I have been going on about organic foods a lot lately. Actually I only realised yesterday just how much I must have been going on about it, as I watched the following scene play out – my 3 year old son offered one of his crackers to another 3 year old boy, the other 3 year old happily accepted, at which time my 3 year old proudly announced “its organic”. I’m sure the other boy looked especially pleased to find this to be the case……
So….. given how much I am talking about how great all things organic are, I thought I would explain the reasons why I think this to be the case. I also thought it was a good time as, in Australia, next month we have something called the National Organic Week, which (as I am sure you can guess) is all about increasing awareness of the benefits of organic products and organic farming.
So back to my reasons for going organic. Basically, for me, it’s about two things. The first being about how much nutrition I am actually getting from the foods I am eating. I had a good rant a couple of posts back about “natural-from-the-start-but-now-basically-artificial” ingredients, and recently I came across this fabulous little article called “18 Most Sickening Food Ingredients“. I recommend you have a read, but a couple I couldn’t go past mentioning are, something called castoreum, which apparently will feature in the ingredients list as “natural flavouring”. This little beauty is extracted from something called the “castor sac scent glands” of a beaver. Apparently this gland is located near the anus. Awesome. (Ok, so they do mention in the article that you are more likely to find this particular ingredient in perfume than in food, but still really? beaver anus perfume??). Another of my favourites is something called “pink slime”. No I didn’t make that up, that is what they actually call it. Pink slime is “a product derived from the bits of meat clinging to fat, which are separated out by melting the fat away and spinning in a centrifuge”, whatever that means. The pink stuff is then treated with ammonia gas to kill the germs and then is added to ground beef as a filler. Awesome.
So, in addition to trying to avoid eating the natural-from-the-start-but-now-basically-artificial foods, I am also looking to avoid eating things like pink slime and beaver anus extract. I am also pretty keen to avoid eating chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).
by Colin Grey
Eating organic tends to help me avoid these types of ingredients. But unfortunately just because something is labelled “organic” doesn’t guarantee you are buying healthy food, you still need to read the label. When it comes to food labelling, there are no laws around the definition of the word “organic”, and not all organic is created equal. There is, however, organic certification, and under this certification there are some pretty strict rules around the way the foods can be grown/manufactured/processed. But they don’t make it easy for us to be informed consumers, there are a number of different certification bodies, and each of those bodies has their own criteria for certification, AND certification differs from country to country. If you have a spare few hours however, each of the organic certification bodies have comprehensive lists on their websites about what their certification means, so this is useful, providing you have time to read them, and you can remember any of it once you are in the shop trying to buy the stuff. I did take some time out to have a bit of a read, (well to be fair I took some time out and did some excellent scanning), but what I found is that the Australian organic certification bodies have excellent standards, and appear to me (from my scan reading) to be very similar, if not exactly the same. One thing that is worth mentioning is that, for food to be certified organic in Australia, it cannot contain any synthetic chemicals or genetic modifications. If you want to do your own scanning or reading, here is a list of all the approved Australian Organic certifying organisations.
The second reason I want to eat organic food is about the methods by which organic food is grown and manufactured, and how much nicer it is for nature. Organic farmers are focused on the health of soil, and creating a farm which is as self-sustaining as possible (don’t even get me started on how cool worms are, Ill come back to those another day). There is some really interesting information around about soil health, and I only recently became aware that there are a number of organisations out there that whose focus is all about soil health. One great website I found, that has a stack of useful information and links to other great websites is the Healthy Soils Australia website.
The last point I want to mention (well for now anyway) is around the humane treatment of livestock. I’m sure we have all seen the appalling ways that livestock are often treated, in particular the horrendous conditions for battery hens, sow stalls and live exports. If you want to remind yourself of the types of things that are still going on, check out the PETA website, it is really sad and disgusting. A more recent issue for livestock is the increasing evidence to show the serious impact that GM feed is having on livestock health. Here is one such study – The effects of genetically modified foods on animal health. The organic certification bodies in Australia state that, for animal products to be certified organic in Australia, livestock has to be treated humanely, and are not given growth hormones or generally not treated with antibiotics. They are given their natural diet and are free to walk around outside doing normal animal type things.
As I mentioned, coming up is National Organic Week which runs from the 3rd to the 12th of October (I am so on-board with this organic stuff that I don’t even mind that their week goes for longer than a week 😉 ). The website has a list of all different activities happening around Australia, I’ll be heading along to this organic gardening workshop in Canberra.