Organic: meaning, misconceptions & benefits
When talking about food, the word “organic” has been increasingly popular in the past years – but do we know what it actually means?
We have seen the label on almost every type of produce or processed food: from dairy products, to fresh veggies, to animal meat or plant-based alternatives. Marketers know how to cater to a society that, due to the current climate crisis, is more and more conscious about what is going into our bodies, how it is produced, and how it impacts our environment. This can cause what we call ‘greenwashing’, and words can play a very important part in making us believe that a product is much more natural, eco-friendly and healthy than it actually is. Therefore, it is important we know what we are buying and not be fooled by green packaging and nice-sounding labels.
So, let’s start with the basics:
What does "organic" mean?
Organic refers to the way products have been cultivated and processed.
In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set certain regulations and conditions that products need to meet before they can be labelled as “organic”. Furthermore, for a product to be labelled as such it needs to be composed of at least 95% organic products; however, in that 5% there is still a lot of room for nasty substances to be added.
Note: when a product states it’s made with “organic ingredients” it does NOT mean that the entire product is organic – check the label: a jar of peanut butter may be made with 100% organic peanuts, but it may also include palm oil, refined sugars, chemical preservatives and other harmful additives.
What are some misconceptions or myths about the organic label?
Studies have shown that people believe that organic produce and food is more nutritious, healthier & tastier.
While we cannot argue for or against the taste factor, since it comes down to personal opinion, there are some misconceptions that need to be clarified in order to not fall into marketing ploys and false advertising.
🍎 Organic produce is more nutritious
False. There is currently no evidence to suggest organic produce is more nutritious than conventional fruit and veggies. However, we can be sure it’s been grown with less pesticides and harsh chemicals – yet, the nutritional value is not affected.
🍐 Organic farming is sustainable and/or ethical
Not always true. Unless proven and clarified, as consumers we cannot assume an organic product is more sustainable or ethically conscious than any other product on the shelf. Many factors come into play: energy and water consumption, deforestation, transportation emissions, human labour conditions, and many more.
Top tip: We suggest choosing locally-sourced products and checking the label for any clarifications.
🍋 An organic label means animals have been treated kindly
Nope! While the USDA does require animals to be raised in “natural living conditions, grazing on pasture grown on healthy soil and without being administered hormones or antibiotics” for the dairy or meat product to be considered organic; and while this is always better than conventional industrial farming, this does not guarantee the animal has had a good life.
Top tip: if you have to purchase meat or dairy, look for the tags “grass-fed”, “free-range” and “naturally-raised”.
So... what are the benefits of organic produce?
As we have seen, it is imperative we check food labels and understand where it’s coming from. And while organic labelling may be used falsely, we must also take into account great benefits of organically certified produce:
⭐️ Fresher products free of preservatives: Since there are no added preservatives, the products will be fresher – but eat the quick since they will also perish faster!
⭐️ Products are free of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms): We do not want products that have been genetically altered to grow faster and bigger – potatoes are not meant to look perfect, and tomatoes are not always round!
⭐️ Fewer chemical pesticides that go into the product and into our body: While natural pesticides are allowed, no chemicals are involved in the growth of organic crops.
⭐️ Guarantee that no animal has been fed antibiotics or injected with hormones: As with plants, altering the natural order or things is never a good idea – conventional animal farming will force livestock to reproduce, grow and feed at unnatural rates, causing extreme suffering and pain.
While we have reported only a brief overview of what the organic label means, we must remind everyone to keep reading and educating yourself on these topics. There is constant research being undertaken and new information coming out every day that can help us understand what we are eating and where our food comes from.
Remember: maintain a balanced diet, eat your fruit and veggies, and read the labels!