posted in Dinner at 6

Is Buying Organic Important to You?

I shop the markets almost every day, poring over fruits, vegetables and meats to decide what to make for dinner. I see the signs… “organic,” “grass-fed,” “no antibiotics,” “cage-free,” etc… and then I go into sticker-shock. Usually the good-stuff is far more expensive than the alternative. I have a large enough monthly grocery bill as it is without worrying about whether or not I’m buying things that are going to be healthy and safe for me and my family to consume. This concept seems to resonate with many people: the expense of buying organic.

If you haven’t yet seen the documentary Food Inc., it’s definitely worth watching. I was shocked and dismayed to see what’s going on in the chicken industry (& many others). After viewing the film, you’ll be thinking long and hard about buying certain things in the grocery store. I always buy organic, hormone-free milk.  And I buy the better meats when I can. The vision of animals being cared for in a certain humane-way, before slaughtering them for consumption, somehow makes me feel better about what I’m eating. And the meat tastes better too… a lot better.
Lava Lake Ranch is one of many online sources for ordering organic meats directly from their family operation. Located in Idaho, they raise lamb that can roam over thousands of acres, grazing on grasses and herbs-only, and continuing to drink mother’s milk all of their lives. Their lamb is all-natural & certified organic grass-fed- never placed in a feed lot, never given any hormones or antibiotics. Lava Lake Ranch sells restaurant-quality cuts of lamb, and they ship anywhere in the U.S. They sent me some samples recently, which arrived on my doorstep beautifully packaged in dry ice. Since I grew up with my Grandmother making the most delicious lamb roast ever (fresh off of her own Ranch), I was excited about this opportunity. Here are a couple of things I made with the lamb…

Rosemary and Garlic Leg of Lamb Roast

You can see from the picture that there isn’t a lot of fat tucked inside the roast. I can’t tell you how many lamb roasts I’ve purchased that I’ve spent a fortune on, roasted to perfection and then sliced into the roast finding huge pockets of fat. Gross. Grass-fed is typically lower in fat than grain-fed meat. There was just enough fat on top of the roast to result in a tender, roasted meat. We served this at a dinner party when I was testing out recipes for Easter, and it was a big hit.

We also received some ground lamb. I agonized over whether to make meatballs, sloppy joes, meatloaf, ?? and then I came up with a recipe for Lamb Spaghetti with Spinach.

This was a simple, great recipe adapted from Food & Wine. The lamb is simmered with garlic, onions, tomato paste & red wine. It’s then tossed with spinach, mint and spaghetti. It’s all topped off with freshly grated Romano cheese. If you’re not familiar with using ground lamb, it does have a distinctively different flavor than ground beef… one that I absolutely love. My son didn’t notice any difference at all and he gobbled up this meal and asked for seconds.

Beth Lipton of All You magazine offered some great tips for affordable organics in a TV spot that she did this week. Organic meat & dairy products can be expensive, so look for them on sale, stock up and freeze. Another alternative is to buy meat that is labeled “no antibiotics,” which is still a good option but cheaper than organic. Lipton explains that there are some fruits and vegetables that tend to have more pesticide residue than others, so you should try to purchase these organically whenever possible. A few other produce items are safer to purchase conventional. View All You’s suggested lists of organic foods here. Another money-saving tip is to buy frozen organic vegetables- they’re less expensive than fresh and you can defrost only what you need.

All You Magazine suggests the following sites as resources for finding coupons for organic products:

BONUS TIP: Many manufacturers’ coupons for conventional products work on the brand’s organic line as well, even though that often isn’t indicated. Try this strategy with brands that carry separate organic lines, such as Bertolli pasta sauce.

And finally, buying locally is by far the best option. Most produce in the US is picked 4 to 7 days before being placed on supermarket shelves, and is shipped for an average of 1500 miles before being sold. And this is when taking into account only US grown products! Those distances are substantially longer when we take into consideration produce imported from Mexico, Asia, Canada, South America, and other places. By doing so you’ll be helping preserve the environment, and you’ll be strengthening your community by investing your food dollar close to home. Only 18 cents of every dollar, when buying at a large supermarket, go to the grower. 82 cents go to various unnecessary middlemen. Cut them out of the picture and buy your food directly from your local farmer. Check  to 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.

The lamb roast recipe can be found here: Rosemary & Garlic Leg of Lamb Roast
The spaghetti recipe can be found here: Lamb Spaghetti with Spinach

Disclosure:  Lava Lake Ranch sent me free samples of their lamb.  I was not under any obligation to write about their product on my website and I did not receive any compensation for doing so.  Note:  If I fully stand behind a product & believe in it, I’ll write about it.

17 Responses to “Is Buying Organic Important to You?”

  1. postedMar 18, 2010 11:30 AM

    Thanks for all the organic food info. We have an organic market in town…it’s quite expensive however.
    I did put Lava Lake Ranch in my favorites for further reference, though.

  2. postedMar 18, 2010 11:34 AM

    Spring lamb is just wonderful I have to say.

    I personally choose to eat mostly organics at home, and find that the whole process can be rather hard on the wallet. A things I have found:

    1) farmers markets are cheaper for vegetables than whole foods, or even your local co-op if you have them.

