Food labels in the supermarket can be confusing when it comes to determining what is organic and what is not. And you may be wondering exactly what organic means. It may help to make a direct comparison between specific food types to spell out exactly what is and is not organic.

In general, for a food to be labeled organic in the United States, there can be no genetic engineering involved, no petroleum-based or sewage-based fertilizers can be used, and no synthetic pesticides either. Pesticides that are not synthetic are acceptable. Synthetic pesticides are man-made, chemical-based insecticides.

In order for meat and poultry products to receive an organic label, the animals that are the source of these products must be able to go outdoors and only organic feed can be used to feed them. Also, meat and poultry products cannot be labeled as organic if the source animals were given antibiotics, growth hormones, or any animal by-products.

Here is a direct comparison between organic and non-organic products.

Organic Meat, Dairy and Eggs

  1. The source animals are given organic feed that has no hormones and is not genetically modified.
  2. The animals are able to go outdoors.
  3. Farmers use natural means to prevent disease in the animals, such as rotational grazing, ensuring animal housing is clean, and animals receive a healthy diet.

Non-Organic Meat, Dairy and Eggs

  1. These animals are given growth hormones to enable them to grow larger more quickly. Their feed is also genetically modified and is not organic.
  2. The animals may be kept permanently indoors.
  3. Antibiotics and other drugs are used to control disease.

Organic Produce

  1. Farmers control weeds in the crop areas through natural means, such as pulling them by hand, tilling, mulching, and rotating crops.
  2. Only natural fertilizers, such as compost and manure, are used.
  3. Farmers ward off animal pests using only natural methods, such as deploying natural predators like insects, birds or traps and using natural pesticides.

Non-Organic Produce

  1. Farmers eradicate weeds using chemical herbicides and pests using chemical pesticides.
  2. Chemical (synthetic) fertilizers are used to assist growth.

If you are looking to buy organic produce, nutritionists recommend buying local fruits and vegetables that are in season because they are freshest and also the cheapest.