Meaning of Organic

We made it to the weekend.  Whew.

I was worried there after Thursday when I thought it should have already been FridayIt was the never-ending week for me, and I’m thrilled the weekend is here.  Even though I am working, I am still glad it’s the weekend.

Yesterday a did a little grocery shopping.

I had to pick up some essentials

And when I was standing in the checkout line of TJ’s I saw these

Major restraint was needed

The check stand areas are such teases.

And being that these were at the check stand, I was indeed taking pictures in front of the employees who were working the registers and no one said anything to me. 

Not sure if they knew I was taking pictures or not, though.

But at least I wasn’t reprimanded and scolded about it like I recently was.  Ugh!

Then I saw these chocolate bars

And I had to chuckle because the word Organic was so prolific

Sometimes I think people confuse organic to mean things like:

it’s “healthy”

eat as much as you want

it’s good for you


Just because something is organic, doesn’t necessarily mean any of the above. 

It just means it was grown in a certain way, devoid of certain chemicals or fertilizers, being the biggest hallmark

Here’s a breakdown of the terminology

USDA Organic: In 2000, after a 10-year development process, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rolled out its rules covering use of the word “organic” on foods. The USDA accredits independent certifiers, who then check the claims of producers. The system has three levels:

  • “100% Organic”: Can only contain organic ingredients, meaning no antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, radiation or synthetic pesticides or fertilizers can be used. Can display the USDA organic logo and/or the specific certifying agent’s logo.
  • “Organic”: Contains 95% organic ingredients, with the balance coming from ingredients on the approved National List. These products can also display the USDA organic logo and/or the certifier’s logo.
  • “Made with Organic Ingredients”: Must be made with at least 70% organic ingredients, three of which must be listed on the package, and the balance must be on the National List. These products may display the certifier’s logo but not the USDA organic logo.

Read more here

Or more about the organic program at the Consumers Union’s

I am not interested in debating the finer points of what exactly organic means, what it includes, doesn’t include, GMO this, non-GMO that.  There are thousands of internet sites and forums for green chatter and the nitty gritty on it.
Also, I would like to think that the processing of the food, getting it from farm to table, was done in a way free from harsh chemicals and in a more eco-conscious and just conscious manner but I have read stories where after produce is grown to carefully comply with organic standards, it’s then thrown into bins and containers. There, the organic food rubs shoulders with the non-organic, which has been sprayed with chemicals, and those chemicals rub off on the oh-so-pristine organic food, rendering it chemical-ized.

So what you are you really buying when you buy something labeled as organic?

So many things to think about.

There are so many different sides to Organic:

what is it

what does it exactly mean

do other countries where our food comes from comply with our standards

locally grown food and small farmers who can’t afford to become certified organic

local & seasonal vs. organic

health implications of organic vs. conventionally grown

It all makes my head spin and makes me want to dive in for a non-organic Raw Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ball

But they’re vegan and gluten free.  Does that make them a “healthy” dessert?  Would it make a difference if they were Organic?

Oh the questions.

In the meantime, it was fun to hear your thoughts about Talking Yourself Out of It as it relates to purchases.  Couldn’t believe how many of you have never been to West Elm.  Good, don’t go.  You just saved yourself money by not walking in!


1. What are your thoughts on Organic?

what is it

what does it exactly mean

do other countries where our food comes from comply with our standards

locally grown food and small farmers who can’t afford to become certified organic

health implications of organic vs. conventionally grown

local & seasonal vs. organic

I’ve written my thoughts here about organic food and why I actually don’t buy organic that often.

If it happens, it happens, but I don’t seek it out and I am certainly not a purist, i.e. It must be an organic apple or I’m not eating it.  <–not me, I don’t care

Dirty Dozen?   Yep, I know. 

If it organic happens to find it’s way into my cart because it’s cheaper than conventional or for a place like TJ’s only sells certain products that are organic (with no choice for conventional) then of course I buy organic.

But if conventional is better for my budget (here’s my list of grocery shopping & budget tips) or that’s what’s available then that’s what I buy.

