The popularity of organic foods has risen dramatically over the past 20 years in the United States. Almost $40 billion was spent on produce labeled as being organic in 2014. Increases of 10% or more have occurred in each year since then.
Some people prefer to eat organic food because they think it is healthier, tastier, or safer to eat. Others believe that this eating choice is better for the environment and improves the well-being of animals that are in the human food chain.
The “organic” terminology is a reference to how specific foods are processed and grown before reaching the market for consumption. They must be free of artificial chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs to qualify for this labeling. There cannot be any food additives that are artificial in these products either.
Most people purchase fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, and meat products that are certified organic.
If you are thinking about making the transition to organic foods with your eating habits, then these are the pros and cons to consider today.
List of the Pros of Organic Food
1. Organic food is an environmentally friendly method of production.
Organic foods are often chosen because people are trying to avoid artificial chemicals. Eating these items can reduce your exposure to some pesticide residues. It may also lower your risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. There is evidence to suggest that eating organic foods can reduce your exposure to cadmium by 48%. Pesticide residues are four times more likely to be found on traditional crops like compared to organic ones.
2. Organic foods may have a favorable fatty acid profile.
Healthline reports that organic dairy products can contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids when compared to traditional items. Milk products may also contain higher levels of vitamin E, iron, and carotenoids. If you choose to eat organic meat products, then you can receive up to 23% higher polyunsaturated fat in your diet compared to non-organic items. Even the levels of omega-6s are 16% higher in organic meat, but omega-3s can be up to 47% higher when consuming chicken or pork.
3. Organic foods can be higher in monounsaturated fat.
Organic meat products are roughly 8% higher in monounsaturated fat when compared to non-organic items. As with the other fatty acids that are found in these products, you would need to consume pork and chicken primarily to benefit from this advantage. There is no difference in the amount of saturate fat content that is found in either meat group.
You can control these factors some by knowing what the animal ate before it entered the human food chain. Fresh forage animals contain higher levels of fatty acids than others. Grass and clover provide a better outcome. Using traditional breeds over hybrids can also impact the human food chain.
4. Organic foods can taste better to some people.
Although there are studies which suggests that non-organic foods taste the same as organic items, there can also be a clear difference in the flavor profile of some food products. Fruits and vegetables which are grown through this process tend to benefit from this advantage the most. Because this produce grows the more slowly when compared to cash-crop growing methods, it tends to have lower water content. This structure contributes to the fuller flavor profile that some people experience.
5. Organic foods may contain up to 40% more antioxidants.
According to a 2014 report published by Science News, a review of data from 343 published studies found that organic foods contain up to 40% more antioxidants when compared to items grown through conventional methods. “the totality of the evidence is that there are higher levels of nutrients in organic foods,” said Charles Benbrook, who was the author of the study and a researcher at Washington State University.
6. Organic foods are sometimes cheaper, and they can reduce other costs.
There are some organic foods which are actually cheaper than their traditional counterparts if you are willing to shop at local suppliers. You may not find these items at the grocery store, but you could find them at a local farmers’ market. Some products are even available online today. Many of today’s most-consumed produce items are priced relatively equally when comparing organic and non-organic costs.
Then there is the health advantage to consider when eating organic items. Because you are exposing yourself to fewer synthetic pesticides and herbicides, there is the potential to save money on future healthcare expenses thanks to the choice to begin eating better.
7. Organic foods help to support the local economy.
Because organic foods do not travel as well, most stores stock items that are grown locally for their consumers to enjoy. That means your purchase of these fruits and vegetables will help the local economy reinvest the profits. Roughly 70% of what you spend on items grown in your community gets put back into the area in some way. That means you can promote more jobs and a better living profile when you incorporate this habit into your regular routine.
