So it turns out, according to a new study, that there is quite a difference between organic and conventionally raised meat and milk. It may have been intuitively obvious to many of us, but we all know that scientists like to prove even the most obvious things - and I'm glad they did.
Organic meat and milk were found to have 50% more omega 3 fatty acids than conventionally raised meat. These fatty acids originate from greens, so the more an animal or fish eat them, the more they will be made of them - all living things are what they eat! Given that this fatty acid is generally eaten in inadequate amounts in Western diets, this finding is very important. This also means that organic meat is lower in disease promoting saturated fats - and this was supported by the study.
Conventionally produced milk was richer in iodine and selenium - two important minerals which are very important for human health - an interesting find. However, the organic milk had slightly higher levels of iron, vitamin E and carotenoid antioxidants.
All good news....till the scientists inevitably start to fight about the pros and cons of implementing dietary changes in the organic direction . In a Guardian article Ian Givens, professor of food chain nutrition at the University of Reading, argued the following (quoted from the article):
But other scientists questioned the significance of some of the conclusions. Ian Givens, professor of food chain nutrition at the University of Reading, argued that though the higher fatty acid content of organic milk was not disputed, a switch from conventional to organic milk would increase intake by only a tiny amount overall: an increase of 1.5% in the total diet.
“Organic produce isn’t more nutrient-packed in every regard, either,” he said. “The lower iodine and selenium content of organic milk has been recognised before, and since milk is the greatest single source of dietary iodine, the lower value in organic milk needs to be recognised. This is especially true for pregnant women, for whom iodine is a critical nutrient to ensure the healthy development of their baby.”
I would argue back that we should stop being so speciescentric about our nutrition choices. It isn't just about whether the food is better for our health, although that is very important. It is also what is better for the animals who are being milked or led to an eventual slaughter, and what is better for our planet. These aspects should absolutely be cornerstones of all dietary guidance developed for the nation.
When we stand at the junction of choosing to buy organic or conventional produce, we need to see the big picture. What kind of energy are we sending back into the world when we choose our food? Is it a humancentric, greedy energy? Or a planet-species-unifying energy, where we accept our omnivorous nature but do so with minimal impact on ourselves, our animals and our planet: we are all interlinked. It is no coincidence that animals who have been raised with more respect and vision are better for our health than those who have been raised for maximum monetary profit.
Organic meat and milk is more expensive: don't forget to eat modestly on non meat days - lentils and beans make excellent protein. And there's no denying that most days, for most people, should be non meat days - wouldn't our planet be happier with that too?
Have a good week everyone :-)