Expert Health Articles

Organic vs. Non-Organic Foods

Martha GonzalezMartha Gonzalez, RD, LD, CLC

Clinical Nutrition Manager, Blanchard Valley Health System

The word “organic” primarily refers to the way farmers grow and process their food including fruits, vegetables, grains, meat and dairy products. Practicing organic farming encourages water and soil conservation and helps to reduce pollution. Farmers use different methods to fertilize and control weeds when growing organic produce. Natural fertilizers to feed soil, and plants and using crop rotation or mulch to manage weeds, are examples of organic farming practices.

Any organic product must be certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unless a farmer sells less than $5,000 of organic produce, certification is required. If a food item has the USDA organic label it means it was produced and processed according to USDA standards.

There are many different reasons consumers may choose organic foods. Some of these include concern regarding pesticides, concern about food additives, and environmental reasons. Instead of pesticides, organic farmers use insect traps to limit consumer consumption of pesticide spray residue in comparison to conventional produce. Organic regulations bar or heavily restrict the use of food additives such as colorings and artificial sweeteners. The last reason why consumers prefer organic food is due to sustainable practices of the farmers for the environment.

A primary concern buying organic vs. non- organic is the cost. Organic foods tend to be more expensive due to more expensive farming practices. Also, due to little to no preservative use, organic food can spoil faster.  Conventional produce tends to look very uniform compared to organic food which can have different shapes, colors and smaller sizes.