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Organic and Chemical-Free Foods - Overview

Why does organic food usually cost more?

Food that's grown organically may cost more than conventionally grown foods for many reasons, including these:

  • It takes more labor to grow plants and raise animals without the help of chemical fertilizers, pesticides (chemicals that kill pests), and drugs.
  • It can cost organic cattle ranchers twice as much to feed their animals, because they must use organic feed.
  • Conventional, or nonorganic, farmers and ranchers often get money from the government so that they can sell their food for lower prices. Many organic farms are too small to get this help from the government.

You may be able to save money by shopping around. Sometimes the price of organic products is close to the price of conventional ones, especially when they are in season or on sale.

What do you need to know about organic food?

More and more organic foods are showing up in the produce aisles of local grocery stores. It can be confusing to know when to buy organic versions of your favorite foods. Many people buy organic food because they are worried about the environment. And many people buy organic food to avoid chemicals, especially pesticides, in their food.

You may have these questions about organic food:

  • Is it safer? Foods with the organic label have much less pesticide residue compared with most nonorganic foods. Foods grown with pesticides can have small amounts of pesticide left on the food when it gets to the store. Studies have shown that being exposed to large amounts of pesticides can cause harm. But they have not shown that the amounts of pesticides left on most nonorganic foods are enough to cause harm.
  • Is it more nutritious? There is not enough evidence to say that organic food is more nutritious than nonorganic food.
  • Is it better for children? Children may be more sensitive than adults to pesticides and other chemicals because they are still growing. And they eat more food for their weight than adults do. Products such as organic milk and organic baby food can be good choices for your peace of mind.
  • Does it taste better? There is no evidence that organic food tastes better just because it's organic. But organic food is usually fresher, because it doesn't contain preservatives and it needs to be eaten sooner. Fresher food usually tastes better.
  • Is it better for the environment? In general, yes. Many organic farmers and ranchers work to conserve water and soil. Pesticides can kill birds and small animals and make it hard for them to reproduce, so using less of these toxic chemicals is good for the environment.
  • Is it better for animals? Usually, but conditions vary. For example, organic ranchers must let their cattle graze in open pastures. But some ranchers do that only part of the time, confining the animals to corrals the rest of the time. Most chickens raised on conventional farms live in crowded conditions, so they are given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. Organic chickens can't be given antibiotics, so they are provided with more living space and access to the outdoors.
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