imagine this: you’re at your local co-op & you see a package of organic celery from California on sale—but wait, right next to it there’s a pile of leafy, elastic-bound bunches from a local farm, but they’re not organic. which do you choose?
for many of us who are trying hard to make healthy & ethical purchases, it’s a common dilemma. for those of you still shopping at Whole Foods, it’s a massive one since they are still not labeling their GMO foods! yikes!
it’s only heightened this time of year, when many of us have the pressure of cooking for a big holiday meal, & when buying locally, we aren’t getting the cornucopia of foods we do in summer (ahhhh summer, I should really live in California, you know!). should we pre-order our turkey from that farm on the other side of town, grab an organic one from the Co-op, or just use that coupon for the conventional Butterball the local grocery chain sent out? does it really make a difference? oh yes, it does! if only the sake of the animals’ well-being, & I for one think if you’re gonna eat it, you owe it to the animals to visit both a commercial & a real down home slaughterhouse to see the difference in the treatment of animals. trust me, it will effect what you buy forever, unless you don’t have feelings of course 😉
but seriously, as far as meat goes, “organic, free range, etc.” these terms are totally meaningless on the shelves of your grocery store. there is actually no legal definition for free range eggs in the U.S.! the chickens must have “some” access to the outdoors, but this could mean time on a screened porch for as little as an hour a day! how is that “free” in any way? small, local farms with animals you can see grazing in front of you…that is the way to go for anything animal & that’s a fact.
in this PBS article & video on local vs. organic, the experts weigh in on the side of local. in one way, it’s all about carbon. when you buy local, you are cutting down on carbon emissions. same with organic, but maybe less so if your produce has crossed more U.S. states than your last road trip.
on the other hand, it’s just possible your neighbor selling tomatoes from his front porch is spraying them with heavy-duty pesticides. knowledge is always the best policy. most farmers or small producers are happy to tell you about their methods—in fact, they are probably proud of the effort they put into their products & will tell you more about homemade compost or crop rotation than you ever wanted to know!
even so, the benefits of organic over conventional are huge. if all tillable acreage in the United States began to be farmed using organic methods, this would be the same as taking 216 million automobiles off the road, which amounts to 25% of the nation’s carbon dioxide emissions!
so, according to this, the answer is simple: should you buy local or buy organic? yes!
both options usually cost more than the conventional produce you find in the aisles of a big chain grocery—but not always. farmers might cut you a deal for buying in bulk, & those organic sweet potatoes might go on sale just in time for you to whip up a batch of your signature holiday casserole. in choosing organic, you also avoid the hidden costs to your health & planet.
did you know that studies have found that organic produce contains up to 69% more antioxidants than conventional & is 4x less likely to contain toxic pesticide residues that have been linked to cancer & neurodevelopmental problems? yikes! that’s got to be worth the extra $2 for a carton of organic blackberries!
if the product you need isn’t grown in your region (you’re not gonna find any Massachusetts oranges, for example!) go organic. given the choice between certified organic & a reputable local farmer who hasn’t sought that label, support your community & buy right from the farmer’s market or the farm itself. also look into CSA shares in your area—you might be able to bring your very own sweet peas & strawberries from farm to table. many CSA farms also have winter shares, which are great for cooking big, sustainable holiday meals.