Are Organics Worth It?

When Isabella was nothing more than an 8-cell, Grade 4 embryo, sitting in a petri dish, I made the decision that I was going to make her baby food when the time came. I had read an article (I wish I could remember now which one) that listed the benefits of homemade food for babies, and I decided that just because I didn't cook jack for myself, didn't mean I couldn't give my baby the healthiest start possible.

What I didn't decide until much later on was to have her homemade baby and toddler food diet* consist of as many organic foods as possible. And I can thank my savvy vegetable-growing sister for turning me on to organics.

While I live in an area that's home to a large (and pretty fantastic) chain grocery store that's offered at least 100 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, and a large organic and natural foods department for years, it never really occured to me to buy any before becoming a mom for two reasons:

1.) I eat very few vegetables (I'm knocking myself upside the head for you right now)

and

2.) I could not see paying $8.34 for 3 peaches or $5.78 for a pound of butter.

But when Karrie came home to visit for Christmas last year, we got into a discussion about organic foods. She told me she buys organic whenever possible to avoid the chemicals, pesticides, residues, and hormones present in conventionally grown and processed foods. She said that buying organic is good for the environment because it eliminates the agricultural pollution that's a byproduct of our country's large farms, and it helps keep the small farms who grow organics thriving. In essence, buying organic is good for your health, the health of the planet, and the sustainability of the small American farm.

I agreed with her wholeheartedly on each of these points. But my problem with organics was the cost. Organics are at a minimum 20% and sometimes, (for example, as it is with milk) 100% more than non-organics. And while at the time I could afford to purchase at least some organic fruits and vegetables, I could by no means buy organic varieties of everything on my grocery list. And I'm middle-class. Those in the lower income brackets could no more afford organics than they could a vacation home in Barbados.

So I did some research and found this article in Consumer Reports. It tells you which organic products you should always buy because the pesticides, chemicals, and/or hormones are highest in these foods. It also tells you which organics to add if money is no object, and which organics you can skip (seafood and cosmetics) because the USDA hasn't set an organic standard for these yet. Now I know which of my hard-earned dollars to devote to organics, and which organic products I can start buying once I become a filthy rich novelist.

And if the overall health and environmental reasons weren't enough of an incentive, I recently read this article, which attributes the fact that puberty is starting earlier for American girls because of hormone-treated beef. Girls as young as 8-years-old (8!!) are entering puberty, and this article says that if a girl begins menstruating before age 12, she faces a higher risk of breast cancer than those girls who start later.

So are organics worth it? For me, they are. My daughter drinks organic milk that costs $6/gallon. She eats organic bananas that are $.69/pound, organic cheese that's $4.50 for 8 ounces, and organic baby cereal that's $3.00/box. We're going down to one steady income as of next week, and affording her organic diet is about to become a struggle**.

But for me, buying organic is worth the extra cost, even if the hubs and I have to do without. With organics, I know she's not injesting chemicals that can not only do her harm now, but that have the potential to harm her later in life. With organics, I am secure in the knowledge that her diet is keeping her safe from hormones known to increase the liklihood of early puberty at the least and breast cancer at the worst. With organics, I'm doing my small part to keep the earth from further degradation at the hands of He Who Must Not Be Named.

Now if you'll excuse me. There are some Funyuns and Kool Aid calling my name from the kitchen.

*There are some great new recipes up on Mush, The Baby and Toddler Food blog, with more coming soon. Stop by, and then spread the word to your mom friends!

**You can save money on organics by buying them from your local farmers. Head here to find a farmer's market near where you live. Also, you can find deals on organics at your grocery store. For example, today I scored 4 pounds of organic strawberries for $5.00! I even asked the woman working in the produce department if the sign was correct, and she said that the store had received a large shipment of organic stawberries and were trying to get rid of them. Cool, 'eh?

10 Responses to “Are Organics Worth It?”

  1. # Blogger Binulatti

    I struggle to find the words to express how proud I am of you, Shish. Honestly. For a girl who bakes, but doesn't "cook" and also doesn't consume vegetables (aside from tomato sauce) you've braved the vast and wiley produce aisle unknown, blender in hand - AND have so admirable made the choice to do it right - organically. Yes. They're more expensive, but they are the *real* cost of growing and producing things without the carcinogenic 'helpers' in pesticides/hormones/fertilizers. Conventional produce is cheap cause when you spray it with DEET and seed it with miracle grow, you get a LOT of it. Quantity over quality is the ticket to market share. I am cheered by the growth of farmers markets and organics in general. Hopefully the trend will continue.  

  2. # Blogger Marie

    Where are those strawberries?! We go through organic strawberries in this house like you wouldn't believe!!

    We buy a lot of organics. The prices really got me for a while, but as you know I am a mega-penny-pincher in other areas. I spend more at the grocery store than we do on our mortgage each month. Seriously.

    I read Nutrition Action newsletter too, and they had an article recently with the list of which ones are most important to go for in organics... And they also said that if it comes down to conventional or nothing, to go with the conventionally grown produce, as you're still getting the vitamins & nutrients that are so important.

