or Connect
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Food & Cooking › Organic vs Conventional
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Organic vs Conventional - Page 2

post #31 of 45

Much of this has been debated before, here and elsewhere. There are a very large number of factors that have to be taken into account, not all of which are measurable in a strict sense. A few points worth considering, some of which have already been noted in this discussion, listed here in no particular order:

 

  • Is it appropriate simply to divide foods into "organic" and "conventional"? Does this not presume that the various means of classifying "organic," which vary widely across the US depending on lots of factors, are themselves highly reliable? But this has been questioned many times. Think of it this way: if WalMart (for example) decides that there may be a high profit margin in the label "organic," they will agitate to be able to use it, and will want to be able to use it with the minimal cost to themselves. That's business. But this puts considerable pressure on the USDA and others to develop a standard for the label "organic" that is minimally intrusive or constricting for big retailers -- and thus for large-scale agricultural producers. If the USDA and other federal and state regulatory agencies end up principally responsible to the producers and retailers, because consumers have no effective means to lobby and no lever with which to shift policy or decisions, what makes it likely that the distinction "organic" vs. "conventional" is not principally a matter of advertising?
  • Does this mean that there can be no such distinction that serves consumer needs?
  • Does the fact that some large businesses profit heavily by advertising their products as more organic or green than others mean that the consumers are simply fools or that they believe in a genuine distinction, whether that distinction actually applies or otherwise? Or could it mean that they believe in a distinction that isn't even theoretically real, and are then convinced to buy products by those who cynically manipulate this false distinction to get more money? Are there other alternatives?
  • Is "organic" even theoretically a reasonable distinction to apply across all foods? That is, does it make sense that a potato and a highly-processed cheese are similar to such a degree that both can equally be labeled "organic" and have this mean something significant? What, precisely, could that distinction be, and is that the one which consumers who gravitate to the label are looking for?
  • What is it one hopes to achieve by purchasing "organic"? Is it nutrition, as this study investigates, or other factors? Is it possible to weigh the various factors against one another to many people's satisfaction? For example: (1) nutrition, (2) ethical treatment of animals, (3) environmental stewardship, (4) flavor.... How shall these be measured? Has anyone seriously tried to do so?
  • If regulatory agencies necessarily serve big business, and medical studies are often underwritten by such companies as Monsanto which demonstrably put heavy pressure on scientists to produce desirable results, and activists on all sides feel free to cite more or less any source that fits their agenda, what sort of information should we trust? Every time we eat, we make guesses about this, including when we choose to eat "conventional": in doing so we say that we trust some of these groups and not others. Is there anything here to go on that is remotely reliable?

 

Let's take an example of several of these points, just for discussion's sake. The USDA has indicated that eggs and chicken meat are both more or less endemically infected with salmonella, at least to a sufficient degree that it is appropriate to treat them with extreme caution -- high cooked temperatures, lots of care to avoid cross-contamination, etc. This is a concern especially with small children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. There is not the slightest indication that "organic" chickens or eggs are significantly less likely to be infected with salmonella. There is extremely weak anecdotal evidence to suggest that "organic" chickens and eggs grown on very small local farms might be less likely to be infected, but there are also strong arguments to suggest that this is wishful thinking. So it would appear that, in this instance, "organic" makes no difference as far as this very clearly measurable factor. Right?

 

... Except that, in point of fact, chicken and eggs in general are not endemically infected. Certain breeds are particularly susceptible, because of bad breeding, and these are among the dominant breeds in US poultry farms. A range of common practices that the USDA permits, for both organic and conventional poultry farming, encourage the development and spread of salmonella. Financial pressures on that industry cause them to push back very hard against measures that would change these practices, most especially anything that would cause their chickens to take on weight a little more slowly, as they did until the 1970s. Political pressures on the USDA, from the industry and elsewhere, cause them not to want to make a big stand about this, especially since the end-result of strong measures would (at least in the short run) be a sharp rise in cost to the consumer.

 

What does this mean? It means that in Japan, to take an example of a place where extremely strong regulations control "organic" and indeed agriculture in general, eggs are usually sold unrefrigerated, raw eggs are commonly eaten especially by children and the elderly, and raw chicken sashimi is a safe dish (if not to everyone's taste).

