What is meant by Organic Food?

“Organic” is a popular word nowadays as people become more conscious of what they’re eating. You can find a section for organic food in the supermarket now.

What does it really mean when a food is labelled as organic? What is the difference between a regular cabbage and an organic cabbage? They’re both green and contain nutrients and fiber. Is there a reason why you should choose one over the other?

The term “Organic” refers to the way the farmers grow their produce – vegetables, fruits, dairy, poultry or meat. For a food to be labeled as organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must be from organically produced plants and animals.

Organic Valley

Calfs enjoying plenty of space at an organic farm (image from Organic Valley).

Characteristics of Organic Food

Artificial fertilizers or pesticides are not used by organic farmers. They use compost, manure and other organic matter to fertilize the soil.

The genes of the produce are not engineered in any way to protect against pests or to improve the quality.

Organic livestock are required to graze in the outdoors and fed organic feed. They are not given growth hormones, antibiotics or any animal-by-products.

Organic should not be confused with “Local”. Local produce only means that the products are made in your locality, not that they were produced through organic farming. Local products are still recommended as it is always fresher than food that traveled a long way to get to your local store. Food that is both organic and local is the best choice.

Benefits of Organic Food

So, is organic food really better than food produced through conventional farming? What are the benefits?

  • Contains fewer pesticides. The insecticides, herbicides and fungicides used in conventional farming can leave residues in the food we eat.
  • Organic farming is environment friendly. It reduces air, water and soil pollution and uses 50% less energy during production.
  • Organic Food is generally fresher.
  • Organic meat and dairy are antibiotic and hormone-free.
  • Organic vegetables have higher nutritional value than conventional food. Research shows that plants boost their production of phytochemicals in the absence of pesticides and fertilizers. They need those to improve their resistance to bugs and weeds.


You can get organic food of all sorts. Here it's organic soups and cocktails from Soupanatural.

Organic food can be more expensive than conventional food. If you can’t afford to splurge and eat all organic food, you can do so only when buying the “Dirty Dozen”. The foods in this list are more fragile and require more pesticides than usual. These are apples, peaches, imported grapes, strawberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, cherries, potatoes, lettuce, pears, spinach and celery.

If you want to know more about green products and ethical companies, explore the Firmhugger website.

For stories on the latest environmental concerns and for some fun and interesting facts about our environment, you may visit The World Count: Stories


  1. Environmental Protection Agency: Pesticides and Food
  2. Helpguide.org: Organic Foods
  3. Soil Association: What is Organic?

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