You’ve probably noticed in your recent trips to the grocery store that nearly everything is available in an organic variety. Organic produce is pretty commonplace, but you can now find organic bread, yogurt, cookies, cereals and even baby formula in most grocery stores. But what exactly does the term “organic” mean? And is it worth all the hype?
For a food to be marketed as organic, it must fall under specific guidelines defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Organic meats, poultry, eggs and dairy must be free of all growth hormones and antibiotics. Organic crops are grown without the use of most conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The USDA also has specific criteria for how organic food must be handled and processed (Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).
One benefit of organic food is decreased exposure to chemicals. Some conventional farmers use harsh chemical pesticides and fertilizers to grow their crops, which can leave residue on produce. They may also feed their livestock artificial growth hormones and antibiotics, which then become present in their eggs, dairy, meat and poultry products. Organic food is treated with natural compounds instead of harsh chemicals. Livestock are fed an organic diet, and they are not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food must be free of artificial sweeteners and chemical preservatives.
Organic farming is also considered to be more environmentally friendly. Using natural compounds instead of harsh chemicals reduces pollutants in water and creates richer soil.
Cost is arguably the biggest downfall of buying organic. Organic food costs anywhere from 20 to 100 percent more than regular produce. This increase in cost is due to several factors. Because organic farmers do not use artificial fertilizers, they tend to produce smaller quantities. Their method of farming is also more labor-intensive with weed pulling and crop rotation. And then there is the issue of supply and demand – as the demand for organic produce increases, so does the price.
In terms of nutrition, there is little difference between organic food and regular food. The primary health concern lies in exposure to pesticide residues, hormones and antibiotic-resistant bacteria (Source: LIVESTRONG).
Deciding whether or not to buy organic is a personal choice, and it needs to be one that works for you. The next time you’re at the grocery store, weigh the pros and cons of going organic. If cost is a concern, check for deals at your local farmer’s market or start your very own vegetable garden. What matters most is feeling good about the food you eat!