Is Organic Worth The Money?
You see it everywhere, at the grocery store, in skin care products, clothing, bedding, home goods….organic. You know, or at least you think, it’s better for you, but it does seem to be more expensive. Have you wondered why? Have you wondered if it’s a scam? You’re not alone.
As consumers become more aware of the dangers of chemical additives to everything we eat, apply or use in our lives, the market for organic products has exploded. But, how do you know what you’re actually getting? The USDA oversees the labeling of organic items. This federal agency has strict labeling and production requirements that organic products must meet to be labeled organic, they are:
Produced without excluded methods, (e.g., genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge). Click here for the Policy on genetically modified organisms (GMO)
The USDA also has a national list of products produced using allowed substances. View the list here: National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances
Overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.
There are fact sheets available for each category of product, you can find all of the reports here: Organic Labeling
While the USDA does have guidelines and protections in place, as consumers we should be aware that some providers are exempt from organic certification, this includes organic farmers who sell less than $5,000 of product. To make it easier to recognize legitimate certified organic products, they will carry the Organic Seal. Anyone who labels their product without proper certification is subject to an $11,000 fine, per offense.
Okay, so the USDA is looking out for consumers, but that still leaves the question, “Is it worth the money?” The answer, that depends.
Choosing organic is better for our environment. Organically produced produce and products help conserve natural resources, create less pollution in water, soil and air. Organically grown foods also protect wildlife from coming into contact with harmful pesticides and gmo plants, which create havoc on the eco system. If the environment is important to you, then any premium paid is worth it.
Eating organic food reduces your exposure to pesticides. Scientific testing confirms, people who consume organic foods and beverages, including alcoholic beverages, have measurably lower levels of pesticides in their system. The pesticides currently used in food & beverage production are reported to be safe. However, all you have to do is google ‘Monsanto’ and you will find tens of thousands of pages that make it clear, pesticides are very harmful to humans and wildlife.
When it comes to children’s exposure to pesticides in food or products, there ae additional concerns because they consume more food/calories per unit of body weight than adults. Also, because their cells are dividing at a more rapid rate, the risk of toxic effects are much higher. Many children are also picky eaters. If a child will only eat certain things, depending on the quality of the item, this could put them at a higher risk of pesticide consumption because they are eating so much of it.
That’s the dilemma, isn’t it? Your toddler refuses to eat anything expect, for example, hot dogs, apples and oatmeal. If the brands you choose are high in pesticides, non-gmo, or other unhealthy ingredients, their risk is elevated. Food quality and choices matter.
To learn more about determining whether the produce you’re buying is good quality, there is a great resource from EWS (Enviromental Working Group) a non-profit research organization that provides public health information on produce, foods & consumer products. Fair warning, you may be shocked at some of the items you thought were good for you! You can find out more here: EWG Consumer Guides
Is there a difference in nutrition quality between organic and non-organic foods? The short answer is, that depends. Some studies have shown that non-organic foods provide as much nutrition as organic. Other studies show the opposite. When reviewing any study, it is important to know who paid for and/or authored the study. Do they have an agenda?
With the current data available, from reliable sources, organic foods provide more nutrition. One of the main reasons organics are superior is the higher mineral content & antioxidants in the foods thanks to the soil quality. Organic products must meet strict soil requirements to carry certification. Cleaner soil = cleaner food.
“I don’t buy organic because it doesn’t taste as good.” This is a common misconception. There have been blind studies conducted and the organic and non-organic were equally appealing to consumers. Some preferred non-organic and an almost equal amount of participants preferred organic.
In the US, children grow up on things like Hershey bars and Snickers. The first time you have a wonderful piece of Swiss chocolate, it seems bland and not sweet enough. Organic and healthy foods options are the same way, our palettes have been conditioned to high sugar content, preservatives and other imitation flavors. When you try something different, it feels unfamiliar, this is normal but it doesn’t take too long to realize how much better it tastes and you feel without all the fake ingredients.
Is it worth the cost? Organic foods, at their regular, non-sale prices, typically run about 20% higher than GMO or non-certified foods. Here’s an example found on Amazon today, clickable links:
You have to ask yourself, am I worth an extra 8 cents for healthy nutritious food? Is my child? Is the environment? It’s up to you.
When it comes to cost, there is one other thing that I like to point out. Organic foods need to be eaten in a timely manner or they will spoil Preservatives, chemicals and pesticides extend the shelf life of products. We’ve all heard the story that you can set a Twinkie out and leave it there for years and it won’t rot. Again, if that is something you are comfortable eating, that is your choice.
For me, I think I’m worth the extra 8 cents for my bananas!