Organic food has both a popular meaning, and in some countries, a legal definition. In everyday conversation, it usually refers to all “naturally produced” foods, or the product of organic farming. As a legal and marketing term, it means certified organic. The distinction is important, as the two definitions can represent quite different products.
Types of Organic FoodOrganic foods, like food in general, can be grouped into two categories, fresh and processed, based on production methods, availability and consumer perception.
Fresh food is seasonal and highly perishable. Fresh produce — vegetables and fruits — is the most available type of organic food, and closely associated with organic farming. It is often purchased directly from the growers, at farmers’ markets, from on-farm stands, through specialty food stores, and through community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects.
Unprocessed animal products — organic meat, eggs, dairy — are less common. Prices are significantly higher than for conventional food, and availability is lower. They are still premium priced items.
For fresh food, “organic” usually means:
Produced without synthetic chemicals (eg: fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones) free of genetically modified organisms (often, but not necessarily) locally grown
Processed food accounts for most of the items in a supermarket. Little of it is organic, and organic prices are often high. In spite of this, organic processed products are now primarily purchased from supermarkets. The majority of processed organics comes from large food conglomerates, as producing and marketing products like canned goods, frozen vegetables, prepared dishes and other convenience foods is beyond the scope of small organic producers.
For processed organic food, the general definition is:
Contains only (or at least a certain specified percentage of) organic ingredients
Contains no artificial food additives
Processed without artificial methods, materials and conditions (eg: no chemical ripening, no food irradiation)
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