What Does Organic Even Mean?

I honestly can’t say I knew what the real meaning of the term “organic” was until a few years ago. I had changed my major from Exercise & Wellness to Nutrition, and it was in NTR 345 Healthy Cuisine that I discovered the meaning of “organic” actually meant. What it essentially boils down to depends on the type of food label used on a product. There are entire sections of grocery stores dedicated to organic products. Along the way, organic has been associated with being healthier, but is it? Let’s break it down.

Organic chart

240% increase in organic farmers and products since 2002 (Flicker-USDA)

Or-gan-ic Meaning

If you see any food product with the label organic means this: these products don’t use conventional pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. Animal products must have access to the outside and no antibiotics or hormones. Organic products cannot be genetically modified (GMO). When it comes down to it, organic refers to how food is grown. Organic farming is typically better for the environment compared to conventional farming.

Food Labeling

Look at your labels to see what percentage of organic you are buying. Don’t be fooled and think anything with the word organic is purely organic. It will have the USDA Organic seal if it’s.

organic seal

USDA Organic Seal (flicker- USDA)

• 100% Organic is all organic and has a USDA seal
• Organic 95-99%, organic remaining ingredients can’t be grown organically
• Made With 70-94%, may have at least 3 organic ingredients
• Other less than 70%, only appear on the back of the package in the ingredient list

Non-Organic Is Ok

Becoming a USDA organic farm is very expensive and, some farmers just don’t have the means to do it. If you are at a local farmers market, you can talk to the producers and ask them about their fertilizers and pesticides. Whole-foods has their own “organic” labeling program. It’s easier for farmers to get this accreditation compared to the USDA’s. Organic is still a new thing and there have only been a few studies on its health benefits. There aren’t any conclusive findings if organic is healthier. The goal in general is to eat more fruits and veggies. If organic makes you happy then you do, you boo. If you want to save a few cents at the grocery store then you do, you boo. Personally, I go for a mix of both. I buy most of my fruits and veggies as non-organic and most of my plant-based alternatives (butter and almond milk) are organic.

Farmers market

A farmer informs shoppers about their organic products. (Flicker- Robert Couse-Baker)

I hope this post helps you the next time you’re grocery shopping. One of my favorite organic brands (that won’t burn a whole in your pocket) is Simple Truth. I live off of their Almond Milk and Quinoa. Remember, there are different types of labeling for organic. If this is something important to you, look to see if you are buying a purely organic product. I feel organic foods can help the environment which is good, but there isn’t enough evidence to say they are superior over non-organic.

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