 

So... does this mean that "organic" and such are BS? Or does it mean that the term itself is now a commercial and political brand name that doesn't always mean what we might hope?

post #32 of 45

Interesting discussion, but it would perhaps be easier if we defined the term. For instance, what is meant by organic? Is it some kind of legal certification currently in force in USA? If so, then it's quite possible that in some foods, the difference between organic and conventional might not be noticeable and not worth the price. But just because some (or most or even all) organic certifications are badly defined by law, is it correct to throw out the whole concept of organic/more nutritious/tastier/whatever-you-want-to-call-it food? That would certainly be foolish and fallacious.

 

Maybe the current legal definition of organic (free range or whatever) eggs sucks, I don't know, though I'm not too impressed by the so-called organic eggs that are sold in Slovak supermarkets. However, that doesn't mean that conventional is OK and that REAL ''organic'' eggs (substitute any appropriate word for ''organic'' if you happen to have developed an allergy to the word) don't exist. When I buy eggs from a granny at local farmer's market and compare them to the various grades from supermarkets, I can tell just by the color of the yolks that they're clearly superior. Conventional yolks are sometimes pale yellow, in better cases they're orange. The local home-grown yolks are orange and you basically can't tell the difference from the higher grade conventional yolks. That is, until you beat the eggs, make an omelet and taste it. The home-raised eggs just shine a deep, bright, warm yellow and so does the omelet. The taste is better, too. So I don't need any studies to know that these eggs are much higher in lutein and/or zeaxanthin. And if these two carotenoids protect against certain eye diseases, it follows that these eggs are more effective as prevention against those diseases, right? I would also guess that these eggs are as high or (probably) higher in the other nutrients, and if that is true, it follows they're more nutritious than conventional ones. They cost 0,13€ an egg, how does it compare to conventional egg prices in the US?

 

Maybe organic tomatoes can be picked unripe and then let ripen artificially like conventional ones are, just without those pesticides. But all that means is that the current legal definition sucks. There is a huge difference between these plastic tomatoes and vine-ripened tomatoes in season, picked the same morning or previous evening and bought from the same guy who grew them. Maybe he used a little pesticides, but so what? What matters most is that they're fresh. And out of tomato season? Do you need to eat tomatoes all year long? Good, why don't you can 20 kg at the end of the season whole, just peeled plus make some double/triple concentrate? You can bet that it'll be much cheaper and tastier because there won't be any citric acid that makes every dish taste distractingly sour. The price? Fresh San Marzano are sold for 0,70€-1€/kg in August and September, Roma and similar varieties for 0,50€-0,70€/kg (last year I saw them go as low as 0,30€), various beefsteak varieties cost about 1€-1,80€/kg.

 

So is this what I described what 'organic' means in this thread or is it as currently defined by law?

post #33 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefedb View Post

Pete your right.

I once visited a free range supposed chicken farm..There definition of Free range meant instead of  lets say 50 chickens in a 100 sq. ft.pen.  there were 50 chickens in a 120 sq ft pen . It sure don't justify 40 cents more a pound retail.

      Our USDA lets them write free range.if about 10 more sq. feet are  added. per 100 head. In fact our USDA and the buerocracy of all the other agencies involved has cost us all health and money. Anything the government gets involved in gets messed up and out of control.

       A stupid example I foster a load of cats and use a load of  cat litter. I pay $7.15 tax included for a 40 pound bag.  The shelter( county government run,) pays $9..25 for exactly the same thing almost 30% more. It's taxpayers $ not theirs so what the heck.

Free range chickens are not organic unless stated.Perhaps the Government shelter is using the more expensive Eco friendly product because of concerns for the environment.http://www.americanownews.com/story/12356752/erase-your-cats-carbon-footprint?clienttype=printable

Organic is not only about the husbandry of animals or the soil, it should include reduction of the use of energy to produce for example the production of chemicals, transportation of the chemicals and the application of those chemicals.

post #34 of 45

Chris Leher good post, I have a large veg garden that I run organically.My crops are about 10% less and look a bit ugly compared to non organic supermarket product.

One of my friends children turned into a very sick child after weaning, She thrived when her Mum threw away the tins,packets and pureed my veg.

