Is it Important to Buy Organic?

Hello everyone! This post was originally intended to be a recap of January here, with some acknowledgements, but I thought I’d first bring up the topic of buying organic. I’m curious what your thoughts are on the subject.

Buying Organic – How Often is it Truly Important?

This came to mind from a couple of places. First, the notion that seemingly everywhere we go in a grocery store, we’ll see some foods being labeled as organic. Be it fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, or anything else – it appears that there may be a really solid market out there for products sold as organic. The second place this topic came from was a conversation I had recently with someone, who strongly believes in organic as much as possible when it comes to diet, thinking it’s more than worth the extra cost.

Now, I do subscribe the the notion that investing in quality, fresh, nutritious food is a smart move. Obviously, your health will likely be better off with such purchases being consumed. Additionally, taking a financial angle, making smart choices each day can lower health care costs over the long run. It’s clear that choosing good nutrition can positively impact the quality of one’s life.

That being said, my thoughts have been that this more the case when choosing between alternative types of food. For example, choosing a frugal breakfast of oatmeal is likely a better choice than eating a bagel. It’s healthier and likely cheaper too.  However, when choosing between the same food – but one option is organic, and the other regular (non-organic) – the decision gets a bit fuzzier to me.

Here’s an example: if I want buy blueberries, and a container of regular berries costs $2.50, but organic berries cost $4.00, is it worth paying $1.50 for the organic version? Keep in mind that the quantity of berries is the same.

This example can be applied to any type of food, whether fruit, vegetables, dairy, etc. The idea of paying more for the same type of food that looks the same, but has the “organic” label, always makes me wonder. Personally, for the kids, I might get organic milk and cheese. That seems worth it, when I think about hormones and dairy. But I really wonder about some of the other types of foods, and often think that we can wash things thoroughly. I mean, if I buy a non-organic apple, for example, am I really doing something unhealthy? Is there that much of a difference between an organic apple and a regular one that’s been washed?

When you look at the potential volume of food that we can buy organic, the incremental costs could really add up. That gets me wondering how we should pick our spots buying organic, and how important it always is. I mean, I’ve seen cotton being noted as organic!

Feel free to convince me. I’m focused on nutrition now, and would like to hear any thoughts on this topic. If you think I’m wrong, please feel free to tell me why. I’m open to change :)

My Questions for You:

  • Do you place a high value on buying organic, or do you look the other way
  • If you do buy organic, what do you purchase in that category and why?
  • Do you have any advice or suggestions for others deciding on whether or not to buy organic?

Comments

  1. says

    For a long time I thought like you did. However, as I’ve been reading ingredient labels more and more closely, the more I’ve started buying organic. For instance, I’m a vegetarian so I eat a lot of beans. I’m not a fan of dried ones since I can’t seem to cook them correctly so I buy canned beans. A few weeks ago I actually read the labels on the ones I had been buying and realized that they actually have sugar in them! Why do beans need sugar? They don’t is what I thought. So I looked at the organic ones and there’s no sugar. I now buy those. The extra 30 cents or so per can is worth it to make sure that we’re not consuming unnecessary sugar.

    • Squirrelers says

      Jana – oh, I agree on the comparison between a can w/sugar and one without. No need to consume unnecessary sugar, totally agree. My question is around apples to apples (or beans to beans, ha ha) comparisons such as two cans of beans that have identical ingredients – but one is organic and one is not. In that case, is the extra money worth it?

    • says

      Jana – You might want to learn how to cook beans properly.
      You know that odd lining in canned good? It contains BPA which is anything but healthy for humans. Having your food stored in cans lined with nasties can’t be good for us.

      • Squirrelers says

        SPF – good point on BPA. I actually prefer to buy soup stored in pouches or boxes instead of cans. Of course, it begs the question on whether or not those other packaging methods are ok. I have no reason to belive they aren’t.

  2. says

    Ideally, I like to buy organic. But I don’t most of the time because–I’ll admit it–I’m a cheapskate. I have though settled into buying organic when the dollar difference is not great, even though the percentage price difference may be. Example: A bowl of non-organic oatmeal may cost 20 cents, and a bowl of organic oatmeal may cost 30 cents. That’s a whopping 50% more for the organic version, but the additional 10 cents a day is not going to break me. So I opt for organic in situations like this.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kurt – yeah, I can see what you mean about the “ideally” part of it. If money’s no object, why not? Plus, it’s worth paying for high quality, fresh, natural food – at least I think so! However, when two items are otherwise identical in terms of ingredients, but one is organic – is that version worth the premium? Seems like you might do it if the difference in price is low. Makes sense.

