The truth can be so unintuitive sometimes. There has been a British research study done that has found that all the health benefits claimed for organic foods are really not that “natural”. They aren’t any better for you than what you get on the “regular” side of the store, nutrient-wise. It wasn’t actually a study all its own that found this, so much as a compendium of all the studies done on organic foods over the past half-century. It happens sometimes – we have all the materials we need to see something, but we need it all organized for us before we the point of it all. The damning thing they’ve found is this – in most ways, organic foods are no better for our diets than factory-farmed foods. There are new studies coming out about pet foods and how beneficial they are for dogs and cats.
Still, in Britain and America, organic food companies have a great business model, convincing people of the tenuous virtues of their produce, and having people completely buy it all for themselves and their pets. In North America for instance, this is a market that’s been growing about 20% a year for humans (and to an extent pets) – and it’s been doing this for 20 years too. If you are looking for a total market share figure, organic foods have about 3% of the market, less for pets. The reason it is good news that we can now prove that organic foods are no more nutritious than regular food is that people won’t feel the need now to waste extra money on the uncertain benefits of premium priced groceries anymore.
So what exactly did they study in all these research papers that allowed them to tell with such certainty that organic foods were no better? To begin with, they found out that less than a third of all the studies ever done on organic foods were scientific. The pet food studies are less rigorous and show still less. The rest of it was just shoddy science. In the studies that did take their stuff seriously, they found that there was no real difference between the one kind of produce and the other in how much Vitamin C they had, or how much they contributed to your daily intake of minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc or copper. Why, there is even a US study of the same kind that’s been done; and it’s even more credible for the fact that it’s been done by the Organic Center at Oregon, a body that tries to push organic food over mass-produced stuff. For pets, it is the The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which does not have any enforcement power.
But the study at the Organic Center did find an important difference that placed organic foods ahead of the ordinary stuff. In their findings, organic foods give you much better levels of polyphenols and wholesome antioxidants. Seeing that better antioxidants is one of the reasons organic foods are so special, this actually does go in favor of sticking with organic foods. Is this as important for domestic animals and pets like dogs and cats? Ask your boarding kennel next time you are there what pet food they recommend. Also ask what they feed to boarding dogs and cats to check on the food quality. They found that the levels of antioxidants that you get with organic foods is so great, that choosing them would give you the nutritional equivalent of an extra serving of fruit every day. And there is another reason to take organic foods too – less poison.
Organic foods are famously grown on organic manure and natural pest control techniques, and they don’t come with a residue of concentrated poison they spray on regular farm produce to keep pests from eating them into oblivion. And pesticides are particularly dangerous for young children and most likely puppies and kittens, for the way their brains develop, and for the way their vital organs function. Organic farm produce and organically raised meat has to answer to a number of strict government regulations that govern the way chemicals are used in their production. The regulations are always difficult to implement of course, but they do have an effect.
So in the end, the bottom line is this – with the regular farm produce, humans, dogs and cats get all the nutrients and minerals you get with organic food. With the regular stuff though, you lose out on the antioxidants, and you do get a residual dose of farm pesticide. Is that worth the extra cash you have to pony up for your meals and for your pet feedings? That just happens to be a deeply subjective choice.