You find yourself standing in the produce section during your weekly grocery shopping trip. All around you there is a fantastic variety of colors, scents, and textures. Though the bins of apples all look relatively the same, the stickers adhered to each show different growers’ names, different places raised, and many are showing a newer label. The USDA organic label. Comparing apples to apples, which is better? Conventionally grown produce or organic?
In order to decide which selection you should make on your next venture to the supermarket, you have to know the differences between conventional and organic produce. What makes produce organic?
For produce to be labeled with the USDA’s certified organic seal, it must have been grown on a farm that meets strict standards that meet both federal and state guidelines. Organic farms work diligently to keep water and soil in its most natural state by avoiding chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. Plants are fertilized with all natural manure and pests are kept at bay with natural trapping methods. Insects, like spiders, are commonly used in some crops to keep devastating pests under control.
It is a three year process for a farm to be considered certifiably organic by the USDA. Only after three full years of practicing organic methods can the farm earn the USDA’s certified organic seal. This seal is what all shoppers looking for true organic produce should search for.
Conventionally grown produce also must meet strict standards to be considered healthy for consumption. All chemicals used on plants must meet the set safety guidelines. Many conventional farmers reassure consumers that chemicals are a necessary part of having healthy and bountiful crops, and that they are safer than ever before.
Many farmers that choose to grow foods by conventional methods point out that due to the organic crops’ all natural fertilizers, they can put consumers at an increased risk of certain dangers. E. coli outbreaks from produce like spinach and other organically grown produce have shed a bit of light on the myth that organic food is always the safer choice.
There is no proven difference in the nutritional value of either conventional or organic produce. Though the growing methods can be vastly different, the end result of both farming methods is healthy fruits and vegetables. Calories, fat, vitamins, and minerals do not seem to be affected by either method of growing.
Choosing which type of produce is best for your family can be tricky, even after you know the facts. Many consumers look simply at costs. Organic food is almost always more expensive than conventional due to the farming methods involved and lesser crop yield. However, as more people demand organic food, the prices will begin to look much less intimidating. Until prices are evenly matched, many will choose conventional. Others choose conventional because they fear bacterial outbreaks from organic foods and take comfort in the chemicals used on conventional farms. People should take note that no farm is totally safe from bacterial outbreaks.
Some people choose to buy organic for environmental reasons. Due to the natural processes used to grow each crop, organic farming is known to be healthier for the soil and water supply in the surrounding area. Many believe that consumption of chemicals, over a period of time, can lead to many health problems. From headaches to cancer, the claims are endless.
Most people tend to fit in the middle of the produce debate. Many choose to buy organic produce when they can afford to, and conventional when the purse strings are a bit tight. They may choose to buy organic apples due to eating the peel of the fruit, but stick with conventional oranges. If they will be peeling the outer section off, they see little reason to spend more for chemical free.
Some have found that they enjoy the taste of organic or conventional better, and so stick with their favorite for this reason. Most people cannot detect a taste difference in produce, whether fresh, canned, or frozen, due to the way it is grown, but a small percentage swear one is better than the other.
Weighing the pros and cons of organic and conventional produce can be quite tricky. The more you research each method of farming and the end resulting products, the easier it will be to make the right decision for you and your family.