6 December 2019
Organic food presents a dilemma for people who are both health and budget conscious. Photo: Bloomberg
Organic food presents a dilemma for people who are both health and budget conscious. Photo: Bloomberg

Organic food: Is it worth the extra price bite?

Supermarket shelves nowadays are stacked with a whole array of “organic” foods, tempting the health-conscious with claims of clean and naturally-grown produce.

Vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy products, meat — the list has grown over the years of items that are touted as chemical and residue free and coming from a natural environment.  

The products do attract our attention, but are they worth the exorbitant prices? And, do they really make a big difference to our health? Also, how genuine are the product claims?

In a research paper published a couple of years ago, Stanford University experts said they were not convinced that conventional foods pose a greater risk than organic foods. Moreover, there is no guarantee that a product labeled “organic” is pesticide-free.

While we have no way of verifying the claims about vegetables and fruits, we now also have to deal with “organic chicken”, whose price can be four to five times that of the regular poultry. 

The poultry comes with various pitches — ‘natural’, ‘farm-raised’, ‘cage-free’, ‘hormone-free’, ‘free-range’, etc.

US authorities have imposed some rules on the use of these terms, but the various distinctions can be “bastardized”, Ariane Daguin, founder of D’Artagnan, a high-end meat company, points out.

It is one thing to have “free-range” chickens living in a crowded pen with a small, open gate, and quite another to have a spacious environment with considerable outdoor access for the birds, she told Reuters.

“Hormone-free” has even less meaning since hormones are not legally allowed in poultry. Same goes for “farm-raised,” since just about every chicken sold is raised on a farm.

Some consumers say organic chicken tastes better, but not everyone agrees.

“You have to have one outrageous palate to distinguish between an organic bird and another bird,” a Dallas-based chef, Otto Borsich, told Reuters.

So, given all these issues, is it worth paying the high price for the organic stuff?

Well, ultimately it depends on how fat your wallet is and whether you want to spend the extra money just to be sure.

Some food experts recommend selective organic choices in our grocery shopping.

Items such as spinach, apples and strawberries — which often contain high levels of residues — may be worth spending more on, while products such milk, yoghurt and chicken could be given the skip when it comes to the “natural” stuff.

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