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Over the past decade, organic food has achieved profound success in the marketplace, casting aside those dated images patchouli-wearing hippies tucked away on tiny organic farms. Today, organic foods are easily accessible at most supermarkets, farmers markets, natural food stores, and even pharmacies. Practically every food category—from milk and eggs, to coffee and chocolate—has an organic counterpart, thus enabling an easy switch from non-organic foodstuffs to the good stuff.
What’s all the hype about?
Basically, organic refers to any foodstuffs grown without pesticides, hormones or antibiotics.
Organic agriculture is all about balancing ecosystems, engaging in environmentally-sound farming practices, and focusing on creating healthy soils, which is taken as the center of our entire food chain.
In the case of organic meats like beef and chicken, the labeling means that the livestock in question was reared without antibiotics or growth or fattening hormones. It also usually means that the animals were raised in open pastures, rather than the restrictive quarters infamous on commercial farms.
Given the long list of specifications for organic food (i.e., how it must be grown, what is allowed and what is prohibited, etc), most countries require that organic agriculture is certified and regulated. This is the case in Switzerland, as it is in the EU, as well as Japan and the US, for example. The point of this regulation is not to wrap up our vegetables in red tape, but to guarantee that the products consumers are buying have been grown and handled according to certain strict procedures.
Get more organic bang for your buck
Is it all organic lollipops and sunshine? Admittedly, there are some obstacles when it comes to making that plunge into the big, green organic world. The top hurdle for most folks: Prices are generally higher so switching to a 100% organic lifestyle can be expensive, especially for families.
So start off easy: Opt for buying just a few organic foods that you eat often. In this way you can increase the percentage of organic food in your diet without big changes to your spending.
If you are going to pick and choose, where to start?
Look to the fruits and vegetables, of course. Some vegetables, like broccoli and asparagus, or foods with peels like oranges and bananas, have relatively low levels of pesticide residue as compared to other fruits, like apples. Apples are the second-most commonly eaten fresh fruit (after bananas), but they are also one of the most pesticide-contaminated. Here is one place you might want to opt for organic and avoid all that pesticide-laden skin.
Another smart, delicious and simple switch: organic milk. This is particularly relevant for families with young kids. Commercial milk contains high levels of artificial hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides and it is believed that the early entrance of many children into puberty is linked to the hormones found in diary products and meats. A change to organic milk might make a significant difference to your health in the long run, though not necessarily your wallet…
A final item to add your easy-switch list: potatoes. Commercially-farmed potatoes are some of the most pesticide-contaminated vegetables, even after they’re washed and peeled, so consider going organic next time you have a nice family raclette.
Where to buy
Luckily, switching to organic eating in Switzerland is pretty simple. It was one of the pioneering countries for organic farming and it remains so today, with the majority of organic farms in the mountains. In fact, 51 percent of the agricultural land in Alpine regions is organic. If you’re not impressed, you should be! Out of all European countries, Switzerland—along with Austria—has the highest proportion of usable land given over to organic farming. This translates to 11% of Switzerland’s farm land being cultivated to Bio Suisse standards.
Bio Suisse is an association in Switzerland of more than 30 organic farming organizations and about 6,300 farms engaged in organic production in this country.
Given the impressive Swiss commitment to organics, these foodstuffs are pretty easily accessibly in any village in Switzerland, no matter how small or large. Organics are found not only in markets and natural foods stores, but also big supermarkets. All of the major supermarkets in this green-loving nation carry bio, or organic foods, including everything from eggs and butters to grains and beans. You can even find organic Rosti.
Among the super mega-market standouts is Coop. It accounts for half of all organic foods sold in Switzerland. What’s more, is the company has pledged to commit CHF 10 million each year until 2012 to its organic production and a variety of projects that support organic and sustainable farming. For instance, Coop recently established a partnership with the conservation agency the WWF, to promote environment-friendly seafood products. And acutely threatened kinds of fish, including sea bass, skate, alfonsino and bluefin tuna, have already been removed from their shelves.
But, maybe you’re not into the whole mega-chain, big business organic. Plenty of us are nostalgic for the old-school style of small shops and community-run markets. Luckily, those abound in Switzerland as well. If you want to be sure the markets you’re frequenting are organic, drop by a local natural health food store and inquire or contact Bio Suisse. A pretty simple search will reveal tons of different options in your area.
Next time you’re at the market, give it a go. Try switching over to the goodstuff and taste what the rage is all about.
Total comments: 4 | Add to the discussion.
The consumption of fresh (organic) vegetables and fruits (in this order, by the way) is unquestionably a critical underpinning of a healthy diet. Unfortunately many adults do not like these fine foods - so kids are the concern. This is why I wrote this book. Anyone interested in getting kids to develop a friendly attitude towards fruits and vegetables should take a look at new book called “The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond”(Ceres PRess). Great for kids of all ages – children even learn their alphabet through produce poems. It is coauthored by best-selling food writer David Goldbeck and Jim Henson writer Steve Charney. You can learn more at HealthyHighways.com
While travelling in Switzerland I came across your talk show and found it quite facinating. Issues specific to apples and potatoes being highly contaminated with pesticide is an unfortunate problem for all. Excellent advice to start with to start small but smart by going organic with these fruits and vegetables. It makes us think about choices with similar fruits like peaches and pears(thin skinned) and other root vegetables. Milk is also another source of contamination and organic milk is not outrageously costly. I look forward to these informative yet pleasantly entertaining shows. Wonderful concept.
Thank you for sharing a great,”how to” in getting started with a organic diet. I always wanted to,but felt overwhemled with how to get started. Organic Rosti…yum…
Great feature Caitlin, intelligent and user friendly! Like we promote at Weight Watchers….in a practical easy fashion so that people can get on with eating right and staying healthy! Thanks. PS Have bought the chocolate to test ourselves….double thanks! Ellen