Balancing organic against affordable

Balancing organic against affordable

Since we’ve only one salary to live on, Melanie and I have made a resolution to get our budget into shape. A major part of that budget, of course, is food and because we love cooking and good food, we’re learning to be creative. It’s not like beef tenderloin was a regular entree (like never!), but we often pay more for every day items that are higher quality.

For example, we buy organic milk mainly because it is certified free of bovine growth hormones (BGH) and other additives that some say are harmful to developing children. I feel better knowing that Isabella and Melanie, who’s carrying Sophie now, aren’t ingesting it, however safe the government and the dairy industry say it is. Not to mention that it tastes better: 2 percent milk tastes like whole milk and even skim tastes like 1 percent.

Unfortunately, we pay about twice as much or even more per gallon for the privilege of being free of these additives. And it seems we’ll soon be forced to pay even more.

The forces that have driven grocery prices up sharply over the past year - growing demand for food in China and a global biofuels boom - have had an impact on the organic food market as well. Meanwhile, US farmers haven’t kept pace with demand for organic food, sales of which shot up 21 percent in 2006, and that has also sent prices soaring.

And supplies of organic soybeans and grains are squeezed - not only are they needed for human consumption, they serve as feed for the animals that will be sent to market as certified organic beef, chicken, and pork.

In addition to those aforementioned reasons, the process for going organic is extremely costly and time-consuming. For one thing it takes three years of no pesticides or any of the other materials before the organic label can be applied and all your resources have to be organic too, such as water and animal feed. The farmers just can’t go organic faster than the consumers do it and so demand outstrips supply and prices rise.

I don’t know if we’ll go without our organic milk or if we’ll just have more bean-and-rice dinners to compensate, but it’s not easy or cheap to do the right thing nutritionally for your family.

  • Dom,

    As far as organics go, I’m all for being healthy most of it is overblown. My father made an interesting observation regarding organic vegetables he says, “They’re only as organic as the next field.” He’s referring to the fact that wind will carry pesticides, etc. Not to mention, who knows what they are pulling up from the soil which most liklely has been treated with pesticides, etc. over the years.

    I’m more concerned about what is in our meat, not antibiotics but animal byproducts used as animal feed and cloned animals used for meat.

  • You may be able to find a local farm to purchase milk from. We get our milk delivered weekly from a local dairy farm here in Western Mass. It comes in glass bottles as it did when I was a kid. The milk is not organic but it is pasteurized (some farms offer raw milk but I’m not ready to abandon pasteurization just yet). Also the farm has won awards for the care it takes with its herd and pastures. They don’t use hormones and, mirable dictu, they have a statue of the BVM in front of the barn! One thing about it is that we have found our milk prices to remain stable even as they rise and fall at the grocery store. Check local harvest to find farms. A quick look shows a few option around Boston. I’m guessing your not in their delivery area but it might be worth checking. I’d say we break about even on ours…


    Basil Seal
    The Cow and Acres

  • Dom, I’m for _Mater et Magistra_, which says we should do everything possible—but morally acceptable—to make food affordable. 

    So I think “organic” stuff is mostly overrated and not really in conformatiy with Catholic teaching.  We should live as affordably as possible, after all.  But, as someone whose family have very serious allergies and other dietary needs, I’ve learned to balance to two extremes.

    It’s also important to remember that a lot of people question milk, period.  The main reason we are encouraged to drink milk is to get the calcium, but we can also get sufficient calcium from fruits and vegetables or supplements.

    Animal proteins hinder absorption of calcium, and one theory about osteoporisis and tooth decay in America is that we’re just cutting off our own calcium supply by eating so much meat and dairy.

    Also, a common cause of osteoporosis is the malnutrition that comes with celiac disease and other food allergies, and people who’ve had celiac-caused osteoporosis get their bones back when they give up wheat.

    Therefore, forget the organic milk.  Just drink the regular kind in moderation.

  • I don’t think there is “moderation” when we’re talking about artificial animal hormones being consumed by unborn children (through their mother) and toddlers. Some advocates say that the explosion of early puberty among girls is partially due to the hormones consumed in their food, not to mention the hormones from contraception that find their way into the water supply.

    Not sure what you mean by organic food not being in conformity with Catholic teaching. Perhaps excessive prices or over-regulation that make it difficult to obtain might be problematic, but growing food naturally as opposed to using chemicals has no moral component.