8. Organic foods support a better profit margin for farmers.
Supporting organic farms produces a number of financial benefits that help these small businesses and their families. It can reduce the level of chemicals found in livestock feed to promote more efficient husbandry efforts each season. It reduces excessive pollution levels that could impact the local water supply. Most farmers can achieve 95% of their conventional yield after a 5-year transition period after going organic. It is a low waste system that producers a better profit margin for farmers when they can spend time working the land instead of trying to maximize their productivity levels.
9. Organic foods might be safer to eat.
When you eat conventional food items, then there is an excellent chance that you are exposing your body to various synthetic chemicals. These additives to the food supply have been linked to infertility issues, numerous cancers, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disorders, and autoimmune problems. Herbicide consumption can lead to heart disease development and hypertension as well. Removing these items from your diet can allow your body to have an opportunity to heal.
10. Organic foods reduce the threat of antibiotic consumption.
The traditional food chain process often includes antibiotic consumption for the animals to prevent sickness or death from decreasing the profit margin. These drugs remain in the system of the animal through the butchering process until they reach your plate. If you consume enough of them, then your body can begin to produce a resilience to the medication. The bacteria that can cause bothersome infections can develop an immunity to it as well. Farmers cannot use the organic label on their meat products if any growth hormones or antibiotics were used. Genetic engineering and irradiation are prohibited activities as well.
11. Organic foods can help to create a healthier family.
Banned chemicals can pass through the mother to the baby according to research by Indiana University. The chemicals can disrupt hormones and impact the birth weight of the child. These polybrominated diphenyl ethers, often used as a flame retardant in building materials, textiles, and electronics were banned in 2004. They are still leaching into the environment almost 20 years later to create trace levels of the chemical in newborns.
This process occurs for pesticides and herbicides applied through the traditional farming process as well. Over 200 harmful chemicals, including almost two-dozen pesticides, are found in cord blood samples taken from the United States. If families are concerned about vaccinations causing autism, then there should be a closer look at the foods which they choose to consume as well.
12. Organic foods often contain higher levels of salicylic acid.
This critical nutrient found in organic foods can help to proactively lower the risks of certain diseases for some individuals. Salicylic acid can help to keep a person’s arteries from hardening due to the impact of heart disease and atherosclerosis.
13. Organic foods are 85% less likely to contain pesticide residues.
If you compare organic foods to conventional items, then there is a significant drop in the presence of pesticide residues on each item. That includes products that contain natural items that are approved for organic farmers to use. Multiple residues are extremely rare on organic items as well. Some items have exposure levels which are 100 times lower when looking at this advantage compared to the traditional products.
14. Organic foods can be frozen.
If you are unable to afford the cost of fresh organic foods when shopping for groceries, then consider purchasing the items that are very ripe and close to their sell-by date. These items can be prepared and frozen without a dramatic reduction in the nutrient density of the item. You can also find organic frozen vegetables in the freezer section of most stores as an easy way to improve your eating habits without sacrificing convenience. There can also be some opportunities to purchase organic foods in bulk.
List of the Cons of Organic Food
1. Organic foods may contain fewer nutritional items.
Some organic foods may have fewer nutritional items included per serving when compared to traditional crops or products. Organic milk is one such example. It may contain less iodine and selenium, which are two critical elements for good health. Several studies have found that there are no differences between the traditional food chain and the organic food chain when evaluating the nutritional profile of similar items. A total of 233 studies finds a lack of relevant evidence to conclude that organic items are more nutritious than non-organic ones.
2. Organic foods cost more than items grown through traditional methods.
Consumer Reports compared the cost of 100 organic items and their traditional counterparts. The overall results that they found were that the organic items would cost an average of 47% more than foods produced through a more conventional process. The comparison range in price was quite fast. In some instances, the organic foods were even cheaper (like organic honey). Some produce items had the same cost, including olive oil, cream cheese, and carrots.
Organic zucchini could cost upwards of 300% more when compared to traditional items.
