As we read and learn more about commercial farming, Sam and I are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with what we see, hear, and learn with regard to the ways in which big-Agra has stomped out local, small family farming operations. Big Government has virtually cut all farm subsidies for the local farmer – creating a climate of poverty for this segment of society – a segment which has fed us faithfully for hundreds of years. The truth is (and I hope I don’t sound to conspiracy theorist or alarmist in this), big Government and big-Agra want to create a tight monopoly on the market, which will allow them both to control the marketplace – including the ability to dictate exactly what we eat and how much we’ll pay for it. That’s not freedom. That’s not capitalism. And it’s just plain un-American. But I must be careful here, or I’ll end up hopping off down this rabbit trail….
One of the popular topics of conversation we’ve encountered as we share our farm dream with our friends and family has to do with store-bought organic products. When people hear about our garden and how we’re producing nearly all of our yearly supply of vegetables using only organic methods they often times automatically assume that we then only purchase totally organic products from the store as well, which we do not. **GASP** And then they give us some crooked look that says they think we have a double standard. And I guess in some ways we do. Sam and I have debated back and forth about changing our shopping habits and purchasing only truly organic meats and dairy products. And as we’ve discussed it, we’ve come up with a list of pros and cons for this argument.
On the positive side, we are supporting higher standards in raising and processing animals, we’re taking a stand for the local farmer, and we’re eating foods that have far less chemicals and are better for us than traditionally processed meats and diary products. Plus we’ve had several people swear to us that organic products just taste better, smell better, and seem to be overall more fresh.
On the negative side, we’re going to be doubling (or even tripling) our weekly grocery bill, which will put our dreams of owning our own land on hold that much longer, as it will take us that much more time to save up the cash for it, and we’re in danger of being trendy. We haven’t been trendy in this house since the 70’s.
Both sides have valid arguments, but what is the right choice? Morally and ethically we feel obligated to buy as many things that are truly organic as necessary. We’ve even researched local CSA’s in our area. However, financially it really just isn’t good stewardship – considering how many people are in need all around us. However, in the interest of making an educated decision, this week Sam and I purchased only organic dairy products (we didn’t need meat, thank goodness – we still have a freezer full of cruelty to eat). We bought a gallon of milk, two dozen eggs, and a pound of butter – all labeled organic. Then, we came home and did some comparison taste testing. Here’s what we found:
Organic milk: $3.49 a gallon Non-organic milk: $1.88 a gallon
Absolutely no differences what so ever!
**Note: we would have preferred to use raw cows milk for this taste test, but in Georgia it is against the law to sell raw milk for human consumption. Bummer!**
Organic eggs: $2.99 per dozen Non-organic eggs: $0.88 a dozen
Minimal differences – the organic eggs had brown shells, but other than that, they smelled and tasted exactly the same as the non-organic eggs. The yolks weren’t even darker or richer tasting! I was really quite disappointed in this since I thought if anything would be markedly different it was sure to be the eggs.
Organic butter: $4.99 a pound Non-organic butter: $1.49 a pound
Absolutely no difference what so ever!
Organic dairy: $14.46 Non-organic dairy: $5.13
Yes, we can purchase organic foods, pay up to three times as much for them and not have any noticeable improvement in the taste quality of those foods. We are likely purchasing a product that is slightly better for us in the quality of the nutrition, however we must sacrifice other areas of our lifestyle in order to shop organically. And if we shop this way on a regular basis, based on this small sampling of groceries, we will have to wait an additional year or two on the land purchase…
Or, we can continue to sacrifice our moral and ethical objections for a short time and eat as many non-organic foods as we can. If we do this, we realize we’re supporting the current commercial farming operations, and we’re likely eating foods that are less healthy for us. However, we will be able to save up money faster to purchase our own farmland and begin raising our own poultry, cattle, and meat rabbits in ways that are truly organic, which will separate us completely from commercial farming and will maximize our nutrition.
This is a tough decision for us to make, and I bet you and your family have had this very same conversation. For us, I doubt the debate will end with this shopping trip as we’ll still feel guilty every time we go shopping no matter what choice we make. However, the one definitive conclusion we drew is that we have to find a way to raise our meat rabbits and chickens where we are (yes, we’ll be sneaking around our HOA regulations a bit), expand our current vegetable garden, and then let the chips fall where they may on the other stuff. If an organic product happens to be cheaper than a traditionally produced product we’ll certainly buy that, but at this point I don’t believe we’re prepared to sacrifice our dreams for a few PC labels in our cupboard. Bring on the double standard…