Is “Organic” actually worse for the environment?

Before you join our discussion, be sure to read the main article:


Some key points:

  • “The reason why organic food is so much worse for the climate is that the yields per hectare are much lower, primarily because fertilizers are not used.”
  • “The greater land-use in organic farming leads indirectly to higher carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to deforestation…”
  • “Even organic meat and dairy products are – from a climate point of view – worse than their conventionally produced equivalents…”
  • “The type of food is often much more important. For example, eating organic beans or organic chicken is much better for the climate than to eat conventionally produced beef…”

IMPORTANT NOTE: The article states that organic farms do not user fertilizers.  While I’m not sure about Swedish organic farms, most if not all US-based organic farms do actually use fertilizers.  However, to be classified as an organic farm, those fertilizers (and their pesticides) must be naturally occurring.  What those farmers might use is cow manure, bone meal, compost, etc.  While those fertilizers do bost good yields for home gardens or smaller organic farms, this article is focused on largescale productions.


Organic is actually worse for the environment?

Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden discovered some pretty interesting data in terms of organic farming and its impact on the environment.  To conventional farmers and consumers who are aware of the false claims from organic supporters, this data is pretty darn great to see (and something a lot of people have been aware of for a while).

Due to organic farming having to use more land than conventional farming, it’s yields are far lower per hectare (100 acres).  Conventional farming uses fertilizers, natural or synthetic depending on the farm ad crop, while organic farming uses little to no fertilizers to help increase yields.  The purpose of fertilizers is to help provide plants with additional nutrients that might be lacking from the soil.  This boost in nutrients helps the crops grow quicker and usually much healthier.  If certain nutrients are lacking, varying fertilizers can be applied and give the crops the correct amount of each nutrient required for that plant.  Because organic farms do not use fertilizers, their crops rely solely on the nutrients in the soil and get little soil amendment during their growing cycle.  What some organic farms might do is crop rotation or growing various crops throughout the season in hopes of naturally replenishing nutrients in the soil.  For example, let’s say Corn requires a lot of Nitrogen to grow while giving off Phosphorus back into the soil and Soybeans give off Nitrogen and require lots of Nitrogen to grow.  Organic farmers would grow one crop after the other due to the nutrient requirements being a bit different from one another and each crop can naturally replenish the soil with nutrients before the next crop is planted.  While is process is beneficial for the soil, it pales in comparison to the amounts of nutrients fertilizers can add to the soil. 


The Beef with Beef

The article does bring up an interesting topic about beef and that is its sustainability.  As we have discussed in an earlier video on Farm Traveler, beef is not a very sustainable form of agriculture.  Beef cattle are very poor in terms of converting feed to meat, it takes 6 pounds of feed for the cow to gain 1 pound of meat.  In terms of water, beef cattle require roughly 1,799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef (while pork requires 576 gallons of water per pound).  While this stinks, because beef is absolutely delicious, it’s something the ag industry must address.

However, with organic beef, most of the cattle grass feed instead of raised with feed.  This process requires more land area and usually a longer time span for that cow to gain the required weight before processing.  And note, both are still are going to require a vast amount of water during its lifespan.  


What’s the answer to a sustainable future?

No one knows yet.  But we are all working towards that future.  Organic farming is not the future, be sure to tell your organic friends we said that and watch them squirm.  More sustainable conventional farming is most likely going to be the future of agriculture with an increased focus on better use of natural resources, fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs, etc.  Science has gotten us this farm and it will continue to shape our future and the future of Ag. 

So moral of the story: Save yourself from the organic lettuce and buy the cheaper, conventional lettuce next time you go to the grocery store.  Your wallet and the planet with thank you.

Honey Production and Issues in the Industry

Bee Facts

To get started with the wealth of bee knowledge that is about to commence, let’s begin with some interesting bee facts.  Bees are broken down into three types: queen bee, workers, and drones. Worker bees are undeveloped female bees that live for around 40 days and do all of the work in the hive such as collect honey and care for the larvae.  In those 40 days, worker bees will only gather about 1/10 of a teaspoon of honey. It takes about 556 worker bees to produce a pound of honey. Drones are male bees that only mate with the queen bee and then either die or are forced out of the hive.  And lastly, the queen bee is the only developed female bee in the hive and can produce 2000 eggs per day and can live anywhere from 1 to 5 years.


honey on white bowl

Honey Production

Like you already know, bees collect nectar from plants.  As the nectar digests in their stomach, the “honey gut” as some call it, certain enzymes are added that turn the nectar into honey.  The bees then regurgitate the honey and transfer it to another bee.  This transfer happens about two to three times until the final worker bee deposits the honey into their honeycombs.  Once that honeycomb is full of honey, a human worker removes it from the hive and this begins the production process. The honeycombs are then put into a machine and spun at high speeds which force the honey out.  Once the honey is collected it is then heated to a high temperature which melts out the crystals. This temperature also causes any bee remnants, dirt, or pollen to rise to the surface of the honey where it is removed.  The honey is then heated again and strained and finally poured into bottles ready to be shelved.


Issues in the Honey Industry

Honey Adulteration is an issue you might not have heard of before.  Some countries, China being one of the most guilty, will add large amounts of syrup (usually from rice or other grains) and mix that with natural honey to create a honey-like product that they are able to sell at cheap prices.  This honey can pass most quality control tests and can even pose dangers to consumers. In the past, China has sold billions of dollars worth of honey to the United States at below market value, which creates a huge price competition with US honey producers that they are unable to compete with.

