“Organic” is a buzz word slapped on hundreds of food nowadays—from Organic Mac & Cheese and Organic Cinnamon Crunch cereal, to organic produce and grass-fed beef, is it really all that big of a deal?
Yes. And no.
When it comes to “organic” Mac & Cheese and Cinnamon Crunch cereal, “organic” is more of a marketing ploy then anything else.
However, when it comes to organic fruits, veggies, chicken and beef, the term matters a little bit more.
A study (Sikavica & Pozner, 2013) of Americans found that 80% have NO IDEA what “organic” even means.
(Ironically, 70% of people in the same study said they’d still buy foods labeled “organic” because it sounds good).
Another survey (McFadden & Lusk, 2016). of over 1,000 Americans found the vast majority have no idea what “GMO” means.
(If not, no sweat. You’re not alone).
“Organic” technically is a farming and production practice that avoids the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives.
“GMO” is the ENEMY to organic: “Genetically modified organisms.” GMO foods are man-made foods in which the food is altered by genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there.
(Think: Twinkies, or McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets—fake food).
Most GMO foods are products made from the “Big Four:”
—All used in processed foods.
Many GMO-versions of our meats and veggies also contain pesticides, antibiotics and other drugs administered during farming, not to mention questionable growth and living conditions.
Generally, the use of “genetically modified organisms (GMOs)” is prohibited if a food is labeled “organic.”
Why “Organic” & “Non-GMO” Matters
While Annie’s Organic Mac & Cheese may NOT contain GMO’s and be a healthier option compared to Kraft Mac & Cheese, it is still a processed food, and your body views it as a processed food.
In other words: It’s not real food.
Hence why “organic” and “non-GMO” labeling actually matters more for the real foods you consume—especially meats, dairy and produce.
You have probably heard about the “Dirty Dozen”—the Environmental Working Group’s List of top veggies and fruits you SHOULD buy in organic to avoid GMO practices and pesticides.
However, when it comes to meats and proteins, organic versions are typically encouraged across the board:
Here are 5 Reasons Why You Should Buy Organic Meat
- We Eat What Our Animals Eat
If your protein source at chicken poop or grew up on a diet comparable to the “Standard American Diet” of McDonald’s takeout and Hungry Man Dinners, you, too, are consuming the quality of health your meat source subsisted off of.
- Organic Meats Contain More Nutrients.
Studies continue to reveal that organic meats contain a nutrient profile far more robust then conventional proteins—especially omega 3 fatty acids (1, 2, 3), with one study revealing nearly a 50% higher amount of healthy fats in organic proteins, associated with decreased inflammation, brain health and energy. Conventional meats contain higher amounts of omega 6 fatty acids (associated with inflammation).
- More Humane Farming Practices.
It’s no secret that conventional meats are often raised in inhumane farming conditions—crowded chicken coops, early-age slaughtering, and administered antibiotics and hormones (to help them grow faster). Organic livestock, on the other hand, must be raised on certified organic land meeting organic crop production standards and any feed must be 100 percent certified organic. Organic ruminants—such as cattle, sheep, and goats—must have free access to organic pasture for the entire grazing season, and 30 percent of their diet must come from organic pasture. Organic practices help to support animal health and are also markedly better from an environmental perspective.
- Better Gut Health & Metabolism
Remember, we eat what our animals ate (and the drugs they were administered). Antibiotics have received ALOT of news media in recent years about their harmful effects on human gut health—but the same thing goes for our animals.
With the majority of conventional meats administered these drugs, what do you think it does to their health over all?
Antibiotics make animals larger, more quickly, as well as disrupt the gut flora of our animals too, leading to symptoms like inflammation, metabolic dysfunction and GI distress (i.e. bacterial overgrowth and leaky gut).
As consumers of meats, we, too, become byproducts of the meat we eat—for better or for worse.
Hence why so many people believe that “red meat causes cancer” or “heart disease.” Meat itself does not cause disease. Conventional, poorly raised meat does.
- Taste & Freshness
There’s no denying that organic meat TASTES much better than its non-organic counterparts.
Generally fresher and more flavorful.
Organic meats and proteins often even look vastly different.
For instance, the egg yolk of a conventional 99-cent egg or “cage free” egg, compared to an organic, pasture-raised egg is night and day.
A milky, pasty, light yellow, versus a rich, robust orange yolk.
Beef and chicken are the same. In fact, most conventional chicken or beef is actually a completely different color than they even look in the package (often injected with dyes to make them LOOK healthier than their sick, gray or blackish color (red meat) and pale sickly white (chicken).
Grass-fed beef on the other hand is a natural red color, and pasture-raised organic chicken is healthy, pinky-white.
The Bottom Line
Eating “organic” everything is not necessarily necessary (and is often times part of a bigger marketing ploy).
However, when it comes to meat, there is really no contest between conventional vs. organic meats.
While organic meats may be more expensive, here are a few organic meat shopping tips to save some dollars:
SAVE MONEY ON ORGANIC MEATS
- Buy Fattier Cuts of Organic Meats. 93% lean ground turkey. Chicken thighs. Beef chuck for a slow-cooked beef.
- Buy in Bulk on Sale. When meat is on sale, take advantage and stock up to freeze! Generally ground meats and fish keep about 3 months in the freezer, chicken breasts and beef last about 6-months.
- Buy Frozen. Pre-frozen organic meats and fish are generally a few dollars less than meats from the butcher counter.
- Buy a Subscription. More and more companies like Butcher Box, U.S. Wellness Meats and Pre are springing up, and when you sign up for a subscription meat delivery, you save in the long run, along with special deals they run.
- Shop Local. Connect with a local farmer at a farmer’s market or CSA in town and become their “regular customer” (often times regulars get deals over time).
- Names to Look For: Grass-Fed Beef, Pasture Raised Chicken & Poultry, Organic Poultry, Organic Pork, Wild-Caught Fish
- Smart Conventional Shopping. Remember above all 80/20 balance. Perfection is NEVER possible nor expected. If you DO buy a conventional cut of meat, opt for the leaner cuts (chicken breasts, loins and sirloins) since hormones often reside more in the fatty tissues of meats.