmental Working Group) releases 2 guides that can help you with these decisions. They list the kinds of produce that retain the most pesticide residue of all–these are called the Dirty Dozen. If you are going to buy any organic produce, it is in your best interest to choose foods on this list. Then there is the Clean 15. These are foods that it isn’t overly important to get organic. For instance, if you follow this lists, you will see why we rarely get organic avocados or sweet potatoes, but why we always, always, always get organic apples and celery.
So what about meat, dairy, and eggs? Why does this matter? Well, if you are an animal lover like me, you want to have a good feeling about the farms where your food is raised. If you have to think about the animals who made your food, you would like to think of them in a pasture in the sunshine, not in a dark, infested feedlot, where they are being pumped full of antibiotics. Also, their diet is important. Just like your body works best when you are eating foods that were meant for you (not processed food-like substances on grocery store shelves), their bodies work best, feel best, and taste best when they are eating diets that are appropriate to them! For instance, cows were never meant to eat corn–as a matter of fact it is harmful to their health and digestion!
When the animals are eating like they should and being raised or wild-caught, you are also benefiting (and not just because your conscience feels better). For instance……
Grass-fed steak has about twice as many omega-3s as a typical grain-fed steak. And since grass-fed cattle are typically leaner, almost all cuts of grass-fed beef have less total fat than beef from corn-raised cattle.
As for eggs, cage free, farm fresh eggs really are much more delicious than regular store-bought eggs. Their yolks are big and bright orange and you can see the difference immediately! I have found, when I have to buy storebought eggs, that the Target brand cage free eggs also have beautiful dark yolks! I once bought “farm fresh” eggs at a farmers market and was so disappointed that the yolks were small and pale :(
So how to implement all this? Luckily this is the season of farmers markets. Granted, not all produce you will find at local farmers markets is organic, but it’s a great chance to ask questions. Possibly the farmer uses mostly organic practices. They should be happy to tell you about their practices, and if not…..there is probably a reason. Many regular chain grocery stores carry some organic produce–I get organic kale and greens at Publix, organic strawberries, celery and carrots at Target.
For meats, I get all of my chicken from Costco–they have organic chicken. They also have organic ground beef, but it is sadly not grass-fed. However, this is a step up from conventional ground beef! I tend to get my grassfed beef and other cuts of beef from local farms (at farmers market or at local stores). Pork has been a really tough one to come by around here. When I do find local, clean pork, it is very cost-prohibitive! I get wild salmon, wild shrimp and wild tuna from Costco. I have also gotten clean meats by ordering online. Grassfed Traditions and US Wellness Meats are 2 reputable websites to order clean meat.
Organic milk, cream and yogurt is widely available. Organic cheeses are less so, but do what you can!
Be sure to check in during the week on Facebook! Share your organic produce finds or where you got your clean meat.