  3. says

    I do place a high value on it, and I try to buy organic when I can, but I’m not 100% organic yet. Similarly, I try to buy local, but I’m not 100%. Currently most of my vegetables are organic, and I lean towards the organic meats, but milk and eggs I usually leave conventional. I know there is some discussion of using certain hormones to increase milk production in cows, but if I’m not mistaken those hormones are banned in Canada so it’s not high on my list of concerns. It’s not a catch all, but as a rule of thumb if something is highly perishable it likely has more chemicals on it. Berries especially.

    • Squirrelers says

      Cassie – thanks for sharing. Interesting how many of us do things our own unique way. For me, it’s milk that is most likely bought organic, but for you it’s one of the things you’ll buy conventional.

  4. Squirrelers says

    Mackenzie -

    Thanks for stopping by. Good points on food being grouped in categories of eating the whole thing vs just what’s inside of an exteior covering. In the case of strawberries, for example, could one simply wash the berries thoroughly before eating/serving? In this case, if you save let’s say $1.50 on a container, is that worth it then?

    Yeah, I agree on oatmeal. I eat it multiple days per week, mix it with ground flaxseed, cinnamon, and a few berries (non-organic, well washed). It’s nutritious and not too expensive!

  5. says

    I think it’s important to buy organic for the foods that are known to have heavy amounts of pesticides applied, but other than that I’m not sure. I do make sure that what little food I grow is grown organically though. After all, why not?

  6. says

    Due to my health reasons and being a vegetarian we do buy a lot of organic stuff. More than organic, I try to buy local. These are not certified organic but I feel they are much more healthier than the certified organic stuff that travels 1000s of miles. I spoke to quite a few local farmers and most of them are not certified only because it cost money to get certified. But they pretty much follow all the regulations already. So I don’t mind buying non-organic (organic but not certified) from the local farmers market.

    • Squirrelers says

      Suba – I know there are people that are committed to locally grown produce. If it’s local, one can assume that it’s probably fresher, right?

      • says

        I am not a believer in local for local’s sake, but a lot of the time the local stuff is grown by smaller producers that care more about quality, so a lot of the time, it is better, and since it took less time to get to you, it can be fresher, too.

        • Squirrelers says

          FG – the taste of truly fresh produce is often better – sometimes significantly so, based on my experience.

  7. says

    I think it really depends on the type of food and what, exactly, does “organic” mean. If it means real free-range chicken over industrial chicken, well, I can taste the difference, and I do think it’s worth it. Organic bananas over regular bananas, though? I probably just go for the regular. That and bananas don’t grow naturally anywhere for thousands of miles from here, anyways.

    • Squirrelers says

      Invest it Wisely – if you notice a taste difference with two different foods, that’s a differentiating factor for sure. It’s another dimension to consider aside from the organic labeling, which brings out different considerations. Might was well do what makes us happy, right?

  8. says

    We try to buy organic when it comes to some fruit and veggies. Like someone mentioned earlier, if it has a peel, then we don’t buy organic.

    Unfortunately, cost is much more of an issue here in Australia than when we lived in the U.S. Over the winter, a small container of non-organic blueberries cost $9 and bananas were $14 per kilo. (Crazy!) The price of produce at different times of the year has changed our eating patterns and made us look into frozen organic produce, which costs significantly less.

    In terms of protein, we buy organic eggs but not organic meat. It seems like it’s much harder to find that in the stores here. In the U.S., we had a deep freezer and could buy organic directly from farmers. I miss that!

    • Squirrelers says

      Earn Save Live- wow, those are some expensive prices. I would do the same thing as you, and look for frozen produce at that point.

      • says

        Even if it has a peel, you have to consider what kind of crap was fed to the plant. Then again, bananas are grown in tropical places and other foods too where I don’t think they are bombarding with so many chemicals and other crap? I need to research this more. The peel thing is a good starting heuristic, though.

        I also have absolutely nothing against food miles and I don’t care about this. Why shouldn’t Chileans and others be able to participate in the global market for food? We all benefit from this and I disagree strongly with food protectionism.

