Organic, Sustainable, or Conventional?
“Organic food is too expensive. My family cannot afford to pay that much to put food on the table.” A very common argument. Many people assume that they cannot eat healthful, organic food because it is too expensive. While this may be true on the surface, there are hidden costs in conventional food that make it much less desirable. So, is the stipulation about organic, sustainable food actually true? There is a difference between organic food, and sustainable food. Food products that advertise being organic are often not that much better for you or the environment. The chickens are still being raised in inhumane, confined conditions and having their wings and beaks clipped to prevent injury from fighting. The cows are still being fed corn, instead of grass. Except it’s organic corn and they don’t receive antibiotics. Cows are biologically designed to digest grass and studies have shown that free-range, grass fed beef is nutritionally better than corn fed beef (Elsenbraun). Sustainable farmers raise their animals in such a way that they mainly use nothing that they did not grow on their own land. The cows graze and leave manure, and then the chickens move in about three days later and eat the bugs and larvae and remaining grass. This process distributes the manure, which is in turn used as natural fertilizer (Diane). There is one major difference between organic and sustainable, their use of resources. While “organic” farms create a lot of waste and soil degradation, sustainable farms reuse whatever they can and put as much as possible back into the cycle, a cycle that the environment can sustain for extended periods of time. Another major difference between organic and sustainable farming is the environmental footprint. While the produce from organic farms may be produced without the use of chemicals, it is still distributed far and wide, throughout the country (Pollan). This means that though there may be no chemicals put on the food we eat, the carbon-footprint of trucking the produce and meat all over the country is tremendous. Sustainable farming, by nature, does not have that impact. One sustainable farm supplies a specific local region. The people who buy from a sustainable farmer know where their food comes from, how it is produced, and they are benefiting their local economy. In contrast to sustainable and organically produced food, we have cheap, conventionally produced food. It appears to be cheap because it is produced without regard for the environment, the costs of which are not readily apparent. The cost of conventional food also does not factor in the cost to human health and governmental farm subsidies. So, what is the real cost of conventional food? On the menu, conventional food seems the better option for families struggling to make ends meet. Conventional food meals come with all the parts of the meal. The “entrée”, the drink, the side, and the dessert are all included. You can feed a family of five BigMac meal deals for about $24 (McDonalds Menu Prices). This is opposed to a sustainably made burger, which costs anywhere from $6.99 to $13 for one person (Price Tag, Cost Tag)(Terra). This superficial analysis seems to support the stipulation about organic, sustainable food. The initial cost of conventional food is less expensive, but what about the long-term cost? It lies in the environmental and health implications. One of conventional foods’ hidden costs is its detrimental effect on the environment. Industrial farmers are being pressured to grow more corn, and more corn. Michael Pollan, a journalist and the author of The Omnivores Dilemma, investigated the effect this over-production has on the environment: The introduction of synthetic fertilizers to cornfields in the 1950s changed the ecology of the farm. The changes made to the soil in which corn grows have created a cheap, abundant, and ultimately...
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