Organic food consumption has been on the rise in the United States of America, and most major grocery chains now have an entire aisle devoted to organic products. Cooking with organic produce and products is not only healthy – it’s better for your body and the planet. Yet have you wondered what exactly organic means? Below you will find the answers to some of the most common questions surrounding organic produce.

Questions:

  • What does organic mean?
  • How do I know if my food is organic?
  • Is organic food healthier than other food?
  • Isn’t organic food expensive?
  • Why should I eat organic food?
  • How can I learn more?

What does organic mean?

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 issued by the USDA set the standards for organic production and defined organic production as such: “to be sold or labeled as an organically produced agricultural product under this title, an agricultural product shall
(1) have been produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals, except as otherwise provided in this title;

(2) except as otherwise provided in this title and excluding livestock, not be produced on land to which any prohibited substances, including synthetic chemicals, have been applied during the 3 years immediately preceding the harvest of the agricultural products; and

(3) be produced and handled in compliance with an organic plan agreed to by the producer and handler of such product and the certifying agent.”

Organic food must be produced without chemicals and fertilizers.

How do I know if my food is organic?

When at the grocery store, you have to read labels and signs carefully to see how exactly the items you are picking up are classified. The first step is to look for this seal: The second step is not to trust the words you see marketing your food! The USDA has very specific guidelines about how words can be used to sell products, and it is important to go to the store knowing the difference between organic and made with organic ingredients. There are three classifications for organic food and organic products per the USDA.

1. 100% Organic: products must be completely organic, or made up of completely organic ingredients

2. Organic. When you see the term organic without the “100%” this means that the product is at least 95% organic. Any of these above products/pieces of produce may carry the USDA Organic seal.

3. If a product is made up of at least 70% organic ingredients, they are certified to use the phrase “made with organic ingredients” but can NOT use the seal.

Is organic food healthier than other food?

You can read many articles about the health benefits/ or lack of health benefits for organic food in various scientific journals. Shortened version – the jury is still out on this with regards to specific scientific data regarding the nutritional levels of organic foods. However, there are other health concerns that should be taken into consideration such as the use pesticides, and food additives in non-organic produce, and the harm that chemicals cause on the environment and our ecosystems.

Isn’t organic food expensive?

It depends. Common assumption is that organic food is more expensive than conventional food, but it really depends on the store and item. However, it is in your best interest to keep buying organic food, because as the demand increases, supplies will also increase, thus reducing price!

Why should I eat organic?

We believe that organic food is one of the cornerstones of cooking healthy. While not everything you shop for maybe 100% organic, or organic, choosing produce that organic is a healthy choice – and is a healthy way to cook. The main reason to eat organic is because you are controlling what you put into your body – no more pesticides or chemicals! Another reason is to protect the environment. Organic producers are returning to the roots, so to speak, or farming and are operating under better practices of preserving our land, rotating crops to maintain optimum fertilization, and preventing soil erosion. Also, it has been argued that organic foods taste better – this is completely dependent on individual tastes, but if you are on the fence about organic produce – give it a try, you may have the best tasting strawberry you have ever had! In the end, choosing to eat organic is your own choice – and it is not an all or nothing ideal. Some people try their best to buy100% organic at their grocery store or a farmers market, some people grow their own food to meet their standards, and some people just chose organic produce if it is available at their local grocery store.

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Feature image via Chiot’s Run via photopin cc