First, what does "organic" mean? How are the different labels for organic foods significant?
- Animals have not been treated with growth hormones or antibiotics
- Animals' feed cannot contain animal byproducts
- Animals are fed organic feed for at least a year
- Animals have access to the outdoors
- Food has not been genetically modified or irradiated
- Fertilizer does not contain sewage sludge or synthetic ingredients
- Produce is free of pesticides and other synthetic chemicals
- "100% Organic" means that all ingredients must be 100% organic.
- "Organic" indicates that 95% of the ingredients must be organic.
- "Made with Organic..." means at least 70% of listed ingredients must be organic and the remaining 30% (or more) must be from the USDA's approved list.
- "Natural" or "All Natural" is not a verified claim. The producer or manufacturer of the product has full rights to use this claim however they see fit. In no way does it mean organic.
- "Free-Range" means that the animal was given access to an outdoor space for "an undetermined period of time" each day. It does not indicate that they animal has free roam to pastures like many assume. The size of the outdoor space and the amount of time the animal has access to the outdoor space is not determined. The USDA's standards are very weak for this claim.
It's important to note that while there are advantages to eating organic foods, there are also disadvantages. The most obvious disadvantage is the cost. Organic meats, produce and dairy is often twice as expensive as other conventional options. Though interest is growing in organic foods, it is still a small segment of the foods sold in the U.S. With a smaller demand, comes smaller government substidies, and therefore, higher prices. It is also extremely expensive to become certified organic, a process that takes years to obtain. On top of that, the farming methods that are used on organic farms are more time and labor intensive. These all contribute to the high costs of these products.
A common way to control costs is to purchase organic produce from the dirty dozen list. These are the fruits and vegetables found to have high amounts of pesticides on them even after being thoroughly washed.
The clean 15 are the foods that have the lowest pesticide residue. For many, this is due to the protective peel or shell that surrounds the fruit or vegetable, protecting it from chemicals.
Another disadvantage to organic foods is the danger they can introduced into the food system. Pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals are used on food products for a reason. Some of those reasons are to protect our food from foodbourne illnesses, insects, or other contaminents. For example, organic farmers are free to use unprocessed animal manure as a fertilizer. This greatly increases the risks of bacteria such as E. coli to be transmitted through the food system and to the consumer.
Consider all these points when making a decision on whether you will purchase organic foods. Each individual has certain reasons why they choose to eat the way they do. Food is very personal, and what you eat is a personal choice.
I hope this helps answer some questions, but as always, please let me know if you have additional questions! Pin It