The Whole Foods supermarket chain didn’t start the organic food craze, but they have certainly profited from it.
Launched in Austin, Texas in 1980, Whole Foods did over $13 billion USD in sales last year, that’s one heck of a lot of non- GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) fruits and vegetables.
Is organic food healthier? Well yes and no, it certainly can’t hurt to stay away from pesticides, however that means organic food is at greater risk for bacteria, and organic doesn’t always mean pesticide free either.
Organic food is, as most people have discovered by now, more expensive than non- organic, but that hasn’t hurt growth for the market in organic foods, which is expected to continue to grow through 2020 and beyond.
Some people do feel, however, that stores seem to slap an organic sticker on just about everything these days and charge an extra 10- 20 percent. Even if they were grown organically, it makes little difference to certain fruits and vegetables with thick skins, like onions, avocados and pineapples.
Organic seafood, is pretty much just seafood and there’s no reason to pay more for what is ostensibly the same thing as non-organic. The same goes for maple syrup, maple syrup is already expensive enough without adding a ten percent premium to it for the organic label. The very process of producing maple syrup is organic. Likewise olive oil, very high quality olive oil is basically organic (and possibly more organic than oils labelled organic) but then good olive oil is just expensive period. So certain claims of organic origin can leave consumers scratching their heads (organic Oreo cookies anyone)?
Even foods that are susceptible to pesticides, oftentimes aren’t exactly pesticide free, farmers may claim they used organic pesticides, but when it comes to getting a crop to market and fudging its organic bona fides, it is likely producers will choose the latter when faced with particularly bad pest infestations in certain years. And yes, whether a product is organic or not is completely on the say so of the producer, that is all the screening Whole Foods (for the most part) does, although smaller markets may scrutinize their suppliers a little more carefully.
But of course many farmers take organic farming very seriously and strive to be the best in pesticide free produce.
A few hours north of Vancouver, British Columbia Jordan Sturdy’s (and family) North Arm Farm is open to the public, who are free to scrutinize their organic practices. It should be noted as well they are certified by Pacific Agricultural, one of several organizations in North America who guarantee organic authenticity.
North Arm Farm’s 60 acres produce an array of vegetable crops and berries, the latter can be picked by tourists or other visitors who really want farm fresh.
Fresh farm berries are noticeably different in favour from store bought berries, as in they have an abundance of it. The difference in farm fresh vegetables to store bought is not as dramatic, but there is a discernable difference.
We say store bought, since the difference in taste can be applied to both (supposedly) organic and non-organic. Begging the question, just what are we paying for?
Other farmers, like the Sturdy family are aware of the dilution of the organic label and are not happy about it, for obvious reasons.
Committed organic farmers who are certified by organizations like Pacific Agriculture labour to bring superior quality produce to market, only to see the organic label slapped on just about anything and everything, with consumers oblivious to the origins of the food they’re buying.
Far from the Sturdy model of organic farming which is probably the ideal when one imagines how organic produce is grown and harvested, is food giant General Mills. General Mills and other large food companies have bought up dozens of organic farms and other producers in order to capitalize on the obviously lucrative market.
Large producers though are much more likely to stretch the definitions of organic. Obviously with larger crops and much higher overhead, the margin on crops can easily fall into the negative with a bad harvest. Furthermore, people would be very surprised to find out just what types of pesticides are accepted while still maintaining their organic status.
If not contaminated by synthetic pesticides from nearby commercial crops, approved ‘organic’ pesticides are often times worse than synthetic. ‘Organic’ pesticides are most commonly sulphur or copper compounds, and organic crops simply receive more spraying to make up for the less e ective pesticides in use.
Furthermore remember the increased risk of bacteria on organic food? Certain bacteria can lead to Salmonella poisoning, which is potentially fatal.
Despite that the organic food industry sells almost $60 billion USD a year in organic labelled foodstuffs. Is everyone just deluding themselves?
Yes and no, organic farming began simply, supplying local farmers’ markets. Whole Foods and other specialty grocery stores found early success in providing a convenient alternative to farmers’ markets.
When volumes were small keeping it organic was easy, but as noted above, organic took off in a big way, mixing products that are generally organic with those largely just using the organic label as marketing.
If you want to buy organic foods health experts agree that wheat and dairy are certainly a good choice. Regular commercial dairy milk is notorious for being full of growth hormones used to boost milk production (banned in Canada and other countries though) along with unintended pollutants that occurs in large scale commercial milking.
Eggs have similar issues that can be avoided with an organic choice.
And certain cereals and breads made from organic wheat, are generally more nutritious than more commercial brands.
Organic, or free range beef is certainly preferable, to avoid similar hormone issues used in dairy cows.
After that what you are consuming, when it is organic food from your local grocery store, Whole Foods and other stores, will almost always have a question mark over it in regard to its being authentically organic.