More aisles, more choices and more unfamiliar terminology: grocery stores housing organic foods may appear more foreign and confusing than ever before.

Eliminate the stress and confusion that accompanies the weekly voyage with this simple guide to all things organic!

The pros and cons

The term 'organic' generally refers to the way farmers grow, produce and process food. Typically lower in artificial chemicals, fertilizers, hormones and bioengineered genes (GMOs), organic crops tend to cost more. The same goes for conventional meat, poultry, dairy and eggs: while the animals tend to enjoy more access to the outdoors, healthier feed and little-to-no hormone or antibiotic treatment, the products tend to sell for higher than their non-organic counterparts.

Evidence also exists that indicates organic foods may taste fresher than non-organic since they do not contain the same preservatives designed to make them last longer. Yet, by the same logic, organic products may spoil quicker.

A 'good egg?'

From 'cage free' to 'all natural,' the typical egg aisle boasts a breadth of options. However, these jargon-laden terms often misrepresent true hen-raising practices. Cartons with the 'Certified Humane' seal tend to abide by the highest egg-production standards.

Self-sustaining practices

Since organic farms cannot use standard fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics or genetic modifications, instead they rely on plant-based soil enhancers, frequent field rotation, insect traps, natural pesticides and healthier living conditions for animals. The added labor and resources help to explain why organic products prove more expensive.

Beware of the "halo effect"

Organic foods do not necessarily improve health or contribute to a diet. Organic products (or those made with organic ingredients) may still contain high counts in calories, sugars, carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. Likewise, food labeled as 'all-natural' or 'farm fresh' may not derive from organic farms or originate via humane practices.

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