Organic foods are regulated by the USDA and feature crops that are grown without pesticides, artificial fertilizers, irradiation or biotechnology. The animals are raised on a healthy diet of organic food, without being confined 100% of the time, or “free range,” and they are not given antibiotics or synthetic growth hormones. About 70% of Americans find it worthwhile to pay a little extra to encourage farmers to adhere to these more ethical standards. Research suggests that these healthy foods that are grown organically have more nutrients and that livestock raised organically is more ethical.
Many people are often confounded when standing in the produce section, looking at the organic foods, conventional foods and healthy snack foods. For instance, both tomatoes may look plump, juicy and red but one is labeled “organic” and the other is not. They both provide vitamins, antioxidants and nutrition, but what are the differences? Conventional farmers use chemical pesticides to keep pests and plagues away from their vegetables. They use chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth, and manage weeds using chemical herbicides. They may also give their animals antibiotics, growth hormones or medications to prevent illnesses and encourage growth.
By contrast, organic foods farmers strive to encourage soil and water conservation, not to mention reduce pollution and treat animals ethically. Organic farmers also use other insects, birds or traps to deter pests, use manure or compost to encourage plant growth, rotate crops or mulch to manage weeds, give animals a healthy diet of organic feed and allow rotational grazing, free range mobility and clean housing to prevent disease and to encourage healthy growth.
When buying organic foods, there are some things to consider. Buying raw foods, like fruits or vegetables, should be done in season to get the best quality. Shopping on the day when a new shipment will be arriving can also ensure freshness. All produce should be washed thoroughly to remove dirt and bacteria, using a small scrub brush for any item where the skin gets eaten. Removing the skin from fruit and vegetables, as well as refraining from eating animal skin can also reduce exposure to pesticides.