I’d like to think that farmers market food that’s seasonal and local trumps organic food, too

This post contains some of my favorite food photography images, showcasing fresh and amazing farmer’s market food

Sometimes the farmers market produce is certified ogranic, sometimes it’s organic, and sometimes it’s neither. 

Same with CSA shares.  But they’re local and seasonal.

Every time I write a post like this I get tons of mail from people urging me to support one kind of farming over the other, buy this or that over the other, and are surprised with what I buy or my decision making process.

I’ve done my research and have come to the decisions that work for me and my family and comfort levels.  What others do is great for them, their budgets, their prioritizes and their lifestyle.  To each her own. 

I also don’t ever buy anything from bulk bins  <— Read that post and you will shudder at what you will find in them.

2. Do you think people confuse organic to mean things like:

it’s “healthy”

eat as much as you want

it’s good for you

Just because something is organic, doesn’t necessarily mean any of the above.
I was am still shocked when I go to parks and see mothers who cared enough to buy organic snacks for their kids but they are feeding their kids organic food that I still don’t deem “healthy”.  Sorry, organic gummy bears are still not healthy in my opinion.  They’re still candy.  I think that eating a non-organic apple would be better.  Candy is candy, fruit is fruit.

Or adults who pay $6 for a small bag of organic chips from a place like Whole Foods.  I personally don’t deem processed gluten and sodium all that healthy so I’d rather just have good old fashioned DoritosAnd then eat more broccoli at the next meal.  

You can eat all the organic chips or organic candy you want, just don’t try to convince yourself that organic means “healthy”.

Two posts that are related and may be of interest:

Desserts & Healthy Living: Everything in Moderation
Healthifying Desserts & My Thoughts

Tell me your thoughts on it all!  I think it’s fascinating to talk about all of this, what it means, what you buy, where you buy it, why, and so forth.

And enjoy your weekend!

P.S. Reminder that the Sweet Treats Giveaway ends Sunday

46 comments on “Meaning of Organic”

  1. Like Amelia says: it’s good for the planet to go organic as much as possible. And that’s why it is good for us. Best choice? Locally grown, organic veggies in the season. That’s my cup of tea. Or should I say green monster ;).

  2. Fascinating topic. I’m with you. . .I buy organic when it’s reasonable. I don’t freak out if I can’t afford it or choose not to pay more. All of the “shoulding” people do to each other exhausts me. It’s a waste of time and energy, IMHO.

    Good example: someone said/very strongly implied to me recently: “You SHOULD serve all organic food at your Yoga retreat.” Like putting a lot of pressure and “shoulding” me big time. Oh yeah? Then I have to significantly bump up the retreat price for each person, in order to keep my budget in line. I serve and eat as much organic as I can reasonably afford to, then move on.

    I find eating more seasonally and locally works, but I’m not rigid about that either. If I want bananas, coconuts, and avocados year-round, the world won’t end. ;-)

  3. So timely that I just read this … my sister-in-law was just talking about some organic cheesy poofs. I have to hold my tongue sometimes with family, though.

    I try my best to buy organic fruits and veg when possible — not just to avoid the pesticides but because I can afford a few extra dollars and I want to the grocery store to know they have buyers for that stuff. I don’t care one way or another, though, when it comes to packaged foods. Okay – I take that back – I try to buy organic tortilla chips. Not because I think they’re healthy, but because GMO corn freaks me out. I live in an area with lots of corn and the fields with signs about their pesticides and seeds freak me out.

    On the TJ’s scolding — that one person was probably just towing the company line. The others probably just decide it’s not worth it.

  4. I agree! Organic does NOT equal healthy. In my mind their are other considerations: think of all the fuel exhausts seeping into the “organic produce” trucked form California to New York. Or the BPA that leeches into the “organic” juice you buy.

    • However, I should clarify, organic is a good starting point when it comes to making healthy choices. We shouldn’t discount organic, as the labeling of such is such a good step toward being more conscious of our choices!

  5. I try to buy the dirty dozen organic whenever possible…and always apples because I find they are way tastier and last longer in the fridge. My goal is more on clean eating…the fewer ingredients, additives, etc, the better in my book. I try to follow the “Would my grandmother recognize this as food?” test.

