What is "real" food? In short, it is food that is (ideally)"organically" grown, without chemicals - or at least "sustainably" grown with a minimum of chemicals. Ideally such food would be grown on healthy, carefully managed, nutrient-rich soils and it would come to the consumer in as fresh and unprocessed a state as possible. This means essentially that such food is best found locally, rather than half way around the world.
While many people equate "healthy" food with fresh produce, it is important to understand that REAL food includes Grass Fed, pastured meat, poultry and dairy. These kinds of foods are also the most nutrient dense, ounce per ounce, of all foods. Whether you are interested in saving the world, saving small family farmers and local economies, saving the environment - or "just" saving your health - make an effort to include plenty of such food in your diet.
Eat Wild is the best website around for those wishing to quickly discover the many benefits of grass fed and pastured animal meat, poultry and dairy products. Click on the "Shop for Local" button for locating a pasture-based farm near you. Note that some of the listed farms will ship to you. While at the site, be sure to read through the exceptional information it has available.
The Weston A. Price Foundation is another exceptionally good and very extensive resourse for discovering the health benefits animal-sourced foods, including raw milk. It also has a good locator page to help you find local sources for fresh, nutrient dense foods as well as searching out a Weston A. Price chapter nearest you. The "Real Milk" campaign is one of this organization's most important campaigns. Find out why, and how to locate Real milk at the Real Milk website.
To get an idea of what may be done on a local level to forward the message of the joys and many benefits of fresh, locally available nutrient dense food, visit the websites of Traditional Nutrition, based in Elgin, Illinois and The Foundation for Real Nutrition and Sustainable Living, based in Downers Grove Illinois.
Websites devoted to helping communities promote more sustainable forms of agriculture and rebuild local food systems include the Food Routes network and Local Harvest. Note also that some CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture), are offering pastured meats, poultry, pork and dairy packages.
While local is almost always best - for the environment, for the economy, and for our health, the same cannot be said for the "organic" label, as this recent ruling by the USDA illustrates.
For this reason we offer the following article, in which the author suggests that we use the word "authentic" to mean "beyond organic". The article originally appeared in Mother Earth News and is now available in pdf format at Four Season Farm where you will find numerous other articles and information.
"Authentic Food - Beyond Organic: A Seal of Quality From a Farm Near You" by Eliot Coleman.
The label “organic” has lost the fluidity it used to hold for the growers more concerned with quality than the bottom line, and consumers more concerned with nutrition than a static set of standards for labeling. “Authentic” is meant to be the flexible term “organic” once was. It identifies fresh foods produced by local growers who want to focus on what they are doing instead of what they aren’t doing. (The word authentic derives from the Greek authentes: one who does things for him or herself.) The standards for a term like this shouldn’t be set in stone, but here is what I would like for growers to focus on:
- All foods are produced by the growers who sell them.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, eggs and meat products are produced within a 50-mile radius of their place of their final sale.
- The seed and storage crops (grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, etc.) are produced within a 300-mile radius of their final sale.
- Only traditional processed foods such as cheese, wine, bread and lactofermented products may claim, “Made with authentic ingredients.”
- The growers’ fields, barns and greenhouses are open for inspection at any time, so customers themselves can be the certifiers of their food.
- All agricultural practices used on farms selling under the “authentic” label are chosen to produce foods of the highest nutritional quality.
- Soils are nourished, as in the natural world, with farm-derived organic mattr and mineral particles from ground rock.
- Green manures and cover crops are included within broadly based crop rotations to maintain biological diversity.
- A “plant positive” rather than “pest negative” philosophy is followed, focusing on correcting the cause of problems rather than treating symptoms.
- Livestock are raised outdoors on grass-based pasture systems to the fullest extent possible.
- The goal is vigorous, healthy crops and livestock endowed with their inherent powers of vitality and resistance.
“Authentic” growers are committed to suppying food that is fresh, ripe, clean, safe and nourishing. “Authentic” farms are genetically-modified-organism-free zones. I encourage all small growers who believe in exceptional food and use local markets to use the word “authentic” to mean “beyond organic.” With a definition that stresses local, seller-grown and fresh, there is little likelihood that large-scale marketers can appropriate this concept.