Veganic: Better or Worse than Organic?

by Sarah Green LivingComments: 17

veganic benefits versus organic foodLately, I’ve noticed a growing number of products at the healthfood store that are labeled veganic. Maybe you’ve noticed the same thing.

I’ve never heard of that term before until recently. As a result, I decided to dig in and figure out what this new trend is all about.

My first question was this: Is veganic food healthier, the same, or lower quality than organic food?

My second question was this: Is the veganic food movement a beneficial development in light of the continued watering down (pun intended) of USDA Organic standards over the past two decades?

What is Veganic?

A common misconception is that veganic food is somehow vegan approved. This is far from the truth.  Let’s start with a definition of terms.

What Does “Vegan” Mean?

The term “vegan” refers to a specific food philosophy. A person who is a vegan chooses to exclude all animal foods from the diet. This includes all dairy as well as eggs. Some vegans also exclude honey from their diet because it comes from a non-plant based source.

Currently, about 2.5% of the US population is vegan, with the vast majority returning to meat sometime during their lifetime. Nine years is the average length of time of abstinence with persistent physical weakness the primary reason given for eating meat again.

What Does “Veganic” Mean?

While the term vegan describes a person’s dietary choices, the word veganic refers to a specific set of farming methods for growing food and enhancing the soil.

Here are some important differences to keep in mind:

  • Farmers who grow food veganically may or may not be vegans themselves.
  • Consumers who seek to purchase veganic products are not necessarily vegan.
  • Products labeled “veganic” may actually not be vegan at all!

Are you thoroughly confused yet?

The Principle of Growing Food Veganically

In essence, the term veganic really has little to do with veganism beyond the fact that veganically derived farming methods exclude animal based fertilizers. This is probably a good thing given that most farm animals are exposed to pesticides and other chemicals and routinely given antibiotics and other drugs either directly or via their feed. The residue of these chemicals would likely show up in their manure.

Even many organic farms which use animal remains or waste as fertilizer may inadvertently expose crops to hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and other chemical residues. You see, the manure used on an organic farm is not required to be from an organically raised animal (although some organic farms do go the extra mile to ensure this is the case).

As you can see, the reason for using only plant based fertilizers on a veganic farm is to keep pathogens and contaminants away from crops. It is not because this agricultural method would be appealing to vegans.

The truth is, the idea is appealing to vegans and non-vegans alike!

Vegans and consumers who love veganically produced products (like me) desire food that is bioavailable for the body as well as sustainable for the planet.

In essence, veganic is a logical step beyond organic for those who seek safe food grown in a sustainable manner.

Veganic in Action

From a practical standpoint, I have personally found veganic food to be more digestible, tasty and satisfying than the same food grown only organically. The dilution of organic farming principles in recent decades is one big reason why.

Here are some more factoids on food grown veganically:

  • Veganic farms use ancient techniques to build and retain nutrients in the soil. These methods include crop rotation and allowing fields to lay fallow some years.
  • Vegetable compost, “green” manure (replowing cover crops back into the soil), and mulching are other ecological methods of improving the soil.
  • Veganic farms occasionally use lime, gypsum, rock phosphorus, dolomite, rock dusts and rock potash. However, as they are non-renewable sources, they strive to not depend on them (1).
  • The raising of livestock may occur on a veganic farm although the manure would not be used on the agricultural fields.
  • Fish emulsions are not used. Farm raised fish are routinely treated with antibiotics and even tests on wild fish indicate the presence of residues (2).
  • Natural worm populations in the soil are encouraged, so animals are a key part of the veganically inspired cultivation process.
  • Crops cultivated in this manner are grown without chemicals or animal-based fertilizers.
  • The assistance of honeybees is important to the process as necessary.
  • Veganic food is frequently sprouted, as bioavailability of nutrients is a key tenet of this emerging farming philosophy.
  • Veganic food is cultivated with transparency. One company that produces veganic food actually lists the names, pictures and locations of the specific farmers who produced the raw materials contained in the box (check it out here)!

Have you tried any foods yet that were produced veganically? Did you find them to be more digestible and flavorful than the same foods that are labeled USDA Organic only?

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist

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