        I do believe organic is MUCH more important when it comes to meat, and if you saw how CAFO meat was raised and treated, you’d agree. Organic is really a misnomer — everything is organic, as it’s not manufactured, but there are certainly differences in quality. Going back to the chicken… the fat of store-bought chicken tastes weird and not so good. Makes you wonder what they fed it. The organic chicken on the other hand… has a more complex, rich flavour. It TASTES like food, and not like something that spent its entire life getting pumped full of crap.

        • says

          @ Invest It Wisely: I like your comment about food miles. Living in Canada, there’s no way I can buy local bananas, avocados or citrus, and I like them so much I will always buy them anyway. I expect that the growing countries appreciate having Canada as a market for their produce. However, I can’t expect the citizens of those countries to buy Canadian products because they may not have the purchasing power (the farm workers, anyway). My current ethic is that if a vegetable or fruit is grown locally, I always buy it local, and not from a competitor.

        • Squirrelers says

          Kevin – I have heard this before, in a different context. I’ve been told that beef from grass-fed animals is leaner and tastes a bit different that that of non-grass fed. It makes sense that if the saying goes “we are what we eat”, it could apply to animals too :)

  9. says

    My list to buy organic: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, imported grapes, spinach, lettuce, & potatoes. That’s my list, but I only buy them organic when the price isn’t too bad. It’s tough to part with that money, but health is important.

    • Squirrelers says

      Maggie – I just had someone tell me the other day how she wouldn’t buy non-organic spinach. This one seems to be a common choice for organic, and I can go along with that as long as the price differential isn’t too high.

    • Squirrelers says

      Maggie – In addition to the individual I mentioned in my last comment, talking about buying only organic spinach, I also talked to someone who doesn’t believe in organic and indirectly alluded to the notion that this was a lot of marketing hype in terms of reasons to buy organic. There are people at both ends of the spectrum and in between at various points.

  10. says

    We buy organic often. We can’t tell what the long term health benefits (and $$ savings from better health!) are but we truly enjoy the taste of fruits and veg – the way nature intended them to taste.

    In our city we order a seasonal basket of organic veg every 2 weeks – grown locally. Since the company buys so much direct from farmers the costs for the contents of the basket, while marginally more expensive than grocery non-organic, isn’t too rough on our budget.

    • Squirrelers says

      SPF – Based on comments here, I’m going to do a taste test on a few fruits/veggies – to see whether or not they taste better organic vs. non-organic. I can say, however, that I do know a family in a different part of the country that has grown some produce in their large backyard garden. The freshly picked strawberries, eaten within a minute of being picked, are vastly better than store bought. I do think these were organic, though I’m not sure if the primary difference in taste was that aspect or that they were literally just picked.

  11. says

    I try to buy as much organic products as I can because I value my health. I try to cut costs elsewhere. Although it is expensive, there is no price tag too high to keep me and my family as healthy as possible :)

    • Squirrelers says

      Taline – I can respect people’s views on putting health as a very high priority. It makes sense, as good health is invaluable.

  12. says

    I don’t buy organic other than in the summer at local farmer’s stands. But I mainly do that to support the local community. Someday, I’ll go more that route, and maybe even put in a reverse osmosis water system (my local city water is horrible).

  13. says

    Organic can be misleading at times. I suppose if someone was just starting to buy organic, I’d look to the “dirty” fruits and vegetables… and replace those first. There’s no sense eating strawberries full of pesticide when you could get greater health benefits buying organic. But when it comes to some foods, there’s really little difference.

    • Squirrelers says

      Doctor Stock – The comments here have gotten me motivated to truly search for and read up on different opinions on the value of organic produce, and which types are particluarly good to consider.

  14. says

    “Organic” is a shifting target, and could mean a number of things. As some commenters have said, buying local but not organic might well get you better and more nutritious food. And it doesn’t get any better or more local than your own back yard.

    • Squirrelers says

      101C – I mentioned in a response to a different comment on how I know a family that has a huge garden where they grow a fair variety of vegetables and fruit. They just taste more full of flavor when fresh, particularly the strawberries I ate.

  15. Pete says

    I think it’s important to buy organic because of its health benefits. I know it’s more expensive but it’s worth it.

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