Editor’s note: The following is part of a class project that began in the fall of 2021 in Ball State University professor Adam Cuban’s classroom. Cuban continued the project this fall, challenging his students to find sustainability efforts in the Muncie area and pitch their own ideas. Deanna Watson, editor of The Star Press, Journal & Courier and Pal-Item. Several such stories are featured in November and December 2022.
Organic. Grass-fed. Completely natural. You can find these labels in the produce section or meat departments of your grocery store. Products with these food labels can provide various benefits not only to human health, but also to the environment.
Products receive these nutrition labels based on the way the product was grown. For example, organic farming techniques and methods are different from farming other types of food that consumers buy.
Brandon Schrock, owner of Schrock Family Farms, uses organic methods such as cover crops, crop rotation and natural soil inputs.
“Soil health has probably been a key driver of the organic movement since it began,” Schrock said. “It’s all based on what’s in the soil.”
Because of these improved farming methods, people are beginning to switch to more health-based diets. Certified Nutrition Coach Logan Kelly explains the positive changes he’s seen in his clients who switch to an all-natural diet.
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“I have several clients who have switched from highly processed diets to natural diets. Within a few months, they noticed increased energy, improved body composition, and (they) generally felt better every day,” Kelly said.
Kelly also said that an organic and all-natural diet helps improve the gut microbiome. This allows for better absorption of nutrients, weight loss and lower blood sugar levels, and helps improve immune function.
Heavily processed diets can cause health problems that can lead to death. Dietary diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes cause 11 million deaths, according to an article in the journal Nutrients.
People who make this switch tend to see a higher price at checkout.
According to a study by the USDA, 17 organic foods were compared to their non-organic counterparts. It turns out that organics can be between 7% and 82% more expensive. This is due to the costs of farm certification required to grow crops according to ecological standards, specialized farming, small-scale production and supply and demand.
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Farmers also protect the health and safety of their crops by keeping them all natural and eliminating the use of petroleum-based products such as herbicides and pesticides.
According to “The Health Benefits of Organic Food: The Environmental Impact” by Dr. Ian Givens, a professor at the University of Reading in the UK, there has been a demand for organic products over the past two decades due to impact and public concern. for herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, growth promoters and feed additives in plant and animal production.
Not only are humans reaping the benefits of these healthier foods and farming practices, but so are animals. Dave Evans, owner of First Fruit Family Farms, said it all starts with raising the cow.
For example, farmers raise health problems and for a smaller sized animal. The idea is to keep the cows from getting wet when it rains while they are in the grass field. When animals are born, they are fed with their natural food – grass. According to Evans, feeding them grass maintains their overall health and size. The healthier the animal, the healthier the meat consumers buy and eat.
“The cow was not created to eat corn. They are herbivores. They’re built to eat grass,” Evans said, “but because they breed that, then taking a cow and just putting them on grass has a high percentage of performance failures.”
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Many mass beef producers feed their cows corn because it’s easier to get mass amounts of it compared to the amount of grass they have to maintain for that many cows. With so much money invested in corn-fed cows at this point, it’s difficult for small farms that feed their cows on grass to compete.
“Breeding for forage and corn genetics creates an animal that doesn’t do well on grass. They have put tens of billions of dollars into genetics and breeding programs,” Evans said. “We have a long way to go.”
Healthy farming practices can also have a positive impact on the environment. Evans explained that herbs are the best way to maintain a healthy cycle. Since more than half of the plant is in the ground, the grass will continue to grow after the cows graze on it. Cow dung then returns nutrients and natural fertilizers to the soil, as well as releasing the consumed carbon back into the atmosphere.
“If you really want to save the planet (and) reverse global warming, put carbon where it needs to be, eat healthier and have healthier animals, there’s no other way than grass,” Evans said.