    My husband's family is all organic, all the way... since his sister died of lymphoma many years ago. Not that it's a sure-fire way to prevent cancer, but if there's a connection, they chose to eliminate the possibility.

    And you know, Kristi... the organic produce tastes better! Much more flavorful. You might find that there are some veges that you LIKE if you try the organic ones... just sayin! ;-) Isabella's going to want her Mom around for a long time you know... :-)

    Good on you, as they say Down Under!  

  3. # Blogger Damselfly

    D'oh! You just reminded me that I probably missed the deadline to sign up for a local farmer's produce club, or subscription farming as some people call it. There aren't a lot of farms around here to choose from....

    I try to feed Fly organic, too, but you're right -- cost is definitely an issue. As I make him less baby food and give him more small bits of what my husband and I eat (Fly has 11 teeth already), I guess that means I'll be buying organic for all of us!  

  4. # Anonymous Melissa Garrett

    YES! Right on!

    While we can't afford organic, exclusively, we buy as much as we can. Aside from organic, though, I buy local foods as much as possible. When you get to know the farmers from around town, then you can find out how they treat their crops. I would much rather buy produce from a local farm that isn't certified organic (but who you know doesn't use chemicals) than organic produce that comes all the way from South America.  

  5. # Anonymous Veronica

    Hi Kris!

    Organics are the way to go -- also, bear in mind, that the costs of buying organic produce are off-set by the minimal doctor's visits and medical problems you can face in the future.

    Don't forget quality of life, either -- pesticides and unknown long term effects of consuming these maybe won't kill us, but they can make us just sick enough to not be healthy, but not bad enough to die.

    Here, we also consume organic, there's a farmer's market nearby.

    We find the prices to be higher than regular foods, however, they also last longer. I can buy greens and have them last 2 or 3 weeks in the refrigerator, versus a few days from a regular grocery store.

    The fruits and vegetables are also much more yummier!

    I owe you an email... one is coming soon...  

  6. # Anonymous sher

    I find that buying my organic produce from a farmers market is better cost wise. But, I do find myself buying it in the grocery store too. I also buy free range eggs--and they are much more expensive. But, don't get me started about the damn battery cage produced eggs!

    Isabella has such a smart mom!  

  7. # Anonymous clare eats

    I had an interesting conversation with a lady today that runs a little organic shop and has a biodynamic farm. (In Australia) She is also an organic accreditor. She pretty much says USDA organic certification sucks and in alot of cases isn't worth the paper it is written on, as alot of the time they don't even visit the farms ... and there are big problems with the regulations.. I have seen alittle info here: http://www.organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm  

  8. # Blogger Shannon

    I would love to buy organic... but I just can't afford it... but the local farmers in my area, don't charge the cheaper prices... they are just as bad as the chain grocery stores in my area too... I really really want to... but when we compared the prices it was going to cost us an extra 300 bucks a month in groceries... we just had to pass... but great write up... you rock girl!  

  9. # Blogger Jesser

    I have made Tabby's babyfood since day 1. I get a lot of weird looks about it and such, though it so isn't hard ... I love to cook and I just toss some fruit or veg on the stove to cook while I do our cooking. For me it wasn't necessarily about health (I mean that's a great thing), but I wanted her to actually LIKE veg and it seemed like it would taste a lot better. She turns up her nose at the jarred stuff (I've tried - for traveling).

    Anyhoo, I've been slowly working my way to organic. I've read some articles about how some infertility problems are linked to pesticides and it freaks me out a bit. So thanks for that article. The cost is a hard one for me! Our grocery bills are already outrageous. Unfortunately, our famer's markets seem to a chance for our farmers to charge high prices to yuppies for organic foods. But the famers come from a long ways away, so maybe it is justified. But it's hard.  

  10. # Blogger Kristi

    Karrie-aww...shucks. Thanks. It's all because of you. I learned it from watching you!

    Marie-Pittsford Wegmans. I was shocked at the price too! And I have read about the links between organics and cancer prevention, an I'm not surprised, considering the scary things that are present in our traditional food supply.

    Damselfly- I wish I could afford to eat all (or even mostly) organic, but unfortunately, that's not an option for us right now. And 11 teeth!!! He can lend some of them to Isabella, can't he?

    Melissa-Yes, buying local is definitely best. I need to do more research on that in my town.

    Veronica- Right on. My strawberries are still fresh, almost one whole week later!

    Sher-I am so with you on the organic, cage-free eggs, which I have bought for years. Those battery cages are absolutely disgusting.

    Clare-I believe it. Thank you for the link. I'm going to check it out.

    Shannon-It would be so nice if they weren't so expensive. Then my husband and I could have some of the same health benefits Isabella is getting. :(

    Jesser-Good for you for making Tabby's baby food. Have you checked out Mush, my baby and toddler food blog (the link is in my sidebar)? And thanks for stopping by!  

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