I just read the feature article in TIME Magazine (August 31, 2009) titled "The Real Cost of Cheap Food". The jist of the article is that, even though organic food is more expensive at the store, when the impact on our health and the earth is considered, the price difference doesn't seem so bad. What I liked about the article is that it was very fact driven and thorough without being preachy.
I won't go on for three pages. Nor will I preach about what you should or shouldn't do. I just want to throw some stuff out there to ponder about conventional vs. organic food:
1. HEALTH. Pigs, cows and chickens fed the conventional way are so overcrowded in small pens (feedlots) that they even cut off the pig's tails so that they won't bite each other. The livestock are fed corn (fattener, which was grown with chemical fertilizers), and antibiotics to "prevent" them from getting sick. They are slaughtered at a very young age, so they can be sold as "cheap" meat. The antibiotics get passed into the meat, and on to us.
2. EARTH PRESERVATION. There are over 400 "dead zones" in the oceans due to runoff of billions of tons of chemical fertilizers and manure from overcrowded pens, such as the 6,000 sq. mile dead zone where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf of Mexico. This area has almost no oxygen, and consequently is void of all marine life. Pesticides and fertilizers are robbing our fertile farms of nutrient rich soil. Contrastly, grass fed and free range animals' manure composts into the ground, free of chemicals and keep the soil rich in nutrients. Taken directly from the article, the farmers say, "If you don't take care of your land, it can't take care of you".
3. OUR WAISTLINES. The skewed goverment subsidies for corn, in part, have created a push for cheap food products made from corn and corn by-products (e.g. high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, etc.). America has made it cheap to eat badly and it is showing in our waistlines. Another contributing factor is the quick fattening methods used for livestock to "get it to market", resulting in fatty, hormone and antibiotic laden meat. It just isn't as healthy or lean as organic meat or poultry.
4. JOBS. Organic farming requires more hired hands. Especially here in Michigan, where we have the highest unemployment rate in the country AND many farms, switching to more sustainable growing practices should be a no brainer.
5. TASTE. Organic farming rotates crops in nutrient rich soil and allows produce (and meat for that matter) to grow in a natural time span, giving it time to develop flavor. Organic food tastes better!
Check out the entire article by purchasing the 8/31/09 issue of TIME Magazine.