I have an outside dog and cat to deal with the vermin, it does make me laugh when people mention the dangers of salmonella and their pet indoor cat craps in a litter tray in the kitchen the walks over the work surfaces.

post #35 of 45

I know that and I did not say they were organic. Just trying to show how USDA does things. or what defines free range.


Our methods of grading and sanitation methods as well as definitions at the source  are not run by the government, thay are run by big business,who for the mighty dollar will do anything.. Sometime I wonder who is worse?

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #36 of 45
The article didn't touch on the health impact of GMOs in conventional food. Regardless of your political or scientific perspectives on GMOs, they are a factor that drive many people to the Organic label, since the USA doesn't require GMO labeling.
post #37 of 45
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sciencechef View Post

The article didn't touch on the health impact of GMOs in conventional food. Regardless of your political or scientific perspectives on GMOs, they are a factor that drive many people to the Organic label, since the USA doesn't require GMO labeling.

 

As somebody who calls themself  "sciencechef" you would then know that they are not one in the same.

 

You would also know that certain foods can not be labeled GMO Free but can be organic as its impossible to curb and control nature 100% of the time

 

You may also have been aware that the is no standard of Organic identity within the FDA but there is within the USDA's guidelines.

 

California is going to be voting on an act that would require food manufacturers to label Genetically Engineered foods but not Genentically Modified foods, IIRC its called Prop37.

Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
Taste: The sensation derived from food, as interpreted thru the tongue to brain sensory system.
Flavor: The overall impression combining taste, odor, mouthfeel and trigeminal perception.
Reply
post #38 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by chefhow View Post

....California is going to be voting on an act that would require food manufacturers to label Genetically Engineered foods but not Genentically Modified foods, IIRC its called Prop37.

If you are in California, read it CAREFULLY, it does far more than require GMO labeling! It allows ANYONE to file suit without demonstrating a cause for the suit nor do they have to prove damages!

 

Many small farmers are very concerned, sounds like a license for shakedowns to me.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
Reply
post #39 of 45

I'd like to see a private certification for foods. Sort of like the ADA for toothpaste or Underwriter Laboratories for home electrics. They could set a couple of degrees of  quality and certifications for farms/ranches and let consumers pick which products meet their desires and budgets. It would help the consumer educate themselves on the issue too.

post #40 of 45

They can't inspect or control the laws that are on the books now, much less more of them. I worked in a meat plant back in the late 80s  that was inspected once in  2 years 3 monthes. We were on the honor system?????      I  never met an honorable butcher or plant owner.

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply

Chef EdB
Over 50 years in food service business 35 as Ex Chef. Specializing in Volume upscale Catering both on and off premise .(former Exec. Chef in the largest on premise caterer in US  with 17 Million Dollars per year annual volume). 
      Well versed in all facets of Continental Cuisine...

Reply
post #41 of 45

It wouldn't be a law. That's what I mean by private. Producers wanting to meet the standard seek out the certification so they can prove what they meet and have an edge in the market.

post #42 of 45

We are well regulated and policed over here after the Thatcher era of de regulation when we gave the world "Mad Cow".http://www.food.gov.uk/

 Check out the national restaurant hygiene standards.

post #43 of 45

Proponents of organic farming argue that the problem isn't producing enough food -- the problem is getting the food that is already produced to the people who need it. The FAO says that under the right circumstances, the market returns from organic agriculture can potentially contribute to local food security by increasing family incomes.

post #44 of 45
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post

It wouldn't be a law. That's what I mean by private. Producers wanting to meet the standard seek out the certification so they can prove what they meet and have an edge in the market.

I like the German system. Around here, the state sets a minimum standard that you need to follow to be able to put a "bio" label on your product. In parallel, there are several private associations who set much higher standards such as "Demeter" or "Bioland" - producers who want that edge get those certifications, but the basic law protects from labelling abuse.

post #45 of 45

USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition, April 1995

  • “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.
  • “‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole.
  • “Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil and water.
  • “Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people.”

 

 

err ok.... "promote and enhance" yea

organic =/ (literal 100% natural - free from <fill in your word>

cheers

 

random side note

 

Does FDA have a definition for the term "organic" on food labels?

No. The term "organic" is not defined by law or regulations FDA enforces.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Food & Cooking
ChefTalk.com › ChefTalk Cooking Forums › Cooking Discussions › Food & Cooking › Organic vs Conventional