Local or organic? Organic or local? It’s a questions we’ve been asking lately and it’s hard to choose an answer. After reading a few books, studies and articles – I compiled a list of pros for each (and even some questions to ultimately consider).
Pros to Prioritizing Local:
- You are supporting your local community, the farmers and possibly creating jobs.
- According to The China Study, “Synthetic chemicals in the environment and in your food, as problematic as they are, are not the main cause of cancer.” More on in the Time Magazine article titled “Eating Better Than Organic.”
- Your food will taste fresher (which is proven to be more nutritious since it’s usually no more than a few days old).
- Michael Pollan talks in his book In Defense of Food, about a study conducted in villages unaffected by the Western Diet. No matter what they were eating, they were healthier due to the fact that they were only eating local food.
Pros to Prioritizing Organic:
- You will avoid synthetic chemicals used to regulate growth, pests and combate humidity.
- Supporting organic farming anywhere can have a strong global influence.
- According to National Geographic, organic crops contain more nutrients (supposedly due to the nutrient content caused by practices like composting).
- You will experience a more diverse diet (including coffee, tropical fruit, fish, etc).
Like any issue, there are cons and questions that you need to be asking when considering both local and organic.
Many locavores are concerned about the carbon footprint when it comes to shipping organic food all over the world. Interestingly enough, I read on Seirra Club’s blog:
“A locavore’s transportation footprint can actually be comparatively large, depending on loads and vehicles. Hauling 500 pounds of cabbage 50 miles in a small pickup, for instance, can burn about the same amount of fuel per pound of cargo as trucking 50,000 pounds 1,500 miles in an 18-wheeler. Plus, if the semi backhauls food, then it can be twice as efficient as a pickup that’s returning empty or partially full.” Read more here.
I suggest asking your local farmers and markets where they’re located and trying to focus on purchasing local produce grown within 100-250 miles from where you live. Always be asking questions. After visiting my own local farms, I realized that many of them aren’t certified organic due to cost, time and sometimes not trusting the government’s system. Many of them, however, are open to sharing how they farm (which often meet standards like: not using synthetic chemicals and establishing positive standards for their livestock).
If you do choose to buy organic, make sure that the USDA seal is present. That means that it is 100% organic. Even if a product is at least 95% organic, they are legally allowed to use the word organic on their packaging. But as Simple Homemade pointed out:
Unfortunately, there have been exceptions and loopholes written into the laws over the years, primarily driven by profits. For example, in 2007, the USDA released a list of 38 non-organic ingredients that could be allowed into organic packaged/processed foods and still be labeled 100% Organic. The list includes hops, which allows Anheuser-Busch to market its Wild Hop lager as “organic,” even though the hops are grown with pesticides.  Read more here.
After many of months of weighing my options, I decided that I will prioritize local produce when necessary. I love supporting my local community and our farmers. I love the taste of local produce. I love that I can visit those farms and appreciate their transparency in their practices. I feel lucky that I live down the street from a farmer’s market but I know that many do not have the option. And honestly? I don’t really trust the government to monitor my food. As we can see by the poor health of Americans – we aren’t doing too well. So with all of that said – what do you think? Would you prioritize local or organic if you had to choose?
- How Stuff Works explains local and organic.
- 5 reasons to join a CSA
- Why Local Trumps Organic for Nutrient Content
- Considering You’s Eat Local Pinterest board