The Basics of Organic

Whether to choose organic food vs. non-organic food is just one of dozens of decisions you probably make every time you go grocery shopping. Choosing organic food supports farmers and producers who believe in good health, quality foods and earth-friendly (though some like to say eco-friendly) sustainable agricultural practices.

So what exactly does "organic" mean?

Organic products are grown in environmentally friendly ways, without toxic or persistent agricultural chemicals. Organic agriculture is a production method that emphasizes the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality.

In fact, since 2002, all organic food products sold in the US are required to meet strict Federal standards managed by the USDA.

What about organic meat?

Meat that is certified organic is from animals fed organically-grown feed, given fresh air and outdoor access and no antibiotics or growth promoting hormones.

Standards Basics

  • Soil and plants cannot be treated with chemicals or persistent pesticides or herbicides.
  • No synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge can be used to promote growth.
  • GMOs are not allowed.
  • Animals are fed organic feeds, given access to the outdoors, and allowed to fulfill their natural behaviors.
  • Synthetic growth hormones and antibiotics are forbidden.

Reading Organic Labels

All products labeled as "organic" must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agency. Understanding organic labeling may be a bit confusing at first. Learn the difference between items labeled 100% Organic, Organic and Made with Organic Ingredients.

Organically Grown…it starts with healthy soil.

It’s easy to feel good about a system of agriculture that doesn’t use toxic or persistent agricultural chemicals. Organic farmers nourish their crops by truly cultivating the living system of the soil. Through the use of compost, manure and cover crops (like clover which is grown and then plowed under for soil nourishment) – the organic farmer builds up naturally occurring sources of nitrogen for the healthiest soil possible. And, land tended with organic farming methods experiences fewer issues with runoff and pollution than land tended with conventional agricultural chemicals.

Looking for more even more about organics? Read our Organic Food FAQs.