How Our Food Is Grown Really Matters

How Our Food Is Grown Really Matters

Research studies drive home the point that how our food is grown/raised really does make a difference.

We cannot cut corners during production without impacting the quality of the food, and by extension, human health.

Professor Carlo Leifert, participated in both the Y 2014 analysis of food crops and the current review of milk and meats notes: “People choose organic milk and meat for three main reasons: improved animal welfare, the positive impacts of organic farming on the environment, and the perceived health benefits …

Several of these differences stem from organic livestock production and are brought about by differences in production intensity, with outdoor-reared, grass-fed animals producing milk and meat that is consistently higher in desirable fatty acids such as the omega-3s, and lower in fatty acids that can promote heart disease and other chronic diseases ….

We have shown without doubt there are composition differences between organic and conventional food. Taken together, the three studies on crops, meat and milk suggest that a switch to organic fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products would provide significantly higher amounts of dietary antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids …

The fact that there are now several mother and child cohort studies linking organic food consumption to positive health impacts shows why it is important to further investigate the impact of the way we produce our food on human health.”

In a related study published in Nature Plants looked at the benefits of Organics Vs conventional in terms of 4 Key sustainability metrics found that “Organic offers a lot of good that outweighs its sticker shock.”

Co-author John Reganold, PhD a professor of Soil Science and Agroecology at Washington State University, notes that in the 1980’s when Organic farming 1st began, very little research existed and many claimed it was too inefficient to feed a growing population.

Today, at least 1,000 studies have looked at the benefits and differences between Organic and conventional farming, and the current study analyzed data that have emerged in the past 40 years, with a focus on how organic farming impacts sustainability in terms of the following Key issues:

  1. Productivity
  2. Environmental impact
  3. Economic viability
  4. Social well-being

Overall, the study found that Organic farms are more profitable, earning farmers anywhere from 22 to 35% more than their conventional counterparts, and more environmentally friendly.

They also produce more nutritious foods with fewer or no pesticide residues. Organic agriculture also provides unique benefits to the ecosystem, as well as social benefits.

According to Dr. Reganold: “If I had to put it in one sentence, organic agriculture has been able to provide jobs, be profitable, benefit the soil and environment and support social interactions between farmers and consumers. In some ways, there are practices in organic agriculture that really are ideal blueprints for us to look at feeding the world in the future. Organic may even be our best bet to help feed the world in an increasingly volatile climate.”

Results vary when it comes to yield.

Some farmers report dramatic yield increases after switching to an Organic bio-dynamic system that builds the soil, but in this particular study, they found Organic yields tend to be on average 10 to 20^ lower than conventional. However, Organic farms were found to be at a distinct advantage during droughts.

As reported by Time Magazine: “Dr. Reganold found one scenario where the research shows that organic yields are consistently greater than conventional: during periods of drought. Organic soil is built up with organic material, which can hold onto water, he says. That means that by the time a farmer plants and grows a crop, the plant has access to more water, so yields increase.

For every inch of rainwater soaked up by soil, a plant can produce another 7 to 8 bushels of wheat, Dr. Reganold says.

Organic farming typically uses less energy

‘When you look at ecosystem services, organic agriculture really shines,’ he says. ‘The value they bring in areas like biodiversity, pollination, soil quality — if you were to put an economic value on those, and some researchers have, then it more than makes up for the higher price or price premium of organic food.”

It is important to know and understand that the nutrient content of foods has dramatically declined across the board since the introduction of mechanized farming in Y 1925.

For example, as explained by August Dunning, chief science officer and co-owner of Eco Organics, in order to receive the same amount of iron you used to get from one apple in Y 1950, by Y 1998 you had to eat 26 apples.

Other data reveal that between Y’s 1950 and 1999, levels of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and Vitamin C levels in 43 different vegetables and fruits significantly declined.

Another analysis of nutrient data from Y’s 1975 to 1997 found that, on average:

  1. Calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables fell 27%
  2. Iron levels fell 37%
  3. Vitamin A levels fell 21%, and
  4. Vitamin C levels fell 30%

Taste has also diminished, although one would have to be middle-aged and older, like me, to recall that foods used to taste differently.

One of the Key reasons food does not taste as good as it used to is related to the deterioration of mineral content.

The minerals actually form the compounds that give the fruit or vegetable its flavor. All of these issues go back to the health of the soil in which the food is grown.

Healthy soils contain a large diversity of micro-organisms, and it is these organisms that are responsible for the plant’s nutrient uptake, health, and the stability of the entire ecosystem.

The wide-scale adoption of industrial farming practices has decimated soil microbes responsible for transferring these important minerals to the plants.

In Y 2009, the American Association for the Advancement of Science featured a presentation on soil health and its impact on food quality, concluding that healthy soil indeed leads to higher levels of nutrients in crops.

Agriculture chemicals destroy the soil by killing off its microbial inhabitants, and this destructive trend is perhaps one of the most important factors when considering the value and necessity of Organic farming.

If the industry does not change, it will eventually reach the point of no return, where soils will be too depleted to grow food.

The Big Q: then what?

Conventional farming may be more efficient, and may provide somewhat greater yields in some cases, but in the long term it is unsustainable.

Estimates suggest we have only about 55 to 60 years’ worth of productive topsoil left in the depleted soil reserve.

There are answers and one of them is bio-charcoal.

There are almost as many ways to achieve goals of sustainability as there are farms and ranches in America, although most involve intensive labor or mechanical methods to achieve sustainable agriculture.

Our new tools in the shed are the soil amendments of bio-char and wood vinegar, which are aimed toward making it easier and less expensive to grow higher yield crops faster and easier with less inputs from chemical fertilizers and pesticide. (

The best bet for finding really healthy food is to grow our own.

If that is not possible then connect with a local farmer that raises crops and animals according to organic standards.

In the case of eggs

What to look for is eggs is that they come from pastured, free-range hens.

The Cornucopia Institute’s egg report and organic egg scorecard ranks 136 egg producers according to 28 Organic criteria.

Regarding meat

Keep in mind that Organic grass-fed and grass-finished meats have other nutritional benefits beyond being higher in healthy fats.

They are free of antibiotics and other drugs used in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). With antibiotic-resistant disease being a major public health hazard, buying Organic meats is an important consideration in more ways than one.

Unless labeled as grass-fed, virtually all the meat we buy in the grocery store is CAFO beef, and tests have revealed that nearly 50% of the meat sold in US stores is contaminated with pathogenic bacteria.

Grass-fed beef is not associated with this high frequency of contamination, and their living conditions have everything to do with this improved safety.

Sustainable Food Sources

In the US the following organizations help consumers locate farm-fresh foods, including grass-fed meat, dairy, free-range eggs, and fresh organic produce, as follows:

Weston A. Price Foundation Weston A. Price has local chapters in most states, and many of them are connected with buying clubs in which you can easily purchase organic foods, including grass fed raw dairy products like milk and butter.
Grassfed Exchange The Grassfed Exchange has a listing of producers selling Organic and grass-fed meats across the US
Local Harvest This website will help you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
Farmers’ Markets A national listing of farmers’ markets.
Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture (CISA) CISA is dedicated to sustaining agriculture and promoting the products of small farms.
FoodRoutes The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSAs, and markets near you.
The Cornucopia Institute The Cornucopia Institute maintains web-based tools rating all certified Organic brands of eggs, dairy products, and other commodities, based on their ethical sourcing and authentic farming practices separating CAFO “Organic” production from authentic Organic practices.

Eat health, Be healthy, Live lively

Paul Ebeling


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