Is Organic Always Better?



Some people say organic foods are healthier. They may be. But they are also more expensive. Some times way, way, WAY more expensive. For the unemployed and the underemployed and often even for just the average consumer organic food is a luxury that cannot often be afforded.

                                                                                                   So what, if anything, am I missing if I do not eat organic? Is organic really better? Is organic food more nutritious? Do I have to send a lot of money to eat healthy?

The last few weeks I set out to get an answer to this question. What follows is a brief explanation.

 Believe it or not, the organic movement is not new. It actually began over one-hundred years ago by small farmers. It remained small for many years. But that has all changed. Today organic is a multi-billion dollar industry. So much for small.


Basically ‘organic’ is just a certification process. It means that our food products are raised, grown, harvested, and are produced without the assistance of man made chemicals or hormones. True organic also means the food was raised or produced with no sewage sludge and is not genetically modified. This procedure is called, “sustainable.”

In America the use of the term “organic” on a food product label is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. I won’t go into all of the specifics. If you are interested you can get the details by clicking on the preceding link.

I will say it again. Be wary of labels. They are usually nothing more than advertisements. Manufactures are very creative at legally getting around, under, and through regulations. So just like with the ‘natural’ labels I wrote about a week or so ago, be careful. Don’t believe everything you read on food packages. However, in general, if you see “100% organic,” on a label you will be OK.

What Organic Is Not

However, you should also know that “organic” on any label does not automatically mean or guarantee:

The food has been produced without the use of illegal labor.

The food has been produced under safe working conditions.

The food is grown or produced at a local site near the grocery store selling it.

The food is of high quality.

The food is grown or shipped in season.

To read more about this I recommend reading the entire WiseGeek article.

While interesting reading, none of the above answers the question I set out to answer: Is organic always better? Do I have to spend a lot of money to eat healthy?

To get an answer to that question took far longer to research and get an  answer. There is so much noise on organic out there these days by promoters and people with some thing to sell, it took some time to ferret out some small kernel of truth. 

But finally I found an old friend I tend to trust to give me accurate, reliable facts served up with a big dose of common sense: WebMD.

First off WebMD goes over the USDA standards. Then it answers the following questions.

Are Organic Foods Safer? 

When it comes to pesticides, the answer is a conclusive yes. 


……the amount of man-made pesticide residues found in conventional foods is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. The real issue is whether these small doses, over years and decades, might add up to an increased health risk down the line.

 According to WebMD man-made pesticides are not the only consideration in this debate.

Man-made pesticides aren’t the only threats to food safety. There is also the question of natural toxins produced by the plants themselves. In this arena, conventional foods may actually have the advantage.

Because organic production steers clear of synthetic insecticides and herbicides, organic crops usually contend with more pests and weeds than conventional crops. This means the organic plants may produce more natural toxins.

“Plants can’t get up and walk away. If they’re being attacked, they’ve got to sit there and take it. So they may resort to their own chemical warfare [snip]………..

These natural pesticides could be just as harmful to people — or even more so — than the synthetic pesticides used in conventional agriculture. One familiar example is solanine, a substance produced by potatoes as they turn green, which can make you ill if you ingest too much of it. [All emphasis mine.]

Are Organic Foods More Nutritious?

According to WebMD:

Right now, no one can say for sure whether organic food is any more nutritious than conventional food. A few studies have reported that organic produce has higher levels of vitamin C, certain minerals, and antioxidants — thought to protect the body against aging, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. But the differences are so small that they probably have no impact on overall nutrition. [Emphasis mine.]

 So Is Organic Worth the Cost?

One area advocates of organic say is most important is the health of the environment and of society at large no matter the higher cost to the individual.

Not so fast.

According to WebMD  

“Toxic and persistent pesticides do accumulate. They accumulate in the soil; they accumulate in the water; they accumulate in our bodies,” says DiMatteo. “So by eliminating the use of these pesticides and fertilizers in the organic production system, we are not contributing any further to this pollution.”

Again BUT…………….

