Know Where Your Food Comes From: Organic
Healthy, sustainable, and natural are all terms that might come to mind when you see the term “organic” on a label. But what does it really mean? You may be surprised to learn that organic food is certified through a federal program and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nutritious.
Let’s start from the beginning. According to the USDA, certified organic foods are “grown and processed according to federal guidelines addressing, among many factors, soil quality, animal raising practices, pest and weed control, and the use of additives.”
What Can Be Certified Organic?
Produce, grains, meat, dairy, and multi-ingredient foods can all be certified. Each product category requires a slightly different certification or labeling process. However, they follow similar guidelines regarding soil health and biodiversity.
There are a number of barriers farmers and ranchers must face in order to be certified, that relate to time, land, and money. Other labels, such as “all natural” and “sustainably grown” may follow some of these regulations, but are not certified by the USDA.
Produce & Grains
Being free of pesticides and fertilizers for three years.
Maintaining or improving soil and water quality.
Using sustainable growing practices such as crop rotation, cover crops, and natural methods for controlling pests.
Meat, Dairy & Eggs
The animals are raised in living conditions that replicate their natural environment with access to pasture.
Animals are feed 100% organic feed or forage.
They are antibiotic and hormone free through clean housing, rotational grazing, and a healthy diet.
Processed Multi-Ingredient Products
Free of artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors.
Each individual element must be certified, with a few minor exceptions.
Benefits of Organic
Sustainable farming and ranching practices have a number of benefits. By being certified, you are making a commitment to not only maintaining the environment, but improving it.
Less pesticides and chemicals in the environment: According to the Organic Trade Association, if every farmer in the U.S. grew organic, that would reduce 500 million pounds of harmful pesticides in our air each year.
Improves soil health: Sustainable farming tends to the living ecosystem within the soil with natural methods without chemicals and pesticides.
Fights Global Warming: In a continuous study since 1981, the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial has found that these practices reduce a greater amount carbon dioxide than conventional farming.
Promotes water health and conservation: Sustainable practices help keep our water free of pesticides, toxic fertilizers, and animal waste. Additionally, farmers help conserve water through less irrigation and amending soil correctly.
Supports animal health: Animals raised through organic practices have access to natural, chemical-free pastures which keeps them healthy and resistant to illness.
Biodiversity: Sustainable practices encourage biodiversity which helps keep a farm resilient to weather, disease, and pests.
There is a common misconception that organic food more nutritious for you. However, they typically has the same nutrients as conventional products. Organic foods are healthy for you in that they reduce pesticides and antibiotic exposure in your body.
Through purchasing certified organic products, you can be confident about what you’re putting into your body and support sustainability in agriculture by improving the land that our food comes from.