In recent years bee populations have continued to dwindle, all while the demand for honey has steadily risen.  Bees face a number of issues in their environments such as climate change, loss of habitat, disease spread, and chemical exposure.  Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, has become a prominent issue facing beekeepers.  The decline in bee populations has gotten so bad, some industry leaders have begun researching drone technology to create pollinating drones.  Check out NPR Article on these ‘Bee Drones’.

Another issue is hive theft.  During the winter, some beekeepers transport their hives to farms in warmer climates where their bees are able to pollinate plants on that farmland.  The bees are able to pollinate plants in the area, stock up on their honey, and the beekeeper gets a nice paycheck from the farmer.  It’s usually a win/win/win.  However, some beekeepers have experienced numerous cases of theft, California in particular.  Almond production is high in California due to increased demands in almond milk, almond flour, and other almondy products.  A few years ago, $800,000 worth of beehives were stolen from California farms that were housing those visiting bees.  As if beekeepers didn’t have enough to worry about, now they have to protect their bees from criminals looking to steal their way into the industry.


Buzz Local, Buy Local

Honey is a sweet treat we all love and use in numerous ways.  Continue to enjoy it as much as you can and support your local bees and beekeepers by buying local honey when and where you can.  Small mom and pop honey shops are all around this country and are a great way to support local business and a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.




How Products are Made: Honey


Canadian Honey Council

A Pro GMO documentary?

Podcasts are a new addiction of mine.  Driving to work or going on a long road trip can be much more entertaining while listening to Mike Rowe’s “The way I heard it” or even The Nerdist Podcasts.  One such podcast that came with a pleasant surprise was an episode of StarTalk Radio with Neil deGrasse Tyson (your personal astrophysicist) and his take on a documentary called, Food Evolution.  In the podcast, Neil chats with the documentary director as well as a food scientist on many issues surrounding GMOs.  And surprisingly, they all spoke very highly of the science behind GMOs.  I will be sure to drop a link to the podcast below, be sure to give it a listen the next time you run errands around town.

Some key points made by the podcast:

  • The term “Genetically Modified Organism” encompasses much more than plant varieties developed in a laboratory.
  • Scientific consensus is that GMOs pose no threat to health – instead focus should be on sustainable agriculture practices.
  • GMO’s have helped save populations in lower developed countries whose food supply is their main source of income.  An example being Uganda and their banana blight.
  • Technically Organic Produce can include GMO varieties.

Be sure to check out the StarTalk Radio Podcast mentioned above  – StarTalk Radio Podcast –


The documentary seems to cover many issues surrounding GMOs: Are GMOs harmful? Are they ruining the planet? Is organic produce healthier than GMOs?  Check out a trailer below!

Food Evolution Trailer

The trailer looks great, right?  Besides the person who stated, “I trust social media before I do doctors, the FDA, ….”  Please, never be as naive as her.  Do your research and only trust credible sources, aka NOT your social media feed.  If you are trusting your “followers” more than you trust a doctor, you may need to log off for a while and reevaluate your life choices.   

I haven’t had a chance to watch the documentary yet but certainly plan to.  Be on the look out for an article on it in the coming weeks.  It looks like a well developed film!


Still not convinced?  Agree or disagree with anything you heard?  Let us know, we look forward to continuing this discussion with you!


Thanks for stopping by!  See you next time.


Growth Hormones in Chicken?

You know that feeling of ordering chicken nuggets from McDonald’s?  You place your order, drive up to pay, and drive to the second window to receive your nugget goodness.  It’s a good day.

Well almost any TV commercial or Facebook post you see about chicken is saying “Stay away form chickens with antibiotics!” or “Our chicken is always growth hormone free!”  Needless to say, we have a thing or two to say about that.

The Poultry Industry is basically any bird raised for consumption: chickens, turkey, duck, etc.  Your meat birds are called Broilers/Fryers and birds used for egg laying are called Laying birds (duh).  Today we will focus on Broiler birds and if they are raised with growth hormones.  We will save antibiotics, free-range and cage-free chickens for another time.

Image result for are chickens raised with hormones

Now you may have seen the above picture before that shows how chickens have grown over the last few decades.  Some people automatically associate this with growth hormones even though the FDA made growth hormones illegal on U.S. poultry in 1960.  The growth in these chickens is a result of selective breeding, where we can take chickens with the best traits (feed conversion, weight, growth rate) and use those as parents to produce offspring with the same desired traits.  This is what has been done to produce the broilers we use today.

Now lets say we did use growth hormones on chickens, how would they be administered?  Check out what The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research and Extension has to say on this:

2. Growth hormones must be injected to work.
They do not work when added in the feed or
water. If fed, hormones are digested into their
basic amino acids which destroy their function as
hormones. The only way to maintain their action
as a growth­stimulating steroid is to inject them
into each bird almost daily.

So growth hormones can’t be added to feed, therefore must be given by injection.  One of my old professors from the University of Florida, who was a Poultry Scientist (so he pretty much was THE expert on all things poultry) told us how inefficient it would be to give chickens shots, yet alone shots of growth hormones.  He stated that to give all the chickens in the U.S. a shot, assuming it took a skilled vet 1 second to administer it, would take 9 years.  9 years to give shots to just the chickens we have today.  9 whole years.  Seems pretty inefficient, right?  Yet another reason poultry are never given growth hormones.

Ever see a label for chicken that says “Raise without antibiotics/growth hormones”?  Labels that have this are required by law to have an additional section that states that no hormones are used in the production of any poultry.

Hopefully, this post will help ease your fear about growth hormones in your chicken, because there is none.  If you would like to know more please feel free to check out our sources below.

Wanna learn more?  Disagree with something we said?  Leave us a comment.  We would love to hear from you!


Chickopedia: What Consumers Need to Know

Click to access FSA-8007.pdf

Click to access nass-poultry-stats-factsheet.pdf