What It Boils Down To: It Is An Individual Decision

Again from WebMD:

But food experts caution that while the big picture is important, you must make the decision that makes the most sense for you. If you can manage the higher price, and you like the idea of fewer pesticides and a more environmentally friendly production system, organic food may be for you. But don’t skimp on healthy conventional foods just because you think you need to save your pennies for the few organic items that you can afford. [All emphasis mine.]

Common Sense

For me it boils down to this. And I have said this over and over in posts here at MTTD. Eat as much fresh food as you can. Instead of buying fast food chicken make your own. Even when you fry it, it will be healthier than the fast food.

Buy local when you can. Here in Ohio that is easier for me in summer than right now in winter. So in winter I eat more frozen and canned vegetables and fruits. I still get some fresh veggies. Just not nearly as many.

Eat a variety of foods. The more variety the better.

If you are interested in the list of foods WebMD suggests you buy organic if you want to go that route click this link:  Here’s how to decide if it’s worth the higher price.

So as with most things, this issue is more complicated than than we think. And it finally boils down to what is best for me and my pocket book and what are my priorties.

Featured Recipe                    Beef Barleyburger Stew

This dish is a wonderful meal for a cold, blustery, and snowy day like we are having in Ohio today and into tomorrow. This stew will warm you right up.

Barley is supposed to be good for you. Of course, to really get the benefits from it you would have to eat a gazillion pounds of it. That is what the doctors, the nutritionists, and the food police never tell you.

Why don’t they just give is some really cool recipes with the ingredient du jour and let us discover how wonderful it tastes? To easy I guess.

I like barley. Of course, in this recipe with all the tomato juice you really don’t taste the barley. But it’s in there. Some day I’ll share a barley pilaf that is a wonderful side for most anything.

Barley is also very inexpensive, so it is a good bargain too!

This recipe comes directly from Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two Cookbook, 1976 Edition. All I did was double it so that it serves four people.

This is what you will need for 4 people:

1 pound ground chuck or beef

1 cup of chopped onion (1 medium)

½ cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks.

36 ounces (4 ½ cups) tomato juice*

1 cup water

2-3 teaspoons chili powder or to taste.

½ cup Medium barley (not instant)

Salt and pepper to taste

*NOTE: I tried low salt tomato juice this time. There was not too much difference. It is a little watery though. Regular tomato juice is thicker and a bit richer tasting, and I like that thicker texture. But the taste was about 90% the same.

Here is what you do:

Chop your celery and onions. I don’t measure. About 2 stalks and 1 medium onion should be just fine.

Heat the pan and crumble the chuck and add to the pan. See the steam in the right hand corner of the picture?

When the beef starts to let go some of its fat add the onions.

Using a spoon break the beef up into smaller pieces as it browns. Continue to mix the onions into the meat as the meat browns.

You do not need to stir constantly. In fact, it is better if you do not. Stir and mix. Let it cook a minute or two. Stir and mix. Let it cook and so on.

Sauté until all the pink is gone.

Drain off the fat. You may remember I always suck it out with a baster.

Throw in the celery, water, salt and pepper, chili powder, and barley. I also threw in a celery top with the leaves. My mother always did that saying the leaves added flavor to stews and stocks.

Add the tomato juice.

And mix everything really well. Heat to just boiling.

Then cover and turn down the heat and simmer until barley is done. This will take about 1 hour.

When the barley is done, taste the stew and adjust seasonings if necessary. I always find myself adding just a wee bit more chili powder.

I serve with crudités (Just the fancy French word for raw vegetables,) or a salad, and buttered bread. Most delicious. Very filling.

Bon Appetit!!!


1 pound ground chuck or beef                                 $4.88

1 cup of chopped onion (1 medium)                         $0.52

½ cup chopped celery (about 2 stalks)                     $0.28

36 ounces (4 ½ cups) tomato juice*                        $1.90

1 cup water                                                            ——

2-3 teaspoons chili powder or to taste                      $0.20

½ cup Medium barley (not instant)                          $0.80

Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $8.58
Cost per person = $2.15

Quote of the Day

One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but it cannot be taken away unless it is surrendered.

 Michael J. Fox

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