Smart Money recently ran a great comparison of the costs of an organic/non-organic Thanksgiving. Too bad they also did not give us the Fair Trade options as well. Still, from a sourcing perspective, the findings are fascinating indeed, especially considering that they found an organic bird costs roughly 5x what a regular one does. But overall, how do the costs stack up? The story suggests that "the organic version of our turkey-day menu for eight people -- including dinner rolls, a salad and three bottles of organic wine -- totaled $295.36. That puts the organic premium for the meal at $126.35, or 75%, compared with the same shopping list filled with nonorganic options. All figures reflect prices from a New York City location of Whole Foods Market, an Associated Supermarket and a Food Emporium."
But what the findings don't tell you -- and something I read on multiple other sites -- is that if you can do without the organic turkey, you'll not only save a bundle -- you'll still be eating the same genetically modified creature (although one that has been potentially fed melamine, if you believe the organic hype). That's right. Even that Whole Foods $100 turkey is a genetically modified bird. It even needs to be artificially inseminated (the male turkey breast is now too large to enable, well, the bird "act"). Its feathers along with numerous other features have also been adjusted by humans over the years. So how organic is organic? Or is the better question, have we succeeded in making the inorganic organic? Under the US Department of Agriculture's National Organic Standards, organic food is defined by how it cannot be made, rather than by how it can be made. Foods must be produced without the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, biotechnology (genetic engineering), irradiation and antibiotics. Food for thought on Thanksgiving as we sit down with our families.
As the popular pendulum swings increasingly organic, let's also be thankful for the scientific discoveries -- organic and not -- that have provided most of western civilization with such an abundant food supply chain. Lest we forget that the lonely tomato was re-engineered in the 1700's so that its skin could withstand the rigors of transportation. As for me, I'm going the Spend Management route for Thanksgiving only buying organic for the items where I can justify the cost. And as to that turkey? I bought a genetically modified variant (same as the organic) from a local poultry farm that promises to raise their turkeys "naturally" whatever that means. The bottom line cost was just over $2 bucks a pound. I'll feel good eating it, but alas, I'm guessing it will be just as dry as the $5/pound organic bird. At least the $3/pound delta will go to good use -- an excellent bottle of Pinot or Syrah to wash everything down.
- Jason Busch