Naturally Organic

Written by John on September 9th, 2009

“Organic” is an agricultural claim that speaks to how crops are grown and handled.  It represents a commitment to growing things without the use of artificial fertilizers, genetically modified organisms or pesticides.  Said another way, organic ingredients are grown naturally.  For processed food, that purity extends to the manufacturing and handling of the products you find on your favorite grocers’ shelves.  In exchange for this commitment, products containing at least 95% organic ingredients proudly display the USDA Organic seal.

When it comes to “Natural”, however, companies’ commitments are sometimes lacking.  While it’s generally accepted that natural products contain no artificial ingredients, preservatives or flavors, the definition of artificial remains a little fuzzy. That’s because there is no natural products standard, leaving manufacturers to write their own rules and shoppers left reading the fine print. A “natural” label offers no insight into how the ingredients were grown, so natural growers can use persistent and toxic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, sewer sludge, GMOs…you get the picture.  This lack of commitment to the process allows for cheaper ingredients, but at what cost?

This confusion is on sale daily in “Natural/Organic” sections of grocery stores everywhere.  The serenity of fake wood floors and soft lighting blurs the real differences between natural and organic products and makes it difficult to know what you’re buying.  In an ideal world, agriculturally unique organic products would have their own section and natural products would live with their conventional cousins.  However, we don’t live in an ideal world, which means each of us needs to make informed buying decisions for our families.

Complicated food labeling and lack of natural standards only harms shoppers, as natural foods are becoming even more pervasive. In a recent article, the Chicago Tribune tackled the increasing popularity of natural labeling, “When the “natural” label is applied to processed foods, the picture grows even more complicated. According to market research firm Mintel International, “all natural” was the second-most common claim on food products launched in 2008. But with few regulations, the term is pliable enough that many brands apply it to products with ingredients not available to the average home cook.”

For the record, Country Choice Organic is committed to organic agriculture and believes choosing organic products benefits our customers and the Planet.  This belief is displayed on every carton in the form of the USDA Organic seal.  What about you…are you ready for a commitment?  Share your personal food commitments by sharing what matters to you and your family below.