3. Organic foods are not always available in some communities.
There is an ever-increasing demand for organic foods across the United States and around the world. Availability is greater today than it has arguably ever been before. There are still locations where you can only find these items in the health food stores. Many local grocery stores are carrying more items with this label, but regions dealing with food scarcity are still struggling to bring in these items. Over 60% of Millennials purchase organic during their shopping trip, which is changing the supermarket industry, but it is still a transitory process that requires more time to access everyone.
4. Organic foods have a shorter shelf life than other items.
Although there are a handful of organic foods that have a longer shelf life than traditional items, most have a shorter lifespan. Some products, such as turnip greens, mustard greens, and endive have a shrink percentage above 50%. Turnip greens have a shrink percentage on their own of 63%. Hundreds of millions of pounds of uneaten whole vegetables go through the marketplace each year because of the shelf life issue.
The reason why these items have a shorter shelf life is because they spoil quicker thanks to a lack of preservatives. It can lead to more wasted food and additional shopping trips that can increase the risk of need a higher grocery budget each week.
5. Organic foods are more sensitive to environmental changes.
One of the factors that contributes to the high levels of loss for organic produce is that the items are more susceptible to changes that occur in their environment. Grocery stores must limit the exposure of sunlight, reduce damage from equipment and technical malfunctions, and store items at an appropriate temperature. Excessive handling can cause enough damage on some items to reduce the shelf life of some foods as well.
6. Organic foods take more work to produce.
Because there is an emphasis on the natural growing methods for farmers growing organic foods, the amount of physical labor required to bring items to the market is much higher because there can be fewer automated processes involved. Natural fertilizers, such as green manure, may require hand-spreading to eliminate the environmental impact of a tractor and supplementary equipment. Weeding often happens by hand. Although these actions improve the soil conditions, it will also raise the cost of the items that households can purchase.
7. Organic foods offer a higher risk of bacterial contamination.
If you are concerned about bacterial contamination in your food supply, then organic foods might not be the best choice for your health needs. Although several studies do you say that the differences are negligible between organic and non-organic items, there is a 1% increase in the frequency of E. coli contamination when choosing something that was grown through organic processes. There is a 5% increase in overall risk of experiencing an issue with your food supply as well.
8. Organic foods can still have natural pesticides and fungicides on them.
The only difference between the pesticides that an organic product uses and one from the traditional methods of farming is that natural items must be used during the growing process. As long as the fungicides and pesticides being used by the organic farmer come from natural elements, then they are usually approved for use without disrupting the certification that the farmer earned. You must take the time to thoroughly wash the surface of your foods and cook them thoroughly to reduce your risks of exposure.
9. Organic foods can be offered in confusing ways in the United States.
There are three different types of labeling provided for the organic industry in the U.S. thanks to the Department of Agriculture. If something is 100% organic, then every ingredient in the product is organic – except for the salt and the water. If you find something with the generic “organic” label, then it means that 95% of the products in that item come from organic origins.
Some products say, “made with organic ingredients.” The USDA requires that 70% of the ingredients in that item come from an organic source.
10. Organic foods may contain higher levels of pesticide residue.
There are roughly a dozen conventional foods which have very low pesticide residues on them over frequent testing periods. You may find that items like cauliflower, avocados, cabbage, onions, eggplant, and grapefruit are cheaper and healthier from an exposure standpoint than choosing the organic counterparts.
The pros and cons of organic foods may be best summed up by this quote from Prince Charles.
“it is vitally important that we continue to say, with absolute conviction, that organic farming delivers the highest quality, best-tasting food, produced without artificial chemicals or genetic modification, and with respect for animal welfare and the environment while helping to maintain the landscape and rural communities.”
There may be benefits to eating organic, and there may be cost disadvantages that keep some families from doing so. This choice is one that is personal. Evaluating the advantages and disadvantages can make the decision much easier.
About the Author
Brandon Miller has a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin. He is a seasoned writer who has written over one hundred articles, which have been read by over 500,000 people. If you have any comments or concerns about this blog post, then please contact the Green Garage team here.