Is Organic Food Worth The Extra Money?

Sales of organic products have skyrocketed in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. People associate organic food with better health, local growers, lower pesticide levels, humane treatment of animals and sounder environmental practices.

With food prices perpetually on the rise, it is easy to question whether paying more for organic food is worth it—particularly for meat and chicken and fresh produce, since they tend to be the most expensive items in our diet anyway. As a rule, organic food costs more than conventional food. But is it worth the extra money?

So, first things first. What exactly does “organic” means when it is placed on a food label? Since it is a term regulated by the USDA, with it comes specific requirements.

For animals, it means that they were fed organically grown food containing no pesticides, have access to the outdoors, and receive no antibiotics.
For plant-based foods, it means that it has been certified to have been grown in soil that has had no prohibited substances (including most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides) applied to it three years prior to harvest.

But on the health front, while there are some studies that do not show a significant health benefit from eating an organic diet versus a conventional one, this recent meta-analysis from the British Journal of Nutrition suggests otherwise.

For instance, the study found that if a consumer was to switch to an organic diet, they would consume 20-40% more antioxidants without having to consume more food or calories than they did on a conventional diet.

This is due to the findings that show organically grown food is higher in these disease preventing compounds than conventionally grown food. In addition, the study found that conventionally grown crops were four times more likely to contain pesticide residues than organically grown crops.

So is buying organic food worth it? Well, you’ll have to factor in your budget and what is most important to you. I personally like to buy organic whenever I can, for several reasons, including ethics, taste (quality), nutritional benefits and there's basically no pesticides or chemicals associated with “organic”.
“We want consumers to appreciate that by buying organic food, they are helping to support farming methods for plants and animals that are healthier for the Earth’s soil and water supply in the long run,” says Urvashi Rangan, executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center.

Here’s Consumer Reports’ take on which organic choices provide the most immediate benefit and why.

Fruits and vegetables

Priority level: High

Why: To avoid exposure to pesticide residues

Rinsing conventionally grown fruits and vegetables doesn’t effectively reduce pesticide residues. Organic produce isn’t treated with synthetic fertilizers or most synthetic pesticides in the first place.


Priority level: Medium to high.

Why: To discourage the routine use of antibiotics and questionable feed.

Organic poultry is almost always raised without the routine use of antibiotics. (The widespread use of such drugs in food animals is contributing to a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.) And organic birds can’t be fed poultry litter — a mixture of droppings, spilled feed and feathers — or arsenic drugs.

Consumer Reports’ tests have found that organic birds raised under organic standards are just as likely to harbor bacterial contamination as non-organic poultry, but a smaller percentage of the bacteria tends to be resistant to antibiotics.


Priority level: Medium to high.

Why: Nutritional benefits.

As with chicken, organic cattle aren’t raised with routine antibiotics.

For optimal nutritional benefits, look for organic meat that’s labeled “American Grassfed Approved” or “USDA Process Verified Grass-fed,” which guarantees that the animal was raised on a diet of 99 percent grass and forage and had seasonal access to a pasture.

Studies suggest that meat from such animals might provide more health benefits than meat from animals fattened on a conventional diet of grain.


Priority level: Medium to high.

Why: Nutritional benefits.

Research has found that organic milk contains about 60 percent more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than non-organic versions, a benefit that also extends to cheese and yogurt. Organic dairy cows aren’t treated with growth hormones, and they eat a diet free of animal byproducts.

Packaged food

Priority level: Low to medium.

Why: To avoid consumption of food additives and synthetic dyes.

At least 95 percent of ingredients in certified-organic processed foods must themselves be organic. A “made with organic” label means that at least 70 percent of the product’s ingredients must be organic.

Organic packaged foods might be most important for children because the foods are not allowed to contain synthetic dyes, which have been linked to attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. (Natural food colorings include annatto, beets and turmeric.)

There’s little evidence that conventional packaged goods are a health hazard to adults — except perhaps to their waistlines. Remember, organic cookies are still cookies.


Priority level: Not applicable.

Why: Organic labels on fish and shellfish are meaningless, because there are no government-approved organic standards for seafood.

MBS: I think, instead of wasting money on medicine you can put that money in organic food. At least it will improve your immune system and you can feel healthy everyday by not consuming dangerous pesticides, anti-biotics and toxic chemicals. I'm sharing this article because I got "pesticide poisoning" by watching my budget and NOT buying USDA Organic foods. Lesson learned!