I’ve said it dozens of times: Organic food tastes better/fresher/more flavorful than conventional foods. You’ve probably said it, too. But are we just imagining the improved taste of food that’s grown without pesticides and not genetically-modified? A new study suggests it might be all in our heads.
To test their theory, researchers from Sweden’s University of Gävle offered participants two different cups of coffee. One was said to be organic, while the other was not. Neither was actually organic. When asked which one tasted better, most of the subjects pointed to the supposedly organic version.
“An increasingly large number of products are marked with morally loaded labels such as fair-trade and organically produced — labels associated with social or environmental responsibility that speak to our conscience,” the researchers wrote. “We show that eco-labels not only promote a willingness to pay more for the product but they also appear to enhance the perceptual experience of the product’s taste. Who needs cream and sugar when there is eco-labelling? [sic]”
Now before you get too upset over these findings, it’s important to note that the Swedish study employed a minuscule sample size of just 44 participants. While surprising, it’s absolutely impossible to extrapolate conclusions about the global population from this tiny study. However, it does suggest that our perceptions of the benefits of organic food might be more tied up in appearances and labeling than we’d care to admit. It might also explain why some restaurants are lying about organic food on their menus.
The goods news is that most people don’t eat organic food just because they think it tastes better. We shell out the extra money for organically-produced goods because they’re free of pesticides and genetic modification. Also, organic farms tend to be smaller, more humane and more environmentally sustainable.
Much ado was made about a Stanford study that claimed organic foods were no more nutritious than their conventional counterparts (notice that I didn’t mention nutritional content above), but this has been hotly contested. It also has nothing to do with “healthiness.”
The Stanford Study “looked at over forty years of data comparing the two types of food, and concluded that organic foods are no more nutritious nor more likely to be contaminated,” wrote Care2′s Becky Striepe. “However, critics of that research say organic is still superior, as it excludes antibiotics and artificial growth hormones, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and dyes, pesticides, and sewage sludge from being present.”
I’m pretty sure the level of antibiotics, genetically-modified ingredients and sewage sludge has a A LOT to do with whether I consider a food healthy or not. How about you?
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