Updated: Jun 18
One of the main benefits of organic produce is that organic farmers choose not to use chemicals, medications or hormones that could have a negative impact on the long-term health of consumers. The main downside of this is that that it limits the farm’s production capacity. Other issues include the fact that organic fruits and vegetables often don’t look as perfect or last as long as their non-organic counterparts. They are, however, as close to their natural state as possible in terms of taste and nutritional value. The reason for this is that unlike industrial farming methods, organic processes don’t deplete soil of important minerals. By using less chemicals and choosing natural pest control and fertilisation methods, organic farmers are able to grow fruits and vegetables with great nutritional value. (1,2)
Organic animal products are also richer in vitamins and other nutrients than non-organic items. Organically farmed animals are fed organic food, which itself is rich in nutrients. These nutrients can benefit their bodies (meat), milk and eggs. Another benefit of organic animal farming is that the animals have more space to move around. This helps keep them “in shape” and increases the quality of their muscles. As a result, their meat typically contains a high level of protein and a low level of saturated (bad) fat. (1,2)
Studies have also shown that allowing animals to have more space decreases the risk of cross contamination from other members of their group. This is especially true for eggs – when poultry are raised in a free-range environment, instances of salmonella-contaminated shells are dramatically reduced. (3)
Limitations of organic labels
While the IFOAM is working hard to establish global standards for the labelling of organic produce, the fact that differences can appear from country to country often causes confusion for shoppers. If you aren’t sure what something means, your best bet is to check the IFOAM website, where you can find out which agricultural standards were followed in the manufacture of the specific product in question.
Another issue is that some countries impose such high standards that small farms prefer not to apply the organic label, even though their products are very good quality, because it would be too expensive for them adhere to all of the standards required.
An additional consequence of these very strict standards is that they can push prices up. Intensive farming has made food affordable in large quantities, while organic products often come in smaller packs. This makes them expensive, especially when they’re imported from a distant country.
Organic products have real health benefits, and it is good that regulations allow us to determine whether a product is organic or not.However, it can sometimes be sometimes interesting to try good quality products from local and regional farmers, even if they do not have the "organic" label.
1. Mie A, Andersen HR, Gunnarsson S, et al. Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environ Health. 2017;16(1):111. Published 2017 Oct 27. doi:10.1186/s12940-017-0315-4
2. Organic food no more nutritious than conventionally grown food
3. Factors influencing bacterial eggshell contamination in conventional cages, furnished cages and free-range systems for laying hens under commercial conditions. Huneau-Salaün A, Michel V, Huonnic D, Balaine L, Le Bouquin S.
Br Poult Sci. 2010 Apr;51(2):163-9.