What is organic food?
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “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.” Farms where organic food is grown and companies that handle or process organic food before it reaches the consumer must be certified by a Government-approved certifier for it to receive the “USDA organic” label.
Source: Consumer Brochure, USDA National Organic Program
Why does organic food sometimes cost more?
Reasons for potentially higher costs include:
- Most organic farms are much smaller than nonorganic food farms;
- It may take more labor to grow plants and raise animals without the help of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and growth hormones;
- Conventional (nonorganic) farmers and ranchers may receive subsidies from the government, allowing them to sell their food at lower prices. Many organic farms are too small to receive this sort of help from the government.
Source: Organic Consumers Association
Organic Food Tips:
- Ease into organic foods by purchasing organic versions of your favorite foods in order to notice and truly appreciate the difference in quality, or start with the foods that your family eats the most.
- To avoid pesticides, buy organic versions of the following items. These fruits and vegetables potentially have the highest levels of pesticide residue, so purchase the organic version whenever possible: apples, nectarines, apricots, peaches, grapes, pears, raspberries, cherries, strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, celery, potatoes, and lettuce.
- Fruits and vegetables that are least likely to have pesticide residue include: onions, sweet corn, asparagus, peas, cabbage, eggplant, broccoli, avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, papayas, watermelon, and grapefruit.
- Try growing your own organic foods (and also save some cash). Start small – carrots, radishes and beets are relatively easy to grow. Seeds are available from stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s, as well as online through companies such as Seeds of Change. Great organic gardening tips can be found on Organic Kitchen’s website.
- Purchase items in bulk packaging. Anything that comes in an individual serving package can usually be purchased in a larger package. Individual packaging creates a huge amount of waste. Reusable containers can always be used to store smaller quantities of food.
Source: Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides, Environmental Working Group