What Is Organic

The Basics of Organic

It is important to choose organic food vs. non-organic food every time you go grocery shopping. Choosing organic food for your family is vital in order to keep them free of harmful and deadly chemicals.  Making the wise decision of choosing organic food also supports farmers and producers who believe in good health, quality foods and earth-friendly (though some like to say eco-friendly) sustainable agricultural practices.


So what exactly does “organic” mean?

Organic products are grown in environmentally friendly ways, without toxic or persistent agricultural chemicals. Organic agriculture is a production method that emphasizes the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality.

In fact, since 2002, all organic food products sold in the US are required to meet strict Federal standards managed by the USDA.


What about organic meat?

Meat that is certified organic is from animals fed organically-grown feed, given fresh air and outdoor access and no antibiotics or growth promoting hormones.


Standards Basics

  • Soil and plants cannot be treated with chemicals or persistent pesticides or herbicides.
  • No synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge can be used to promote growth.
  • GMOs are not allowed.
  • Animals are fed organic feeds, given access to the outdoors, and allowed to fulfill their natural behaviors.
  • Synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics are forbidden.

Reading Organic Labels

All products labeled as “organic” must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency. Understanding organic labeling may be a bit confusing at first. Learn the difference between items labeled 100% Organic, Organic and Made with Organic Ingredients.


Organically Grown…it starts with healthy soil.


It’s easy to feel good about a system of agriculture that doesn’t use toxic or persistent agricultural chemicals. Organic farmers nourish their crops by truly cultivating the living system of the soil. Through the use of compost, manure and cover crops (like clover which is grown and then plowed under for soil nourishment) – the organic farmer builds up naturally occurring sources of nitrogen for the healthiest soil possible. And, land tended with organic farming methods experiences fewer issues with runoff and pollution than land tended with conventional agricultural chemicals.


What is unique about organic produce?

The availability of organic produce tends to indicate that a particular fruit or vegetable is at its height of seasonality, according to Edmund Lamacchia, National Vice President of Procurement-Perishables for Whole Foods Market. “With few exceptions, organic growers cannot force ripen produce, so when consumers see those items at the store or market, they know the product is at its culinary peak. A good example is oranges. When organic oranges are available, they have been naturally ripened and will represent an immediate quality difference over conventional oranges that have been forced to ripen.”

What are good products for you to begin trying as organic?

Consumers wishing to experiment with organic produce should start with basic commodity items, such as apples, pears, oranges, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers and tomatoes. Because these items are in ample supply from organic farmers, consumers will notice the least price differences versus conventional produce; whereas, exotic or specialty produce will command a higher premium if it is difficult to grow organically.


What types of foods are available as organic?

Most consumers think of fruits and vegetables when they think of organic products, but there are many other organic foods, including pastas, sauces, frozen juices, frozen meals, cereals, soups, chocolate, cookies, meat, poultry, dairy and even wine.

What are the organic standards for raising meat, poultry and dairy?

Organic livestock standards prohibit the use of synthetic growth hormones such as rBGH and the routine use of antibiotics. Additionally, all animals must be raised in natural living conditions appropriate for their species. The animals are fed only organic feed, and the processing for all meat, poultry and dairy products must meet organic standards as well.

What is the difference between “organic” and “natural”?

“Natural” often is misrepresented in product labeling to imply “healthful,” but “natural” only means that the product has undergone minimal processing. Unlike products that are certified organic, natural products have no certification or inspection system. Also, “natural” does not necessarily relate to growing methods or the use of preservatives.

Are organic foods healthier?

Organic foods are not necessarily more nutritious, rather organic food are spared the application of potentially harmful long-lasting insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Now, the EPA considers 60% of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides, and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer-causing.

Do organic farmers ever use pesticides?

Organic farmers’ primary strategy is “prevention.” By building healthy soils, healthy plants are better able to resist disease and insects. When pest populations get out of balance, growers will try various options like insect predators, mating disruption, traps and barriers. If these fail, the certifier may grant permission to apply botanical or other non-persistent pesticides from the USDA National List of Approved Substances under restricted conditions. Botanicals are derived from plants and are broken down quickly by oxygen and sunlight.

Do organic foods taste better?

We think so, and hundreds of gourmet chefs across the country agree. It’s common sense—well balanced soils grow strong, healthy plants that taste great.




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