When Does Organic Truly Matter?

By Noelle Martin MScFN RD of Meals for Me and my Minis
Did you know that all foods are organic by means of the definition: “anything that contains carbon is organic”. But that likely isn’t what you think about when you see an organic label. So what does come to mind when you see “organic apples” or “organic beef”? Do you think about foods that are grown without pesticides, antibiotics, or hormones? Do you think of it being potentially superior to other foods? Do you stare at them wondering if they are a better choice or just a more expensive money maker for the store?
As a dietitian I am often asked exactly this... is it worth it to buy organic foods? My answer is not a simple yes or no. 

Notable Points on Organic

  • Organic fruits and vegetables are “grown without pesticides or herbicides. This means that the farmer growing them did not use any on the crops. However, it does not mean they are pesticide or herbicide free. This is because crosswinds can bring pesticides and herbicides over from other fields. So if you are buying organic vegetables and fruits, be aware they may still be exposed and you will want to wash them thoroughly. Another consideration is shorter shelf life so you may wish to shop more often and/or freeze some and thaw as needed. 
  • Organic animal products (milk, eggs, meat, poultry, and fish) are labeled as such when the farmer agrees to raise the animal without the use of antibiotics or hormones. As long as the farmer abides by these rules, it is more securely organic than fruits and vegetables as there is no effect of crosswinds. In my opinion, organic animal products are more worthwhile to spend our money on than organic crops. And if you only selected one product to be organic in your diet, milk is a great choice. Hormones and antibiotics have a huge impact on the milk from animals treated with these products; especially hormones. In an ideal world, organic milk would be affordably available to everyone. 
So the next time you are in the grocery store and wondering if organic is worth it or not, here is a great way to decide:
  1. Is it animal product based? If yes, then ask if your budget will allow for it. If so then it is likely a superior choice.
  2. Is it a vegetable or fruit? If your budget will allow for it then go ahead but be sure to consider the shorter shelf life and the need to still wash them well in case of crosswind exposure.