Friday, January 28, 2011

Do You Buy Organic?

I know the weather in Ohio hasn't been even close to as severe as that on the east coast, but Nick brought this beauty into the house last night;

Seriously, that icicle could kill someone! Of course, after reading Shannon's blog last night, I realized this icicle wasn't as cool as I thought....

Recently, while at work, I was approached by a husband and wife who asked me "Do you buy conventional, or organic eggs?". Apparently the couple had been discussing whether it was worth the extra money to buy organic eggs, and when they saw that the grocery store had a dietitian they figured they would get my opinion (great idea!). I told them, "I do not buy organic eggs, because we (Nick and I) do not eat a lot of eggs". I also told them I would definitely buy organic if we ate eggs more often (more than once a week), if I was pregnant, or if I had young kids who ate eggs often. This conversation sparked my desire to write a post about the foods I buy in organic varieties. But first, let's review:

USDA Organic Home Page
(provides links to all you ever wanted to know about organic foods)

What Exactly Does Organic Mean?
(great info here!)

Understanding the Organic Labels
(100% Organic, Organic, Made With Organic Ingredients....what's the difference?!)

Should You Purchase Organic Foods?
(the information in today's post, written in italics below, was extracted from this link)

My Organic Foods


I buy organic chicken purely because it tastes better, in my opinion. I also buy organic chicken because Food Inc. scared me for life. I do not buy organic beef. Why? Lately I've been more into grass- fed beef than organic. I wrote a post about grass-fed beef a while back, check it out here if you'd like to learn more. When I'm not buying grass-fed beef (it's hard to find, and it's expensive!) I buy a well-known brand of "natural beef", which is raised without hormones or antibiotics. The passage below explains why this is important to me;

Food safety issues related to animal products – meats, eggs and dairy products – are diverse. Direct comparison studies of organic vs. non-organic foods are few, and the current data available are specific to commodity, specific to production practice and/or specific to food safety risk. Organic meat products do reduce risk for potential exposure to prion-related diseases including mad cow disease and to arsenic residues in chicken meat; and organic livestock practices do not contribute to the growing phenomenon of drug resistant pathogens. In other respects, however, current data show few significant differences with regard to food safety.

Many beef companies claim to be "natural" but do not indicate what makes their beef natural. The place where I buy most of my meat does a great job of indicating on its packages what makes their beef "natural" and I really appreciate that.


I buy organic yogurt, but only because I prefer the taste of Stoneyfield yogurt, and it happens to be organic. I do not drink milk, but if I did, I would likely buy organic. There isn't much research that indicates organic milk is any better for you, but to be honest I don't really trust that "the government standards for hormones and antibiotics" are always followed properly. I highly suggest reading this PDF file, created by the United Dairy Council; Organic Milk FAQ. You will learn that "organic" dairy doesn't refer to the actual dairy you are consuming, but it refers to the farm management practices of the dairy farm, and that all milk and dairy products are tested for antibiotics and hormones before being sold (again, I wish I could trust this 100%, but I don't.....).

I've had people ask me if I worry about the hormones in milk, and to be honest, I don't. To be fair, I don't drink milk, but when I have kids I will not ban them from drinking conventional milk! Will I buy organic milk at home? Yes, but this has to do with the fact that I trust organic farming practices more so than conventional, mainly because I don't trust that the government really tests all milk for antibiotics and pesticides as stringently as they claim.

I do trust this statement:

"Extensive studies have concluded that the milk from these [containing bST] cows is the same wholesome product that we have enjoyed for generations." (USC)

If you're interested in reading about the bovine somatotropin (bST) hormone found in some conventional dairy foods, check out this link, and click on the first PDF link that comes up.

Dirty Dozen Produce
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes (** I don't always buy organic potatoes **)
From the USDA website:

Pesticide residues – traces of chemicals that were applied to food crops in the field, during processing and/or while in storage – are measurably different on organic foods and non-organic foods. Analysis of USDA and other data documenting pesticide residues on fresh vegetables and fruits shows that organic produce carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than conventional produce. Measured residues on most products, both organic and non-organic, do not exceed government-defined thresholds for safe consumption.

Once again, I do not trust that residues are carefully measured on all produce to assure a safe amount, therefore I try to always buy organic varieties of the "dirtiest" known produce. This is especially important to me since both Nick and I consume a LOT of produce! Some lists also include blueberries (especially frozen) and kale, therefore I buy those two foods in organic varieties about half of the time. Nick and I eat a lot of frozen blueberries.

