When is Buying Organic Worth It?


by Brandi Savitt - July 19, 2012

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All Organic Foods Are Not Created Equal

Many of us insist on buying organic - but how many of us really know what that label means? The term "organic" refers to how a product is grown and processed, as well as the integrity of its ingredients, but did you know that the FDA has different standards for organic labeled products? So, before you spend buku bucks on shopping for food labels that sound healthy - but may not be what you're looking for - get informed!

The Many Meanings of Organic

  • Under the FDA, "Certified Organic" means that 100% of ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be organic.
  • However, the "Organic" label alone means that at least 95% of the product's ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be organic.
  • You may also see a "made with organic ingredients" label. These products must use at least 70% organic ingredients to qualify.

Organic Producewoman-buying-pepper-from-farmers-market

Produce labeled USDA Organic must be grown without: pesticides, genetically modified organisms, or synthetic fertilizers. They also must use sustainable farming practices and methods. Note: If you want to double check if your celery or apples are organic, the code on the label will start with the number"9″. The code for non-organic produce begins with number "4″.

Organic Livestock & Dairy

Meat and poultry labeled USDA Organic are required to be fed 100% organic feed and have access to the outdoors (this does not mean that the animals are grazing leisurely in a pasture all day..). The animals also may also NOT be given any antibiotics or growth hormones.

Grass Fed

Woman-buying-meatBy definition a "grass fed" animal is one that is raised primarily on ranges rather than in a feedlot - which means that they can be contained and still show this label - as long as they are allowed to graze. The USDA defines "grass fed" as it applies to labeling but does not regulate it in any way. Grass fed does not mean the meat is organic!

Free Range & Cage Free

For a product to be labeled "free range" or "cage free, the animals cannot be contained in any way and must be allowed to roam and forage freely over a large area of open land. However, this label is very minimally regulated. The USDA only requires that the producer be able to demonstrate that the animals are allowed access to the outside and are not restricted to a contained. This loose level of regulation has allowed producers to keep animals closely confined, but without cages, and still use the label "cage free."

When Does Buying Organic Really Matter?

If health is your top concern, eating unprocessed whole foods - as close to the source as possible - is the key. And you certainly don't won't those foods filled with hormones and pesticides. Spending extra money on meat, poultry and dairy that is free of these chemicals is TOTALLY worth it. This goes for fruits and veggies too, but some produce is naturally safer than others…

Check out the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists below to help determine when it's worth buying organic produce, and when you really don't have to worry!

The Dirty Dozen + 2main-photo

**ALWAYS buy these bad boys organic - peeled or not!

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Sweet Bell Peppers
  4. Peaches
  5. Strawberries
  6. Imported nectarines
  7. Grapes
  8. Spinach
  9. Lettuce
  10. Cucumbers
  11. Domestic blueberries
  12. Potatoes
  13. Green Beans
  14. Kale/collard greens

The Clean 15

market-homework-lgIf you're on a tight budget, don't worry so much about buying these fruits & veggies organic..

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Avocado
  5. Cabbage
  6. Sweet Peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Mangoes
  9. Eggplant
  10. Kiwi
  11. Domestic cantaloupe
  12. Sweet Potatoes
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Watermelon
  15. Mushrooms
*We suggest printing out the list of the Dirty Dozen +2 & the Clean 15 and carry it in your wallet so you can have it handy when shopping. Here's to keeping your health - and your wallet - in great shape!

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