Ever hear people talk about how organic from the supermarket doesn’t taste any different or feel any better? You would think with all the hubbub about organic (and the higher price tag) it would have some obvious differences from the conventional. Maybe you’ve tasted and felt the non-difference and wondered, What did I just pay extra for?
On the surface, this seems like a debate about organic versus conventional. Is it really worth it? What’s the difference?
Recent news has uncovered a different question, however, that might explain why you’re local organic produce does actually taste and feel better than the supermarket organic version.
Is organic really organic?
The USDA has some of the most strict standards for farms to earn the Certified Organic label. You would think with all the hoops to jump through, the produce would be as organic as dinosaur food. However, reports have come out recently claiming some discrepancies for certain imported organics.
While this might not explain all of the confusion surrounding the issue, it does cause more forethought when juggling between fruits and their prices in the produce section.
Food regulation laws cannot defy nature, and sometimes nature meddles in ways we can’t predict. Organic farms can become contaminated with residual spray from near-by crops. In fact, this has happened frequently enough that some organic farmers have either been shut down or lost organic certification due to these factors that are completely out of their control.
Others, still, try to cheat the system and use particular procedures to continue to produce a higher yield while still getting that extra price tag via Organic Certification. In other words, they’re cheating. Unfortunately, honesty is not a virtue amongst all. Often these products are sourced from out of the country, China being one of the largest importers of contaminated “organic” foods.
What are we to do? The lines become so blurry at times you can’t even see them. There are a few ways around the organic worry, but it’s not as easy as filling the green bag at the store rather than the clear one.
Go local. Certainly there are local farms that provide organic, but the trick here is trust. Because it is so expensive to get the USDA certification, many small farmers don’t invest, hoping their word (and product) is good enough. Usually, it is. You can tell by the look and the taste. Here are a few tips for verifying the source:
- Is it shiny? This is particularly important with fruit. Have you ever seen a shiny apple on the tree? Me neither. If the supplier is buffing the food you can make a fair bet they sprayed it as well.
- Ask for a sample. Most farmers and sellers are not only willing to give a sample, but excited to. They’re proud of their work, and want to share it. How does it taste? Lame? Lifeless? Bitter (if it’s not supposed to)?
- Ask. It’s easy to tell if a seller is fibbing. If they can’t give many answers or seem to be annoyed, it might be a good time to move on to the next booth. You can hardly get a proud and honest farmer to stop talking about their process and how good it is.
These are also great tips for the grocery store. You may be surprised to find how invested the produce clerk can be in the product. Most stores will give samples as well.
There is truly no way to confirm a products percent of organic, so it is best to become accustomed to the nature of organic products. Of course, this becomes harder with meats and dairy, but that is where you will have to train your tongue to recognize the difference in quality. It may take some experimenting, but it’s well worth the process.