If you’ve ever suffered sticker shock at the market when buying organic
food, you may have wondered why organic is pricier and whether it’s
worth the extra bite to your wallet.
Here are some things to keep in mind when deciding between organic and
Organic produce. Conventional farmers help their crops grow by applying synthetic fertilizers
and weed killers. Organic farmers only use natural fertilizer, like manure
and compost, and they control weeds by tilling and mulching. Organic farms
can’t use genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and most
pesticides. Conventional farms are allowed to use all of these things.
Organic meat. The animals on an organic farm eat 100 percent organic feed and must be
allowed to go outdoors. Organic livestock can’t be treated with
antibiotics or growth hormones; to keep the animals healthy, the farmer
uses preventive techniques like rotational grazing—periodically
moving livestock between pastures—which gives the animals a more
active lifestyle. Animals on a conventional farm eat many kinds of commercial
feed, and they’re given them antibiotics, hormones, and medicines
to prevent disease.
Organic foods with more than one ingredient. To be labeled as organic, food has to contain at least 95 percent certified
organic content. If any of the ingredients are specifically called organic,
those ingredients have to meet that same standard.
Organic is not the same thing as natural. If you see meat, poultry, or eggs that are labeled as natural, it means
that they don’t contain artificial ingredients and that processing
has been kept to a minimum; it doesn’t have anything to do with
how they were farmed. The word “natural” doesn’t mean
anything in terms of government standards if the food doesn’t contain
meat or eggs.
Nutritional content. Is organic better for you than conventional? As it stands today, there
is no scientific agreement on the question. A 2014 study in the United
Kingdom found that organic crops contain more antioxidants than non-organic
crops. The researchers suggest that the additional antioxidants eaten
by switching to an organic diet would be the same as eating up to two
extra servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Other experts remain
unconvinced. They say that there are no proven health benefits to eating
organic, and that the nutritional content of an organic version and a
non-organic version of any natural product is essentially the same.
Organic food costs more because farmers and food processors have to follow
strict methods that promote conservation and biodiversity. Since the nutritional
content is at least equal, choosing between organic and non-organic food
depends on your personal preferences. If issues of sustainability and
avoiding artificial materials are as important to you as taste and price,
then you can feel good about paying more for products with the USDA organic seal.
Pesky Produce Labels: Sticky With Useful Information