Beyond Organics? - FamilyEducation

Beyond Organics?

August 12,2009
Sweet Pea Chef
Jessica Efird

Jessica, aka the Sweet Pea Chef, is a former U.S. Senate staffer/weekend gourmet turned full-time mom/family gourmet. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and two sons.

Just when I think I have healthy and sustainable eating somewhat figured out, I read, learn or hear something that makes me rethink my ways. If you had told me I would be spend so much of my energy devoted to healthy eating for my family when I was teenager, I would have looked at you sideways. Well, first I would have had to stop drinking my High Fructose Soda and eating my Partially Hydrogenated Snack, then I could have looked at you sideways. I simply didn’t think too much about what I ate as a teen. That was my parents’ job, and to their credit, they did a pretty wonderful job. My mom made healthy, flavorful meals, I just wasn’t the healthiest snacker. I figured that the 90% of healthy food I ate under my mom’s tutelage sufficed as healthy eating, and that the other 10% was just my “everything in moderation” bit. But once I became a parent, it was as if a dormant health gene awoke, and I suddenly became interested, even slightly obsessed, with giving my boys the healthiest foods possible. While I have become a bit more practical in my view of healthy eating, I still strive to give them the best food foundation possible. Since R, my five year old, was introduced to solid foods, that has meant a heavy reliance on organic foods. Organics are the hallmark of healthy eating, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, because there is no question that there are fewer pesticide residues and chemical “gunk” in and on organic produce and food products. But, as the recent study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine reveals, nutrient-wise, organic and conventional produce are nearly equals. But are there those amongst us who choose organic because of a nutrionally-superior assumption? Perhaps so, but I always felt that the point to going organic was to get natural food, naturally made. And yet it was this “organic” line of thinking that actually lead me away from organic milk in favor of a local dairy, one, that the representative at our local farmer’s market calls, “beyond organic.” Beyond organic because the cows graze on grass…are left to pasture…are milked the old fashioned way. Yes, this local dairy farm is organic in almost every way, but because they sometimes use conventional feeding grain in the harsh Ohio winter, they cannot be certified organic. As Paul Roberts writes in his somewhat controversial article, “Spoiled: Organic and Local is So 2008,” there are myriad items to consider when making your food choices, and just because a food is organic, does not ensure it is the best option for your health, the environment or for the overall food supply chain. Many organic dairies have become uberfarms, much like the gigantic conventional dairies that many organic-devotees eschewed in favor of organics in the first place. Quite simply, the food chain and food choices are complicated. Beyond pesticide use and grazing practices, there are carbon footprints, food safety, food supply and water-use issues that are beyond my layman’s understanding. No wonder many families become exasperated trying to make the best food choices for their children. Perhaps I just a small dose of my teenage-self to remind my adult/parent-self that you do what you can as a parent, but just like most parenting things, you will never reach perfection. SPC