What is Organic Food and Why?
To gain the most benefit from everything you eat, food should be grown or raised in its most natural environment. If you take meat or dairy for example, a cow should be out in the field free to roam, graze and forage the way nature intended without the use of growth hormones, antibiotics and genetically modified grain feed. Happy Cows! Fruit and vegetables should be grown in nutrient rich soils in the correct season without the use of pesticides, herbicides and inorganic fertilizers.
Unscrambling the Egg: Decoding Labelling on Meat, Chicken & Eggs
The supermarket shelves can be confusing these days with all the different labelling descriptions – Here is a breakdown to help you out:
- Conventional: Grown or raised within the national guidelines for the selected animal
- Free Range: As above but with slightly more space, no specified change to the animals diet. Lilydale Free-Range Chicken is a good option when buying free range as the chickens are fed non-GMO feed. (For further information of the issues with GMO feed, this is an excellent YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUd9rRSLY4A). Free-Range meat should automatically be grass fed as the animals are out to pasture.
- Grass Fed: Animals have been grass fed rather then grain fed which is preferable for meat.
- Organic: Animals are raised without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics and fed organic, non GMO grain or grass.
- Bio-dynamic: Animals have been raised holistically and in sync with nature in their most optimum natural environment – This is the ultimate in organic status!
There are a number of different levels of organic and often it can be confusing as to what you are actually getting. My advice would be to take it slowly, and do the best you can. Talk to your butcher and find out where your meat is coming from and how it was raised. There are some really great free range and organic butchers as well as online organic butchers that are very transparent about where their meat is coming from. Buy the best meat you can afford and get creative using cheaper cuts of meat. A non-organic lamb back strap sells for $40 per kilo, whereas an organic lamb necks sell for about $13 and is great in soups and stews. Often there are discounts for buying in bulk, and meat can be frozen until required.
- Eggs should be free range, organic and preferably pasture raised- chickens roam free on pasture allowing them to forage results in a much more nutritious egg. Biodynamic chicken eggs should be pasture fed by default.
- Chicken should be free range and organic if possible (organic chickens can be really expensive so I encourage you to purchase the whole chicken and make 2-3 dishes from one chicken)
- Meat should be grass fed and free from antibiotics and growth hormones
- Check for the certified organic symbols if you are not familiar with the brand.
When it comes to buying organic fruit and vegetables I like to refer to the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen to determine what should be bought organic. The Dirty Dozen are the foods that have the highest levels of pesticides and should be bought organic where possible. The Clean Fifteen are the fruit and veg that have the lowest levels of pesticides and don’t need to be bought organic. The chart can be viewed at http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
If you can’t access organic food, please don’t give up, eating non organic fresh fruit and vegetables is still much more beneficial then not eating them and there are ways of preparing them to reduce or remove the residual pesticides.