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Natural v. Organic: Is there a difference?

Have you ever entered the grocery store looking for wholesome, good-for-you, environmentally conscious foods only to be overwhelmed with the options? You want to make better choices about the products you buy, but you aren’t sure which are the better alternatives. Perhaps you have stood in the middle of the aisle comparing the “natural” and “organic” options and were not sure which choice to make. After all, what is the difference?

Difference in Labels

The main difference is that “natural” foods do not have the same strict standards that organic foods do. Organic products have specific measures they must meet, such as production and processing requirements, proper raising of livestock, and strict labeling requirements. In addition, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) cannot be used in any aspect of organic products. (If you aren’t sure what GMOs are, check out the feature in The Lexicon of Sustainability.) However, when it comes to meat and poultry, the USDA does require the meat and poultry to not have the following: artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, and ingredients. They must also be minimally processed.

In essence, being marked as safely organic requires a third-party certification—the USDA—for all aspects of food production and preparation whereas “natural” does not. However, the FDA did ask for comments on the use of the term “natural” in food labeling in 2015 due to multiple Citizen Petitions regarding accurate labeling of these products.

This question can be further complicated when you desire “local” products. The fact is some regions do not have the resources or ability to become certified organic, even if they are already using approved practices. That is why The Common Market tries to provide the information necessary to help customers make the best decision for them and their families.

Can We Trust You?

After all this information, you must be asking: if natural foods do not have strict standards, can you still trust us with your grocery needs? The answer is simple to us: yes!

We provide a health attributes key on the entrance to each aisle in our store so customers can be more educated about the food and products they are buying.

Now that you have this information, we hope you will go forth and use the power of your purchase to let your community know what you care about. And we hope that includes good-for-you and good-for-the-environment choices from The Common Market.