Peanuts/Peanut Butter

Fungicide, used to prevent mold on peanuts, is apparently used often on peanut crops. Nick eats a TON of peanut butter so I definitely buy organic if it's available.


I have pretty much cut out soy from my diet (because my body just doesn't digest it well). When I do buy products with soy, I look for non-GMO soy (read more about GMOs here). Will I buy/eat it if it's not non-GMO? Sure, but if the non-GMO is available that's what I'll buy. Let's be honest, I've probably been eating GMO foods my entire life, a little more isn't going to hurt. Ugh.

Bottom Line Overall: If I had enough money, I would buy all organic foods. This isn't because I feel that they are providing me more nutrients (research doesn't suggest this) but really it's because I love our Earth, and I don't trust that our government's "strict food standards" are really keeping us, or our Earth, safe all the time. I will likely buy all organic (or at least most) when I am pregnant, and have young children, but for now I am happy to be able to buy organic when possible, and I don't feel intimidated or scared when consuming conventional foods, of any kind. Heck, I still eat out at restaurants, right?!

Question: Which foods do you buy in organic varieties?


  1. I think mainly just milk and spinach - two things we almost always have in the house. other stuff depends on the price and how frequently we eat it!

  2. That icicle could kill someone!!!!

    Thanks for your thoughts on organics. I try to buy the "dirty dozen" organically...but it's hard-- our store's organic produce section is literally four feet long. Sigh.

  3. I agree with your take, all we can really do is the best we can in terms of buying organic, and I definitely think it's smart to not force something on your kids all the time- all that will do is make them stand out and really for a little organic milk? haha.

    Same thing for restaurants, we can't isolate ourselves. I agree though when I'm pregnant I will invest the extra for all organic things.

  4. I cant help but think of "A Christmas Story" whenever I see icicles.

    I usually only buy organic if the price is comparable to the non-organic produce. I wish I could afford to buy more organic!

  5. I buy chicken, dairy, eggs organic and the dirty dozen whenever I consume them. I'm not 100% sure they're healthier but they have less preservatives and hormones. And since we can afford it, I don't want to take the risk. And also because we're ready to have children, we want to be as "clean" as possible, just in case. :)

  6. I don't buy a lot that is organic. Mostly because of price. But I do if it's on sale. That being said, once my baby is eating solids I will be buying him organic/grass fed meats, eggs, and milk. I will alsobuy organic veggies that fall on the dirty dozen list. I don't want to take chances with a growing and developing body.

    Your icicle is impressive. What you couldn't see in my picture is that ours go all the way to the ground! We're losing a lot of heat from that part of the house!

  7. If I wasn't on a student budget, I would buy organic as often as I could, but for now I buy mostly conventional. Though sometimes I get lucky because the organic produce in my grocery store often gets marked down more than the conventional produce cost. Not sure why, but I'm not complaining!

  8. Similarly, if I had the money, I would definitely buy all organic. The pesticides and chemicals that drench un-organic items (I've seen this first hand while working on a farm) wreak havoc to the Earth. Growing organic definitely takes a lot more work (AKA, the reason for the price increase) but I hope that someday organic becomes standard.

    As for the topic of milk, I definitely believe the hormones in it are something to be weary of, hence why the menstrual cycle for girls keeps moving earlier and earlier. Also, this NY Times article may be of interest to you about antibiotics in milk:

  9. Nice post--I really enjoyed reading your perspectives. I normally do not buy a lot of organics. For me, I don't believe that the organic label and higher price is worth it. That being said, our uncle that used to farm and now produces organic beverage products-- and I gladly consume those :)

    Also, many farmers use "organic practices" but are not certified. The certification is not worth their time and their customers normally feel confident in buying an "organic" product that doesn't carry the USDA seal.

    For the milk--from my experience in visiting processing facilities and dairy farms in CA--the antibiotic testing is VERY strict. I feel confident that every truck gets tested. As someone who has raised animals, I think antibiotics often get a bad rep--but they are a valuable tool for producers that have sick animals.

    When it comes down to it--I buy whatever looks good and is priced right--organic or not from the store and farmers markets.

    Thanks for this post Gina!

  10. This is a really informative post as always!

    I buy organic fruits and veggies most of the time but make exceptions for those produce outside of the dirty dozen list. I also buy any animal products in the organic variety. We eat a lot of eggs (husband is a protein head) and the small amount of meat we buy is always organic.

