Fork It Friday: To Organic or Not
Organic foods are usually pretty great for the environment, but can also be a little rough on our wallets. Sometimes, the prices are much bigger, especially with things like milk and eggs. So, is it worth buying or organic or not?
It depends. Sometimes it is. Other times, it’s not necessary to spend the extra money.
First, let’s talk about what the word “organic” even means in the grocery store. The term refers to how the food is grown, handled, and processed. The government has strict standards for its “USDA Organic” seal: “Produce must be grown without the use of most conventional pesticides, fertilizers that aren’t naturally made, sewage sludge, radiation, and genetically modified organisms. Animals can’t be given antibiotics or hormones. “
Labels can be deceiving, even with organic products, so read carefully. “100% Organic” means that all of the ingredients are certified organic. “Organic” by itself means that at least 95% is certified organic (which means the other 5% could be anything…). “Made With Organic Ingredients” means that at least 70% is certified organic (leaving 30% to be questioned).
Be wary of marketing labels, like “All-Natural” and “Farm-Raised” and “Natural Flavors” and “Free Range.” Those are NOT regulated, nor certified, and are simply marketing gimmicks to get you to spend more money.
Now, here’s another thing to know about organic foods. Organic does NOT mean it is necessarily pesticide-free. While organic farmers cannot use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, they CAN apply ones that are made from natural ingredients. However, if your diet includes a wide variety of produce, you are much less likely to get a big dose of any one specific pesticide.
Okay, so the most important question.
WHAT IS WORTH BUYING ORGANIC?!
MICROWAVE POPCORN (Yes, seriously)
ANYTHING WITHOUT SKIN THAT YOU PEEL - Strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, etc. And definitely be sure to thoroughly rinse any produce before eating, even organic produce! No need to use any special cleansers, just running water will do.
What you probably do not need to spend extra on, and can skip the “organic” label on:
SEAFOOD - Buy conventional. The USDA actually does not have organic standards for seafood, so instead, pick ones that are low in mercury, like shrimp and salmon. Don’t fall for the labels on seafood - “organic” and “farm raised” are not guarantees with seafood, so more than likely you could be paying a heavier price for a meaningless label.
ANYTHING WITH SKIN THAT YOU PEEL - So, things like avocados, bananas, pineapples, and melons.
MAPLE SYRUP - Just be sure to buy “100% Maple Syrup”
If possible, buy your food, especially produce, locally from a farmer. Produce like apples, nectarines, strawberries, peaches, kale, spinach, lettuce, etc. The Farmer’s Market will be starting up again! ;-)
And, at the end of the day - You do what YOU feel is best for you! If you want to buy all organic, rock on! If you don’t, or you cannot afford it, just be mindful of the ingredients and wash them well before enjoying!