You stand in the produce aisle, or the egg section, and wonder; why is Organic more expensive? Is it worth it? What if you just care about humane treatment of animals, or avoiding genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), or making sure chemicals don’t leach into the local lake or stream?
We wanted to shed a little light on understanding just what the USDA Certified Organic label means, to help answer those questions.
What does USDA certified organic mean?
In order to receive a the USDA Organic certification, foods must be grown and processed according to strict federal guidelines which regulate things like soil quality, animal raising practices, pesticides and herbicides and use of additives. For example:
- No GMO’s: Organic foods can not contain any traces of GMOs. Scientists are able to make plants super-resistant to chemical pesticides and herbicides by genetically modifying the original DNA of the species. Because organic foods don’t use chemical pesticides and herbicides, there shouldn't be any trace of GMO products.
- Fruits and Vegetables can only be certified organic if it is verified to have grown on soil that has had no prohibited substances applied to it for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances are things like synthetic chemicals and harmful natural poisons and acids.
- Organic meats require that animals be treated humanely—with regulations stating that animals must be raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behavior (like the ability to graze on pasture), fed 100% organic feed and forage and not administered antibiotics or hormones.
- Manufactured certified Organic Foods must have at least 95% organic ingredients. If it has any non-organic ingredients, it must be because they are not available organically and are on the NOP list of approved ingredients. They cannot include artificial flavors or colors among other unnatural additives.