Sustainable and organic food: Is it worth it?

Let’s face it: food labels are confusing. What does it mean when an ingredient is marked organic vs. non-organic? Or GMO vs. non-GMO? What does the term sustainable agriculture refer to? Here, we will shed some light on these questions and help you decide whether you want to dig deeper into your pocket for organic food.

Organic vs. sustainable – what is the difference?

The organic farming philosophy was born out of the growing concerns for the state of global ecology. It is a method that tries to stay much more in touch with the nature through biodiversity, sustainability, and avoidance of heavy chemicals for fertilization and pest control. While the “USDA Certified Organic” label means that it went through the government-sponsored accreditation, sustainable is not a regulated label.

Yet, sustainable farming is more than abstract thought: it is measurable. It generates both economic and social benefits and contributes to environmental conservation, for instance, through water and energy efficiency. Sustainable is often more centered on animal welfare, since these farms are comparatively small and less commercialized.

GMO vs. non-GMO: the truths and the myths

“Genetically modified” has become a scary word. Put simply, GMO refers to the process of bioengineering that differs very slightly from traditional selection efforts. Though some warn about the potential hazards of this method, there is little scientific evidence to support these claims. Even USDA states that both product labels say nothing about nutritional quality or taste. However, if you would like to avoid GMO, buying organic food is your best bet.

Where to shop for organic food?

The first choice to get fresh ingredients from trusted local purveyors is still the farmers market. The price tag might be steep, but you get the chance to meet the people and learn about their attitudes and practices first-hand. This is the best way to support sustainable agriculture. Otherwise, look for “Certified Organic” seals on the produce you buy from a conventional supermarket. Research what your favorite brands are doing and consider whether you want to continue backing them. Alternatively, you can find a meal kit provider of choice to help you on this journey.

What’s up with meal kit services?

Many meal kit providers are explicit about their suppliers. If they work with organic farmers to locally source the best natural ingredients, they will tell you about it. Some will even introduce you to their partner farmers and fisheries to help you identify exactly where your food is coming from.

However, there is more to being environmentally-conscious than just the food. Since meal kits include pre-portioned ingredients that come in sustainable packaging, you can significantly reduce your food waste and reuse or recycle the cardboards and plastics. You decide how and to what extend you want to stand behind sustainable agriculture and new farming techniques.


Photos by Frances Gunn & Lou Liebau

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