Organic vs. Non-organic: The Debate of The 21st Century

Organic or not organic? That is the question that seems to trouble many consumers nowadays while shopping at their local grocery stores. When making this decision a couple other common questions come into play, as well. For instance: ‘What does organic even mean?’, ‘Are organic products more nutritious than non-organic products?’, ‘How much more does it cost to eat organic?’, and ‘Are all organic products actually organic?’. Well, fear not! Keep reading and all of these pending questions will be answered.

What does organic even mean?

Definition from USDA’s National Organic Program:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

Are organic products more nutritious than non-organic products?

Researchers at Stanford University did a study a couple years back where they compared the nutritional content of both organically grown and commercially grown foods. Their research displayed that organic foods offer little to no extra nutritional benefits compared to their traditionally grown counterparts. Some organic foods had higher levels of phosphorous and omega-3 fatty acid levels, but nothing was extremely different.

How much more does it cost to eat organic?

It’s a known fact that organic products are more expensive than commercial foods because of the more labor and management involved in the process. Organic farmers do not receive government subsidies like commercial farmers do, which means that the price of organic products actually reflects the true cost of growing foods. Organic products are typically $1 to $3 dollars more than commercially grown products. For instance, non-organic 1% milk is $3.25 where organic 1% milk is $4.59. Now, is eating organic worth the couple extra bucks? This is only something you can decide.

Are all organic products actually grown organically?

The answer to this one is yes. The USDA has very strict qualifications that products must meet in order to be classified as organic. Every truly organic product has the USDA organic seal, which ensures consumers that what they are purchasing is actually organic. There are 4 organic categories that products can fall into: ‘100% organic’, ‘organic’, ‘organically made’, and ‘made with organic ingredients’. To be classified as 100% organic, the product must be made with 100% organic ingredients. Organic products are classified as products that are made with 95% organic ingredients. Organically made products have to have at least 70% organic ingredients and no GMO’s. Products that contain less than 70% organic ingredients can list the organic ingredients on the side of the packaging, but cannot put any organic information on the front of the packaging. In order to ensure organic operations are adhering to these strict qualifications, they are inspected at least one time a year and often are randomly inspected throughout the year.

So, I’ll ask you again: Organic or nonorganic? Only you can decide.

For more information about organic products check out the USDA’s website!


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