Organic produce, meats, and other foods seem to be all the rage these past few years. You might be wondering, What is all the fuss about organic food all over the grocery stores near me? Is it really all that different from the conventionally produced food? How is it different? What are the benefits of eating organic? Are the benefits all they’re made out to be?
Organic Food 101
Some critics of the organic food craze say that the label is meaningless and no different from conventionally produced food. While according to over 200 studies it is true that, chemically, organic foods do not have more vitamins or minerals than so-called “regular” foods, that really isn’t the goal with organic eating. It should be immediately obvious that one apple would contain the same nutritional value as another, no matter how it is produced.
However, even the USDA recognizes that there are differences between the two, so much so that they have very specific standards for foods that bear the organic label. If these foods don’t meet the standards, they cannot have “USDA Organic” or “Certified Organic” displayed on them. These standards include:
- An ingredients list that contains at least 95% organic, meaning free of synthetic additives such as dyes, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers.
- Not processed with the use of industrial solvents, irradiation, or genetic engineering of any kind.
- The remaining 5% must only be foods or processed with additives from an approved list.
Other labels on organic foods include:
- 100% Organic, in which 100% of the food must meet the above criteria.
- Made with Organic, which means 70% or more organic ingredients, the USDA seal cannot appear on the packaging anywhere or in any form, and the remaining 30% of ingredients might not be foods, or could be processed with additives other than what appears on a special exclusion list.
If these standards are violated to any degree, the USDA could come down on the offending companies, sometimes fining them as much as $11,000. That seems like a small price to pay for false advertising and has caused many to question whether the agency is enforcing the label, inspecting the foods, or assigning penalties as seriously as it should. Fortunately, you can generally rest assured that most foods at your local grocery store are properly labeled organic, despite skeptics’ claims that the term has become an arbitrary marketing buzzword.
Why Should I Eat Organic?
There are many great reasons to eat organic. Some of the benefits are good for you, and some of them are good for everyone! The price tag can be a little bit of a turn off for some, but you’re paying for a lot of good!
No pesticides or chemical additives! Organic foods are by and large far less likely to be treated with chemicals, whether pesticides or otherwise. Conventional foods are grown on farms that use pesticides made of rather questionable chemicals that you might not want to put on the table. A bonus is that the farmers don’t have to get exposed to them either! While organic foods aren’t necessarily guaranteed pesticide free, only 7 percent of pesticides were found in Pembroke Pines organic foods vs conventionally farmed foods in one study. Plus, organic foods can only be treated with pesticides from an approved list.
Antibiotics not included! Because of the standard that organic foods must be at least 95% free of inorganic additives, they can’t be treated with antibiotics! It has been found that organic foods are far less likely to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Environmentally friendly! One of the greatest things about organic foods is that a major goal of their existence is to encourage farming that is better for the environment. The growth practices, use of natural resources, and growing food without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides are all determined by the environment in mind. While these practices can make organic crops a bit less stable, they are more environmentally stable, and allowances are made to ensure a good yield. Studies have shown that organic farms have a much smaller ecological footprint than conventional farms. That’s a good bet to put your money on!
They’re tasty! Of course, organic foods tend to have a fresher, more natural taste. From eggs to meat, to dairy, and of course produce, the difference is definitely palatable! Growing closer to the way nature intended gives food a clean taste that can’t be beaten by anything else on the grocery shelves!
Shopping organic can be fun! When you eat organic, you might balk at the price tag. However, going to farmer’s markets and co-ops is not only exciting but full of deals and prices much lower than the organic section at your supermarket. You can also go to health food stores, vitamin shops, and nutrition stores, which are full of tons of other interesting products to try!