    I think we have an advantage living in the San Francisco Bay Area since we have a large natural/organic culture and year round farmers markets. It sure makes things easier for us!

  11. I buy organic when I can afford it, which is almost never. I am vegan and a student and my funds are limited. I simply buy the best I can afford each time I shop.

  12. I buy organic when I can afford it, which is almost never. I am vegan and a student and my funds are limited. I simply buy the best I can afford each time I shop.

  13. I try to buy organic as much as I can. When I start making my own baby food I will buy organic produce as much as I can. I like to frequent stores like Trader Joes and Whole Foods to see what is on sale. Great Post!

  14. Pretty much everything I buy is Organic. My family and I made this decision when I started having health problems. It can get expensive but I always list organic groceries as a must in our budget. We don't buy meat or dairy so our grocery bill is not as high as it could be. Preventative health is SO important! Hopefully, as Organic products are becoming more available, they will also become more affordable.

    Great Post!!!

  15. I buy the fruits and veggies that are on the dirty dozen list organic. If there is room in the budget, I also buy other organic produce. I also buy organic milk, chicken, and eggs. Since the toddler is so young, I try to limit his exposure to pesticides and antibiotics as much as possible.

  16. I'm in the same boat as you - If we could afford it we would purchase all organic for environmental reasons, but for now I just purchase organic produce on occasion! I'm trying to do so more often, but usually I prioritize local produce most of all because, having grown up on a small family farm, I feel it's important to support small, local agricultural movements. If I'm able to afford organic AND local (like the kale I purchased the other day), I'm especially happy! :-)

  17. sadly i'm not an organic-er. i know i'm a cheaper haha i just buy what's on sale or the cheapest unless it's a brand or flavor or whatever that i love but if it comes to organic apples at 1.69/lb or regular at .69 a lb i'm buying the cheaper haha

    i like to think that's why i have a strong immune system....

  18. i agree if i have the money i would buy organic food and if it's available here in the philippines :)

  19. I'm pretty bad and I just buy whats cheap. I do love supporting the local farmers so I go to farmer's markets often. Its the jew in me, I got for $ over anything lol!

  20. That icicle :O

    Great summary on organic vs. non organic! I didn't know about the fungicide and PB - as we eat a lot of PB, I may have to reevaluate which kinds we buy. I agree that I would prefer to eat organic whenever possible, but I concentrate more on the dirty dozen, specifically the leafy greens and the apples. I find organic milk and bell peppers and grapes, etc. to be too expensive on a student budget, but once we have kids, I know we'll be buying more organic.

    BTW, Happy Birthday, Gina! :)

  21. I agree with you on these points. It is always good to remind people that organic foods are not necessarily healthier and the benefit is more the environment and pesticide consumption. They are very different things (nutrition and environment reasons). I buy organic occasional, but a lot of what we get here is different from US stuff too and standards are different. I do not even think we have organic eggs available, but I do get from my neighbor sometimes, otherwise ours are local from the island (in Angra) or from Denmark. Our food comes in through Germany. I do think there is organic milk at the commissary, but I do not drink enough milk to pay more for it, although Ryan does use the milk more often. Again, our milk comes from I don't even know where. I wonder if I should check into standards of these other countries.

  22. I live in Canada and we buy organic whenever we can, I have my veggies delivered weekly so I have a pretty good selection. As far as the blueberries, I have been buying from Miejer when I go over the border to shop they carry a brand that are Wild Blueberries how would you class them organic or non organic?

  23. I would LOVE to buy 100% organic. BUT, it's EXPENSIVE as all get out, and for my family w/ 2 brothers it gets outta control!

  24. gina, thank you for your honest and informative advice/opinion on organics. what an icicle! holy cow that could kill someone!

  25. Really good post. I like what you said about eggs and people need to weigh what percentage a certain food is in their diets. I disagree about organic milk though (you mention not trusting the testing). I posted about this as it's a hot topic at my boys' school. Check it out BTW love your take/blog.

  26. I do not over dose on organic foods...I believe in healthy eating and a healthy budget so I have to keep that in mind when I hit the market.

  27. I try to follow the "list" for organic produce pretty closely, but always buy organic dairy and everything else. When I ate meat, I tried to stay organic and local too. My parents would actually get a whole cow - butchered, of course - that was grass-fed and local and that would keep us in healthy beef for a couple of years!