What Does the “Organic” Label Really Mean?

Put simply, organic fruit and vegetables are is food items that are grown without the use of any genetically modified organisms, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, ionizing radiation or pesticides.  Organic meat, dairy products eggs, and poultry are not given any growth hormones or antibiotics.

According to the USDA National Organic Program, called NOP, organic is defined as the following:

Any organic food is food produced by farmers who use renewable resources and are dedicated to the conservation of the water and soil for enhancing the quality of the environment for generations in the future. Organic dairy products, eggs, poultry, and meat come from animals that are not given any growth hormones or antibiotics. Other organic foods are produced without using the majority of conventional pesticides; the fertilizers don’t contain sewage sludge or synthetic ingredients; ionizing radiation; or bioengineering. Prior to a product receiving the “organic” label, a Government certifier must inspect the location where the food is grown to ensure the farmer is abiding by all of the rules outlined by the organic standards of the USDA.

How to Know if a Product is Organic

According to the USDA, there are three categories of organic products, which include:

  • 100% Organic: Made with all organic ingredients.
  • Organic: These are made with a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.
  • Made with Organic Ingredients: These are made with at least 70% organic ingredients with there being strict requirements on the other 30%, which includes no GMOs.

Products that have ingredients that are less than 70% organic may list the organic ingredients on the package’s side panel, but it cannot make any claims for being organic on the front of the wrapping or package.

What Does the Organic Seal from the USDA Mean?

When a product receives the USDA Organic seal, it provides assurance for consumers that they are purchasing a product that meets the integrity and quality of organic produce or other products. An organic-certified operation has to have an organic system in place, as well as records that provide verification of compliance with the system. The operators are inspected each year, along with random checks to ensure that standards continue to be met.

Why Do Organic Foods Cost More than Other Foods?

The fact is, organic food isn’t always more expensive. There are some items, such as hamburger, bread, cereal, and coffee that cost the same, or even less, than the more conventional counterparts. Also, as the demand for quality organic products continues to grow, the cost is going to keep going down. If the cost is higher, then you should consider the following:

  • Farmers who choose to offer organic products don’t receive the federal subsidies that conventional famers receive. This means the price of the organic items reflects the actual growing cost.
  • The price of the conventional types of food do not reflect the cost of the environmental cleanups that have to be paid with tax dollars.
  • The organic farming process is much more management and labor intensive.
  • The majority of organic farms are much smaller than conventional farms and, as a result, don’t benefit from the economies of scale that the larger growers receive.

Organic foods are unique. They are a better option for some people because they don’t contain all the chemicals and other items that conventional products include. However, a food is only given the “organic” label when it meets all the growing standards and requirements. This is how you know it meets all the standards outlined by the USDA.

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