Posted by: Hallie | August 25, 2009

Informed Decisions: Organic or No?

I’m alive! My vacation was a lot of fun but it ended too soon, as vacations tend to do, right? We took some cool photos that I’ll share later this week. I didn’t snap any food photos, but I’m happy to report that I stuck to my meal plan fairly well, thanks to all my snacks and planned meals. I did “cheat” a little, though, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about this Thursday’s weigh in. So we’ll see.

Has anyone read the article in Time magazine, “Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food”? I have been interested in food policy, sustainability, and the “organic versus conventional” debate for some time now. In fact, awhile back I took a tour of an organic farm and wrote about it as a guest post on the Love of Oats blog (I miss her!). This fall, my work is hosting a series of lectures all about sustainability and food and I can’t wait to attend the talks and learn more (even if they are preaching to the choir).

Here are a few tidbits from the article I found particularly interesting:

  • A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit.
  • Pound for pound, a pig produces approximately four times the amount of waste a human does, and what factory farms do with that mess gets comparatively little oversight. Most hog waste is disposed of in open-air lagoons, which can overflow in heavy rain and contaminate nearby streams and rivers.
  • Work in a CAFO [large-scale commercial farms/slaughterhouses] is monotonous and soul-killing, while too many ordinary farmers struggle to make ends meet even as the rest of us pay less for food. Farmers aren’t the enemy — and they deserve real help.

Now, the article didn’t tell me much that I didn’t learn when I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma (well, I didn’t know Chipotle buys products from organic farmers. This from a company owned by McDonald’s?), and I had the same feeling at the end of the article that I did when I read the book: ok, but what can I DO about this?

Actually, I know what I could do (only eat organic, sustainable meat and less of it; buy more organic and local foods) but one of the problems is I buy and cook food for someone who is very much a carnivore. With the amount of chicken we go through, there is NO way I could buy organic. And right now I am eating a ton of Greek yogurt, so I switch between Trader Joe’s brand and Oikos, which I prefer but it is pricey. I can’t imagine trying to feed a family of 4 an all-organic diet. I can’t even do it with two adults and a dog.

Now that I think about it, we don’t eat that much red meat, so maybe there’s room for improvement there. I found a local food blogger’s post on grass-fed beef, and I think I’m going to scope out some of those options, especially the ones I can get at the farmer’s market. I’m sure it’s more expensive, but if we only eat red meat a few times a month, I can handle that, right?

Do you think about where your food comes from? Have you seen Food, Inc or read Michael Pollan, etc.? Do you take environmental/political factors into account when grocery shopping? 

I haven’t seen Food, Inc. but I’m sure I will at some point. I want Mitch to watch it with me but he won’t. When it comes to his food choices, he believes “ignorance is bliss” which I’ll admit annoys me, but I have to respect his views if I want him to respect mine. Me, I’m an information/news junkie, so I like to have all the facts before making my decisions. And right now, my food-buying choices are like my diet-and-weightloss program: all I can do is the best that I can with the information and resources available to me.



  1. I just finished creating a post all about that article! I’ll post it next week. The article was so good. I’ll admit, I don’t think a lot about where my food comes from, but I do try hard to buy mostly fresh and unprocessed foods. I also RARELY eat out at fast food restaurants, as in maybe once a month. That article really taught me a lot, and it opened my eyes to the real reasons why our economy is really effecting our waists (the part about the cost of fresh produce vs. the cost of CRAP!).

  2. I do think about where my food comes from. It’s really hard to buy local around here, so I make a point of buying regional or Canadian goods whenever I can. I try to be realistic about it though. I feel it’s most important to buy organic meat and dairy, but it’s also the most expensive. So I’ll make the splurge once every few weeks instead of every week.

    Can’t wait to see the vacay photos! Glad to hear you had a great time! 😀

  3. I am very aware of what I am eating – and where it came from. I know how much my health depends upon it. But I agree that it gets really expensive. I hate how much I spend on food. I don’t think you should have to choose between eating crap and eating healthy because one is just way too costly.

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