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The organic vs. local smack down

Posted by by Bea James, senior manager of organic, natural and sustainable programs
Monday, June 25, 2012

The other day I was at lunch with four of my Twin Cities natural food retailer friends and we were talking about the organic vs. local debate.

“Organic is better.”
“Local is better.”
“Organic grown and local is better.”
“Who cares? Only local beer matters.”

And on and on this debate went throughout my mostly organic lunch that just happen to have local tomatoes and cheese, with a local beer on the side. Very good I might add.

We never did all agree on which is “better,” but we did come up with some great points. So here’s the deal: both organic and local foods are important and trying to compare them is pointless. Both have strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t have to be a tough choice either. It all depends on what’s important to you. Consider the following:

Round 1: Organic is better for you and the surrounding environment

Organic food is good for the environment and for you because it’s grown without harsh pesticides and chemicals. Organic farmers rely on beneficial insects, crop rotation and other natural means to control pests and raise healthy fruits and vegetables. Additionally, a study published by the American Nutrition Association (volume 36, number 2) found that organic fruits, vegetables and grains contain higher nutritional values than non-organic.

With organic livestock, farm animals are never given antibiotics, added hormones and their feed is also 100% organic. So, unless your local foods are also organically grown, it will be hard to beat organic in this round.

Our friends farming organically at Featherstone Farms located in Rushford, MN

Round 2: Local is fresher and has a lower carbon footprint

One of the greatest qualities of local food is that hasn’t traveled across the country to make it to your dinner plate, which results in a fresher, less damaged product. Also, fewer miles from our local partners translate into reductions in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions. But not everyone defines local the same way, so it’s important to ask your retailer.

We define local products as those grown and raised, as well as those manufactured and/or packaged, in our region – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota. As a local company ourselves, we strive to buy, sell and promote foods from local farmers and manufacturers whenever possible.

Our local partnering states

Round 3: Organic is regulated and clearly defined

Organic is regulated by the USDA from seed to shelf, providing a guarantee that your products are being monitored for strict organic processes. Organic products are easy to spot on the shelf - just look for the USDA Organic seal for products that are 95-100% organic.

When it comes to organic produce, look for a certified organic produce department as well. Buying organic produce from a certified organic produce department, like our organic department, is the only guarantee that you are buying from a location that follows strict measures to make sure your produce stays organic from farm to store. 

Round 4: Local supports small business development

Working together with local partners helps them, us and our communities grow stronger by providing small, first-time businesses a chance to get on their feet. Many companies, such as Larry Schultz Farm, Angie’s Kettle Corn and Wyndmere Essential Oils, have grown because we gave them a chance and helped them grow their business. It’s a symbiotic relationship that benefits everyone and we value our local partners immensely.

Our friend Larry Schultz who provides us with organic and local eggs

So in the end it’s really up to you. Personally, I take the best of both worlds and choose organic food that is locally grown. That’s a true winner every time!


Tags: localorganic

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