Is Organic Better?

September 21, 2012
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Did you catch some of the brouhaha last week over the results of a metastudy (i.e., a study of studies) that looked into the question of whether or not eating organic is better for people? I bring this up because I know that many owners who eat organic also choose to feed their cats in this way. So while this study in no way dealt with the potential benefits of organic pet food, there might be some parallels nonetheless.

Doctors from Stanford University looked at 237 studies comparing conventionally versus organically produced foods. Unfortunately, relatively few actually looked at what I think is the most important reason people choose organic foods — improving long-term health — the vast majority (220) only looked at the food items themselves.

It has been widely reported that these scientists could not find evidence that organically produced foods contain a greater concentration of nutrients in comparison to conventional items (which contradicts one study that was published in 2011). Also, even though pesticide levels were found to be lower in organic foods, levels measured in conventional foods were well under the "easonable certainty of no harm" levels put forth in the 1996 Food Quality and Protection Act. The Stanford doctors did find that significantly fewer antibiotic-resistant bacteria were present in organically produced chicken and pork, but they opined that these germs would be killed via cooking and so were of questionable importance.

So, did this research put a damper on your enthusiasm for organic foods? For me it did not, but I have to admit that I’m a lackadaisical organic eater. My pets don’t eat organic, and I choose organic for me and my human family members when it’s convenient and not too much more expensive than the alternative. I’ll probably continue in this fashion because I think there are still some very good reasons to go organic. In my experience the food often tastes better, and I’m happy to support farmers who are reducing the sum total of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers that are released into the environment.

As I’ve said before, I’m a "better safe than sorry" kind of person. I don’t think this is the last word in the organic versus conventional debate. I look forward to hearing about studies that investigate the long-term health benefits of eating organically in both pets and people, even if those results are still decades away.

What about you? Why do you feed your pet organic food? And if you don’t, do you feel this study validates your choice?

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: sarka / via Shutterstock