Is Organic Food Worth the Price?
Once the exclusive domain of boutique health food stores, organic food is now more common than ever. Over the years many people have become convinced that organic food is a healthier option for them and their families, but these groceries also usually come with a higher price tag. But let’s back up for a second: what does “organic” even mean, anyway? Is it actually better for you, or is this just a marketing term? Is organic food worth the price?
Organic Food Explained
The term “organic” is used to describe food that meets certain standards for how it is grown or prepared. For produce, this means reducing or eliminating the use of certain chemicals, additives and pesticides, and following specific agricultural guidelines like crop rotation and soil conservation processes. The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is also prohibited in organic foods. Meat labeled as “organic” must also meet certain standards regarding the living conditions and feed provided to the livestock. For example, organic beef must come from cows which are not treated with antibiotics and are only fed organic cattle feed.
The primary goals behind organic agricultural practices are to reduce human exposure to artificial chemical additives and to lessen any harmful impact on the environment. A full explanation of organic practices and standards can be found here.
The USDA is the regulatory body charged with certifying whether a given food item meets the criteria to be called an “organic food”. If you examine product labels and tags, you’ll notice that there are several different levels of organic food certification, and it’s important to understand what they mean.
- “100% Organic” means just that; the products consist of only ingredients which are certified to be organic.
- If a food is labeled simply “Organic”, it means that all ingredients are at least 95% certified organic.
- The label “Made with Organic” applies to foods with multiple ingredients which are at least 70% certified organic. There are also restrictions on the remaining 30% of ingredients.
Is Organic Food Healthier?
As we mentioned above, many people shop organic because they believe that organic meats and produce are healthier. But is this actually the case? Here is where things get kind of complicated because it depends on how you’re looking at it.
With conventional foods, pesticides and additives are used to increase crop yields and meat production. This results in a greater supply of food, produced with less money. While this does result in lower prices in the grocery store, conventional foods are at greater risk for things like pesticide residue on the food. There are also concerns about fertilizers used in the soil that non-organic crops are grown in, and non-organic feed given to livestock.
The primary benefit of opting for organic food over conventional groceries is that you are reducing your risk of exposure to chemicals and pesticides. Organic food production also is more environmentally-friendly, so it has a positive impact on the earth as well. If you want to avoid GMOs, then you should also choose organic products. Unfortunately, using organic methods can be more expensive for farmers and usually results in lower yields, and that means higher prices for consumers.
In terms of nutritional content, it’s a little more complicated. While there are studies which produce contradictory findings, the general consensus in the scientific community is that there is not a significant difference in the actual nutritional content of organic versus conventional foods. The bottom line is that nutritional content should not be the reason for choosing organic foods over conventional ones.
Are you freaking out because you’ve been buying non-organic foods? Relax, you are not poisoning your family by doing this. Conventional foods are still safe to eat and just rinsing your fruits and vegetables with water before eating is fine. But to reduce your risk as much as you can, organic is the way to go. If you’re a health-conscious person who cares about the environment and your budget allows it, then organic foods are definitely worth a few extra dollars.
Obviously, this is a lot of information to take in. Is organic food worth the price? That’s for you to decide. To make your shopping experience simpler and easier, we’ve adopted Eat Well tags in all our Foodtown locations. If you want to find high-quality organic food without meticulously examining each product label, just look for the big, easily visible yellow “Organic” tag on our shelves marking all products that are at least 95% certified organic.