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Is Organic Food Worth the Higher Price?

Organic food often costs up to 30 percent more than conventionally grown food. Are there benefits to these foods that makes them worth the higher price?

Organic food is grown and produced according to USDA standards. These standards vary for different types of food. In general, organic fruits, vegetables, and grains are grown without synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge; animals are raised without hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics, and are given organic feed.

Is organic food higher in nutrients?

Some studies have shown that organic milk and organic meat are higher in omega-3s (a type of healthy fat) than conventionally grown counterparts. Some produce may be higher in vitamins or antioxidants (compounds that may help protect against diseases). In almost all studies, however, the differences were very small.

Does organic food taste better?

Flavor is subjective. Organic foods are often grown on smaller farms and sold locally, so they are often very fresh. Fresh foods will taste better, so any differences you taste may not be due to farming methods.

Is organic food better for the environment?

Organic farming almost always uses methods that conserve soil and water, and that take less energy to produce. However, if you’re buying organic foods that are trucked cross-country or imported, pollution from shipping will affect the environment.

Is organic food safer?

Organic foods are almost always lower in pesticides than conventional foods—but all foods must meet federal standards for safety. Organic meat, eggs, and dairy are usually lower in drug-resistant bacteria.

Bottom line:

About 75 percent of Americans don’t eat anywhere near the recommended amount of fruits or vegetables. If your grocery budget allows for it, by all means buy organic. But most experts agree that it’s better to focus on eating more fruits and vegetables regardless of how they were grown, with three exceptions:

  1. If you buy a lot of imported produce (many countries have different standards about use of pesticides or have lax oversight).
  2. If you’re pregnant or nursing, or if you feed small children (pesticides are more likely to harm infants and children under age 12).
  3. If you eat a lot of fruits and vegetables that don’t have peels (such as berries) or that you don’t peel before eating (such as tomatoes, grapes or raisins, zucchini, peaches, and apples).