    After spending a summer volunteering on an organic farm, however, I’ve learned a LOT. For one, for something to be organic, it simply means that there were not ARTIFICIAL pesticides/products used. However, organic pesticides are allowed. What are organic pesticides? Well the answer likely varies but for our farm they are pesticides that are produced by genetically-modified organisms. One of the most common products we use is made from fish bones. YUP.

    So now we have issues related to pesticide use, GMOs, AND veganism thrown in.

    Also, many popular organic brands are no better for the environment than traditional farm because they have adopted the “traditional” farm model and are simply using organic pesticides and hurting the environment just as much. Read Michael Pollan for more information. The best thing to look for is biodynamic and pesticide-free. And the best place to find this is at a farmer’s market where you can chat up the farmers themselves and find out EXACTLY what they use…and then google it to be sure!

    When it comes to eggs, “free range” simply means that there is a door that allows the chickens out but many are still couped up much like in traditional hen houses. I will only buy eggs if I can see the henhouse. It means I often go without them but to me its worth the price and hassle if I’m getting what I pay for.

    As for dairy, most places that process milk combine the milk from several dairy farms so rGBH-free is also a tricky term. I’m blanking on the exact way that the USDA defines rGBH-free but I’m pretty sure its lenient.

    As for places beside the US, many Western European countries have much stricter guidelines when it comes to their entire food chain. No country is perfect but there have been times where the US was accepting x, y, and z while few, if any, other major countries were. Its been a while since I read In Defense of Food or Skinny Bitch so I apologize for my lack of specifics!

    There is also a GREAT website that goes through a ton of health issues related to food. Dr. Michael Greger basically does literature reviews of all relevant scientific literature related to a specific topic (e.g. dairy and sexual maturation) and then gives the conclusion in short videos. He even shows you some of the articles he uses so if you are a geek like me you can look into the methodology more. Its

  6. Sorry to hear people are stealing your recipes…shame on them!! Copying is the highest form of flattery, so realize that it’s only because the recipes are so good, that they want to pass them off as their own. I personally love every recipe of yours that I’ve made. :)

  7. So true on the TJ’s checkout line – dark chocolate is a huge one for me. Very true on organic, especially on organic processed foods.

    1. I check the most dirty produce lists and buy only those in organic – like apples, grapes, spinach, etc. But I’m not too strict on it, I rarely buy produce like avocadoes, watermelon, and bananas in organic. I am concerned on avoiding chemicals on produce that are most suseptable to absorbing them and ones that I consume the skin on too.
    2. Sure, especially with things like organic mac n’ cheese. The ingredients may be organic, but that does not mean low-cal or nutritionally dense.

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  9. I try to buy organic or free range meat when I can. I try to stick to buying organic fruits and veggies using the Dirty Dozen list as a guide, but when I really can’t afford to, I try not to worry about it. Our family has a lot of health issues, and I try to keep unnatural ingredients to a minimum. That being said, if I do decide to get a sweet candy type of treat for my kids, it is once in a while, and I do end up buying something like organic gummy bears or something. My son cannot have any corn syrup or especially high fructose corn syrup unless I feel like dealing with a complete emotional meltdown and behavioral issues for a day or two afterwards. Usually the organic candy is made with sugar instead of the HFCS.

  10. i’ve never thought about conventional mixing with organic, that really gets me angry if it’s true! organic is important to me, but i will take local food from the farmers market over organic at the grocery any day. lucky for me i have 1 certified organic and 2 sustainable farms at my local market. the certification isn’t important to me, but the farming practices are!

  11. My family has always worked in agriculture, and when we see “ORGANIC” (like some kind of promise) splattered everywhere we think it’s sort of funny. Also, knowing some of the pesticides and hormones used in farming we do basically follow the “dirty dozen” guidelines, but not fanatically. We much prefer buying locally to buying organically. Besides, there are seven of us, and organic does not come cheap.

  12. I have tackled this tough issue, too. I appreciate the effort of growing food more organically when it is genuine, not jumping on a marketing bandwagon. Here is a link to my blog – Thanks for sharing!

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