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Organic Traditions Blog

Here’s How To Tell Organic vs. Non-Organic Foods Apart

by Vickie Chin on Oct 20, 2022

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food sales increased by 53% between 2013 and 2018. You've seen organic labels on everyday items like bread, cereal, leafy greens, and meat, but what does it all mean? If you're unsure, rest assured you're not the only person making assumptions.

You might have heard or felt that organic food is more flavorful, but what makes food 'organic' beyond the subjective, and why does it matter?

What Are Organic Foods?

When considering organic vs. non-organic food, you must return to the source—the farm. Organic farming places a greater emphasis on environmental responsibility and animal ethics.

Organic practices steer clear of artificial fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), irradiation, antibiotics, growth hormones, and synthetic pesticides not approved for organic farming (and these are only employed under stringent conditions). Farmers use mulch for weed control rather than potent herbicides and insects and traps for pests. In many ways, organic farming is a throwback to a slower world.

What's the Difference Between Organic and Non-Organic Food?

For the vegetarians out there, let's take a look at organic and non-organic cow's milk.

Organic cow's milk comes from cows raised organically in a manner that caters to their natural behaviour and reduces stress. They eat organic feed, unlike conventional cows that sometimes feed on sawdust, candy, or poultry poop. Organic cows don't receive hormones to make more milk. They cease to be considered organic if they become ill and require antibiotics. Milk from conventionally raised cows provides the same amount of calcium and protein.

Now let's compare organic seeds vs. non-organic seeds. Organic seeds are sourced from sustainably-grown organic plants, and because organic farmers can't use synthetic pesticides, these plants are resilient and produce strong seeds. They're also free of GMOs. But non-organic seeds can also produce, say, a nutritious carrot.

Sprouted Seed Superfood Products from Organic Traditions

Sprouted Seeds from Organic Traditions

Organic Traditions has developed a series of Organic Sprouted Seeds and Superfood Grains that helps to unlock and enhance the nutritional profile of superseeds. As well, through sprouting, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and enzymes are greatly increased making these activated sprouted superfoods a nutritional powerhouse.

plants grown from organic seeds

The Benefits of Organic Foods

There are distinct benefits to purchasing and consuming organic foods.

Is Organic Food More Nutritious?

Although additional research is needed, while comparing organic vs. non-organic foods, organic produce can contain more antioxidants and flavonoids, which are important in the body's fight against chronic diseases.

Organic grains also have lower heavy metal cadmium levels than their conventional counterparts. And the dietary requirements of organic livestock result in eggs, dairy, and meat with better omega-3 fatty acid levels. Omega-3 fatty acids lead to less inflammation in your system and better heart health. 

Did you know that the depletion of anchovy, sardine and krill fisheries is impacting all areas of marine life that depend on these sources of food?

With the consumer demand for Omega-3 ever increasing, the environmental consequences are dire for the planet. That's why we created Ahiflower® oil is the most eco-conscious choice with superior Omega-3 conversion and bio-availability compared to other plant-based choices. Ahiflower® oil is the richest and most effective combined Omega-3 (SDA and ALA) and Omega-6 (GLA and LA) fatty acid source from a single non-GMO plant found in nature. While there are many sources of plant based Omega-3 ALA such as flax, chia, sacha inchi seed and hemp seed oil, these seeds do not offer optimal conversion to EPA.

Unlike these seed oils, Ahiflower® oil is the richest source of SDA (stearidonic acid), which converts more efficiently to the Omega 3 fatty acid EPA that is found in fish oil.

A human clinical trial found that Ahiflower® oil has up to a 3-4 times greater EPA conversion rate than flax seed oil. Ahiflower® oil also contains beneficial Omega 6 Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). A true Omega 3 + Omega 6 powerhouse with ALA, SDA and GLA, delivering a healthy 4 to 1 balance of Omega 3 to Omega 6, Ahiflower® oil is the most eco-conscious, sustainable way to get the benefits of EPA found in fish oil from a vegan, plant-based source.

Organic Food Contains Fewer Pesticides

When it comes to organic fruit vs. non-organic fruit, the former has lower levels of pesticide residue and may be the wiser choice for your health in the long run. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) 'dirty dozen' list includes fruits and veggies that often have traces of these harmful chemicals.

For starters, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, potatoes, and grapes all show evidence of multiple pesticides. You can dunk them in a vinegar and water solution before rinsing or opt for organic.

Organic Food Is Better for the Environment

One of the most important organic vs. non organic food facts is that organic farming uses cover crops to manage soil erosion when land isn't in use and crop rotation to get a handle on pests. These practices make for healthier soil that releases less nitrous oxide. In conventional modern farming, fertilizers produce this greenhouse gas in spades.

Organic food in big box stores also has a significant carbon footprint, as it might travel far distances before reaching customers. But for overall planet-friendliness, it beats status quo farming when you consider that the latter's use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers hurts wildlife.


a bowl of organic fruits and veggies

Organic Food is GMO-Free

Approximately 80% of the food products in American supermarkets have one or more ingredients derived from genetically modified crops. Organizations such as the EPA, FDA, and USDA deem this safe, but there is a lack of long-term research on humans and the environmental impact. You can go the organic route if you'd rather play it safe and want to avoid genetic engineering.

Is Organic Food Gluten-Free?

It's worth noting that organic doesn't automatically mean gluten-free. Organic wheat contains gluten, so if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you'll want to give this grain, along with barley and rye, a wide berth.

Does 'Organic' Mean the Same Thing as 'Natural'?

Nope. Here's the deal. The term 'organic' refers to farming practices, whereas 'natural' generally conveys that a food product is devoid of artificial preservatives, colours, and flavours. So a product could contain only whole foods like corn and snap peas, but if these foods don't originate on organic farms, they're natural but not organic.

How to Know If You're Buying Organic

You have to educate yourself about labels and ambiguous, confusing marketing norms in order to differentiate organic vs non-organic foods. The terms 'hormone-free' and 'free-range' aren't strictly regulated like the word 'organic,' and even the term 'pesticide-free' is used willy-nilly.

You'll need to look out for USDA seals to ensure you're buying organic, and the labels outline whether a product is 100% organic or 95% organic. An item that comprises 70% certified organic ingredients can't use the USDA seal but can employ the label 'made with organic corn,' for example. These stamps of approval confirm that relevant ingredients comply with standard operating procedures from the growing stage to processing.

shopping basket with fresh vegetablesWhy is Organic Food More Expensive?

Organic food is not as affordable as non-organic food for numerous reasons. Organic vs. non-organic food farming takes longer, involves more labour, tends to yield less food per acre, and the economies of scale work in conventional foods' favour. Organic fertilizers and post-harvest handling cost more, and animal welfare expenses are higher. USDA certification doesn't come cheap either. In addition, demand exceeds supply. 

Organic Traditions Has High Standards

Here at Organic Traditions, we take quality seriously. We care about people and the planet. To this end, Organic Traditions superfoods are EcoCert and USDA Certified Organic. Our products are vegan and GMO-free. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions section for more info about our certifications.