    2)plant a small garden if you can. A plot even just the size of your desk and yield surprising savings on veg, and taste way better too.

    3)purchase cheaper cuts of meat. Drop the fillet mignon and go for skirt steak. Far cheaper, and you will get meat with far more character too.

    • postedMar 18, 2010 11:38 AM

      Great ideas, Matt. I happen to love skirt steak too!

  3. postedMar 18, 2010 11:34 AM

    This looks so great. How nice to be able to try it out. We have a lot of humanely raised, grassfed/pastured meats in KY so I’m very fortunate. We were moving towards ending our purchase of store bought meat before I saw Food, Inc, but after that I decided to stop completely. I also don’t order meat out if I can’t verify the sources as meeting my guidlines. It is just something I needed to do.

    The term organic doesn’t mean a whole lot to me mainly because there are so many loop holes in the USDA cert, and the problems with industrial organic. What I do look for is locally grown stuff when I can get it, and my dad’s garden is a huge help. If I know how it is grown, the term organic doesn’t need to be there.

    You are right, these foods can be more expensive. The US is just so used to spending so little on food. There are people who will drop a paycheck on shoes or a purse, but may not be willing to pay more for real food. There are going to be low income groups out there who can’t afford them, but there are also a lot of people who can. Many more of us (myself included) can when we buy smart (in bulk, in season) and perhaps sacrifice a new sweater or the daily latte. 🙂

    • postedMar 18, 2010 11:38 AM

      Those are terrific points, Lori! I’ve transitioned a bit in recent years to buying more food than clothes. I don’t have as many cute pairs of shoes as I used to!

  4. postedMar 18, 2010 11:46 AM

    I saw Food Inc last summer and have barely eaten “regular” meat since (sometimes its the only option). I also find that it tastes a lot better… I can’t go back to the old way of eating. Free Range/ Organic meat is more expensive, so it just means that I eat less of it and use it for flavor rather as the star of the dish. It’s healthier, and my grocery bills have actually gone down!

  5. postedMar 18, 2010 11:57 AM

    I eat organic because it is firstly lower impact on the environment and secondly because it is better for my body. To this end I have decided it is most important to eat animal products (milk, dairy and meat) that are organic and locally produced. These items take the most resources (water, land, labor and chemicals).

    We eat a some poulty, a very little pork and beef and no seafood. There are so many food options out there that I never feel deprived. And I am careful to keep our diet balanced.

  6. postedMar 18, 2010 11:59 AM

    I buy as much organic as possible and so glad the choices keep expanding.

  7. postedMar 18, 2010 2:28 PM

    thank you for all the tips and recommendations. i buy organic rarely, i guess just because i’m uninformed and they’re expensive. but expensive for a good reason. i really need to educate myself – thank you for this!

  8. postedMar 19, 2010 3:04 AM

    Organic is just a dream for those of us who live on Social Security. We eat lots of chicken and fish, rarely red meat, and we have our own garden in the summer and grow lots of veggies we can freeze. I wish the healthy foods weren’t so expensive these days.

  9. postedMar 19, 2010 9:12 AM

    This is a lot of great information. I have not watched Food Inc yet. I am so scared to watch it.

    That meat company is a great find. I have been looking for new local butcher who carries organic.

  10. postedMar 19, 2010 11:08 AM
    RecipeGirl's Mom

    The photos are beautiful and the meat looks so scrumptious. It brings back memories of mom’s roast lamb that we all enjoyed to the fullest. The leftover recipe looked pretty inviting too.

  11. postedMar 19, 2010 3:11 PM

    Buying organic is not a priority in my shopping. I am all for it. Realize it is important just not going to stress over it.

  12. postedMar 20, 2010 8:35 PM

    Great post, Lori. I saw Food Inc. and was also quite shocked. I try to buy organic, sustainable as often as I can despite the higher prices. To me it’s worth the extra money just to know that the product is fresher, better for me and not factory farmed or raised. Thanks for the tip on Lava Lake Ranch.

  13. postedMar 21, 2010 3:45 PM

    I saw Food Inc. and plan to watch it again in a couple of weeks when my church shows it as part of their film series. It does indeed make you think. I get my meat from The Houde Family Farm in Vermont and am a member of a CSA (community supported agriculture) in the Boston area. I love getting a variety of produce- much of it things I may not normally buy. It forces me to try new things! I’m a big swiss chard fan after getting lots in my CSA basket! I wish I could afford to buy all organic, free range, all natural, grass fed, local good but it’s not always possible. We just do the best we can.

  14. postedMar 22, 2010 11:27 AM

    Looks beautiful! I still need to see Food Inc… I already try to be pretty careful about what we eat, but I know we could do more. It’s difficult where we live because the grocery stores don’t carry much variety/selection (if any) for organic products. Fortunately, I have found a great CSA that provides us with lots of fresh, organic produce throughout the spring/summer/early fall. Hoping to find a meat CSA this year, as well.

  15. postedMar 22, 2010 2:52 PM

    WOW looks wonderful – As for organic I have incorporated many organic products into our daily life. I can tell the difference with many of the food items and especially with the cleaning products. I need to do a better job at buying organic meat but it is so expensive and not available at many local stores. Chicken and Milk always organic and with regards to milk it is so much easier on the tummy.
    Great post and thanks for all the wonderful links!

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