We understand if you’re a bit confused about the difference between organic and non-organic food. It can be confusing trying to decipher what the labels mean – and don’t mean.

So we’ve put together a short primer that helps you compare side-by-side the differences between organically grown/raised food and conventionally raised/grown food. Take a look below.

Basically, crops designated as organic in the U.S. have to be grown/raised without using bioengineered genes (also known as GMOs), fertilizers that are petroleum-based or sewage sludge-based, and without using synthetic pesticides. (Notice that non-synthetic pesticides are allowed. Also understand that certain synthetic pesticides are allowed.)

Livestock raised to produce dairy products, eggs and meat are required to have access to the outdoors and must be fed organic feed. They also can’t be given growth hormones, any animal by-products and antibiotics in order to be labeled organically raised.

Here’s a short, visual breakdown for you:


Comparing Organic vs. Non-Organic Foods
Organic Meat, Dairy and Eggs Non-Organic Meat, Dairy and Eggs
Livestock receive organic, hormone- and GMO-free feed. Animals receive growth hormones so that they grow bigger faster. Farmers also can give them GMO, non-organic feed.
Animals must have access to the outdoors. Livestock aren’t required to have access to the outdoors.
Farmers prevent disease by using natural methods such as rotational grazing, clean shelter and a healthy diet. Farmers control disease by using antibiotics and medications.
Organic Produce Non-Organic Produce
Farmers control weeds naturally by such methods as hand weeding, tilling, mulching, and crop rotation. Farmers control weeds using chemical/synthetic herbicides.
Produce is grown with natural fertilizers such as compost and manure. Farmers grow produce with chemical or synthetic fertilizers.
Farmers keep pests at bay by using such natural methods as insects, birds, traps, and either natural pesticides or the only few synthetic pesticides approved for organic farming. Farmers control pests by using synthetic pesticides.


When it comes to buying organic food, it’s best to buy fruits and vegetables in season as they are freshest then (particularly if you make a point of buying only from local farmers). In-season produce also tends to be considerably less expensive than if purchased off-season.

Understand that just because a food item is labeled organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy for you. A food item that’s high in sugar, salt, calories, fat can still mean a dessert or other foodstuff isn’t always healthy for you. Read the label!