What does "Organic" and "All natural" really mean?

What does "Organic", "All Natural" and "conventional" terms really mean?

When you walk into the grocery store there are a lot of words that are thrown around to describe how your food is produced. Words like "all natural" and "organic" are used as sales tools to get you to buy, buy, buy. As a chef I get asked all of time about these products and if the price and quality are really worth the purchase. In this post I am going to tell you what these words actually mean so you can make an educated decision for yourself while at the grocery store.

First things first, the USDA refers to the word "organic" as food that is grown or produced with no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, irradiation, solvents or additives. The soil that the food is grown in actually needs to be free from those chemicals as well for a 7 year period. Organic meat is produced by feeding the animals organic food throughout its life.

Pesticides and herbicides are treated on crops to help eliminate insects that tend to harm the food, but the pesticides can be harmful to humans. The concern is that our food chain of plants, animals, humans and mother earth will absorb harmful chemicals like pesticides and herbicides. As these chemicals build up in our bodies they can potentially create havoc on our health and immune system. These chemicals can also build up in the soil and leach into the water system. How great does that sound?

The term "All Natural" means that the food does not have any artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, antibiotics or growth hormones. These products can include many packaged and frozen products as well as meat, seafood, dairy and eggs.

"Conventional" foods can contain artificial ingredients, pesticides, herbicides and pretty much any other weird and nasty stuff a company wants to throw in (like pink slime and hydrogenated fats). Most of the food in the grocery store that is not specifically marked "organic" or "all natural" is considered to be a conventional product.

The fact is that foods marked "organic" and "all natural" generally are going to cost more at the register. The big reason for the increased cost to you is because it takes more labor, resources, facilities and quality ingredients to produce these products.

Should I buy these foods? Factors like budget, proximity to quality grocers and lifestyle can make it easier or harder to try these new foods. Luckily larger grocers, big box stores like Walmart and Target as well as local natural food markets and farmers markets are making it easier to find and purchase these types of foods.

Is the cost worth it? Now that you know the difference, it's all up to you my friends.

Now Get Crackin'! Chef Egg

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