When you go to the grocery store or supermarket to buy fruits or vegetables, do you pick just any produce or are you particular about getting organic foods? There is a difference between the two and, after our discussion, you may decide that organic foods are the way to go. Let’s take a look at the benefits of buying organic produce.While both types of produce may look the same, organic foods must be able to meet specific standards of production, including specific growing and processing conditions that are unique to foods that can be labeled “organic”. For crop foods, the organic foods can’t be grown using any chemical pesticides, non-organic fertilizer, human waste fertilizer or sludge from sewage. They also cannot be processed using ionizing radiation—a process that kills bacteria but that some people believe is unsafe. Finally, the food can’t be genetically altered.
At one point, organic foods were grown on small farms, particularly those that were family-owned and operated. In today’s time, however, organic foods are grown on larger farms and are more readily available in most supermarkets, co-ops and health food stores. In the US, parts of Europe and Japan, the production of organic foods is currently federally regulated and in other countries, specific organic certification is required before these foods can be sold.Organic foods can include fresh vegetables and fruits, which are not processed and come directly from the growers through farmer’s markets, supermarkets and roadside stands. Many of these products are only available during certain times of the year. One can also get organic eggs, dairy products and meat in their fresh and unprocessed forms.
Organic eggs are generally provided by free-range chickens and not from those kept in cages in large, egg factories. Organic meats must not come from animals that have been treated with any growth hormones, steroids or antibiotics. Processed organic foods can be found in the organic food section of the supermarket but often are more expensive than their conventional food counterparts. Processed organic foods can include canned products, frozen produce, prepared items and even snack foods.
In truth, processed organic foods need only contain a certain percentage of organic ingredients. In Australia, for example, a food can be labeled “organic” if it contains at least 95% organic ingredients. In other countries, however, the percentage can be less than that. Even so, those non-organic ingredients must be free of artificial food additives and no aspect of the food can be processed using chemical ripening techniques, genetic modification or irradiation. In some cases, the organic food must be made using energy-saving techniques and packaged in recyclable or biodegradable materials.
It’s not always easy to identify whether or not your food is truly organic. Sometimes, you need to buy directly from an organic grower in order to be certain the food is organic. More recently, however, foods that are organic can be identified by governmental labeling, stating that the food is “certified organic.