Buying Organic Food

Many consumers are searching for an organic label on their food because they don't want to feed their families with items that may contain chemicals, growth hormones or antibiotics. Others say they can tell organic from conventional food because the organic tastes better.

Just as when buying green household products can be a bit more expensive, the price you'll pay for an organic item is usually higher than what you would pay for the conventional items. Factors that could influence the difference include what food you are buying, where you are shopping, the growing season and where you live. In California, for instance, produce items can be close in price whether it's organic or not.

You can often save money on organic food items if you buy them at a farmers' market, a health food store or a community supported agriculture project. If you can buy the food in bulk, you'll save even more money.

Organic foods are great when they are fresh, but after the growing season has ended look for dried, canned or frozen organic vegetables and fruits. The preserved foods are often cheaper than the fresh. If you are able to get a good price during the growing season, stock up and preserve you own. When you buy in large quantities, you can often negotiate a better price. It's a great way to enjoy organic produce all year round at a price that you can afford.

While most consumers are familiar with organic fruits and vegetables, organic animal products cause a little bit of confusion. After all, chemical laden fertilizers and pesticides aren't used in the production of meat and dairy.

When an animal is raised organically, it means that they are being raised in a healthy environment. They are given a wide range of nutrients from organic feed. They haven't been given artificial drugs like rbGH, the bovine human growth hormone and the genes of the animal have not been modified. This makes the organically raised animal healthier than factory raised animals.

What Organic Labels Mean

According to the USDA, organic produce is grown free of synthetic fertilizers, ionizing radiation, sewage sludge, pesticides or genetically modified organisms. Growth hormones and antibiotics are not used for animals that produce meat, poultry, dairy or eggs.

The NOP, or USDA National Organic Program has a slightly more complex definition in addition to the above. By their definition, the farmers who produce organic foods practice conserving water and soil and lean heavily on the use renewable resources.

There are three categories of foods that can be labeled organic. If the food is 100 per cent organic, all of the ingredients are 100 percent organic. Organic is food produced with a minimum of 95 per cent organic ingredients. The 'Made with Organic Ingredients ' label means that it can be made up of no less than 70 percent organic ingredients and the remaining 30 percent contain no genetically modified organisms.

Many people embrace the idea of conservation and sustainability as an important part of choosing organic food. They will only buy foods that are produced within a close proximity, claiming that the transportation of organically grown food is not environmentally friendly because of the emissions caused by shipping.

Others will see the farmer just down the road carefully tending crops that haven't been grown with chemicals or synthetic fertilizers and refuse to purchase because the equipment used on the farm is old and not energy efficient.

No matter how 'organic' you consider yourself, you can start small, buying organic food when you can afford it. Gradually work yourself up to meat and dairy products.

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