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Do You Have an Organic Bias?

Do You Have an Organic Bias?

Years ago I was at a trade show talking to a representative from a hydroponic produce enterprise about his tomatoes. When I inquired whether or not his tomatoes were farmed organically, he became a little defensive and said, “You know, ‘organic’ doesn’t mean it tastes any better.” At the time I told him it wasn’t as much of an issue about taste as it was about best practices and shielding our bodies from unwanted pesticide residue that made the organic label important. Now, after taking a look at the information below, I would probably be more nervy and cocky and say something like, “Yeah, not unless you look at the label first.”

Let me explain. A fairly informal survey by Cornell researchers in (of all places) a shopping mall food court revealed that, while maybe organic food does not taste any better than its conventional counterpart, the label (and thus the suggestion of organic) makes people perceive that it tastes better, as well as healthier. Researchers recruited 115 passersby to sample what were labeled as the organic and non-organic versions of cookies, potato chips, and yogurt. Little did the participants know that the two types were exactly the same (both organic). They were then asked to rate the foods on taste, and perceived nutritional content. As you may be able to guess, the label had a marked influence on how the participants evaluated the products. According to a report in Food Quality and Preference, participants guessed that the “organic” cookies, chips, and yogurt were 20 to 24 percent lower in calories than “regular” versions. They thought the organic foods “tasted lower in fat and calories” and higher in fiber as well, and perceived the cookies and chips, though not the yogurt, as tasting more nutritious. They were willing to pay up around 16 to 23 percent more for all three.

So what does this say about consumers slavishly dedicated to the organic label? Would it be telling if this somewhat informal survey were done without organic samples? Do you think you could discern what is, and what isn’t, organic? Do you feel you have an organic bias?

Related:
17 Essential Reasons to Go Organic
10 Spring Superfoods

Read more: Blogs, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Following Food, Food, Health, News & Issues, , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

56 comments

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7:49AM PDT on Jun 13, 2013

Organic does not necessarily mean more expensive. At least when (like us) you have a little land. We grow our OWN food, keep the seed from the previous harvest.. its all but free. Then all we have to seek out is meat, which at OUR whole foods stores is priced almost the same as its less healthy counterpart. One does not have to switch EVERY SINGLE food item to organic.. even small changes make a big difference. We started with produce grown at home, and staple ingredients (ones we use all the time and never thing about) like oil, flour, sugar ect. Very little difference in price. Huge difference in our bodies :)

2:24PM PDT on Apr 28, 2013

If you can't afford it, grow it!
For $10 bucks in organic seed, you could have all the organic veggies you can eat this summer, and more. If you don't have a yard, find someone who does, or join a CSA near you.
Every neighborhood should be full of gardens. There are lots of resources online for help if you're new to gardening. Starting in pots is an easy first step.
Buying food from a store is a prison, forcing us to eat food we would not eat otherwise. No one would willingly choose to eat food doused in chemicals known to cause cancer and impair sexual development.

9:25AM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

thansk

6:33PM PDT on Apr 23, 2013

I honestly believe the whole organic movement is based on turning a buck.

5:22PM PDT on Apr 22, 2013

HAHA GOOD POINTS

4:24PM PDT on Apr 22, 2013

The more people buy organic, the better the prices will become. I try and buy the organic produce that is on sale for the week.
It is good to hear that more and more people are considering it. Until a couple years ago, my
grocery did not stock organic products.
I think by not eating the pesticide laden veggies, I have become sensitive to it. I can smell
the pesticide on green beans, celery, bell peppers & berries at the grocery store.
As far as taste difference, it does not matter to me. What matters is the toxins on and in it, and
what is going into our earth.

7:14PM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

thanks Eric

yes organic is important, working with nature - plus it protects farm workers from exposure to chemicals

11:45AM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

Thank you.

11:00AM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

I will admit to being "slavishly dedicated to the organic label" for the simple reason that I am unwilling to eat pesticides and herbicides with every meal. I saw a documentary once, in which strawberries were being sprayed by a man dressed as if for a trip to the moon. No, thank you.

I smile when people write that organic foods are more costly. And they are right: organic foods are more costly. However, in my family, we recoup the cost of organic foods by not having medical bills and never visiting the doctor. Also, there are zero medicines in our cabinets. Health comes at a cost and I would rather spend my hard earn dollars in healthy foods than donate them to the medical and pharmaceutical industries.

6:12PM PDT on Apr 20, 2013

The thing with organic is always so costly...

Not everyone can truly afford that....

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