Organic Microgreens Vs. Regular: A Complete Comparison

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The word “organic” has been the crazy buzzword the health community has been hyping up for decades, including organic bread and even organic microgreens, and there is a good reason for that. Many people, including health professionals, consider organic food a superior food choice and probably one of the healthiest options available. However, there is a steep price tied to the word organic, and it may be worth looking into the whole organic microgreens vs. regular debate.

Organic microgreens refer to a specific type of microgreens grown to ensure that the product is free of any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. While one can also produce conventional microgreens free of synthetic chemicals, organic products are certified by the USDA to assure buyers.

Many manufacturers use the word “organic” very loosely, and while organic food is usually better, it is necessarily not better for you all the time. This article will discuss the definition of organic, what constitutes organic, and if organic microgreens are worth it. 

What Constitutes As Organic?

Organic is a term that you can hear virtually everywhere, from televisions to supermarkets and even chemistry classes. This widespread use makes organic one of the most confusing terms thrown around in the English language. Although many people have an idea or a personal interpretation of the word organic, many do not know what the term organic implies.

The “Organic” In Organic Chemistry

While many people associate the term organic with food products, chemists were the ones who initially used the term, and no, it has nothing to do with food. Chemists used the word organic to reference all the things that contain at least one carbon atom. (source)

Based on this concept, water, which has a chemical composition of H2O, is not organic because it has no resemblance to a carbon atom whatsoever. However, water is healthy, not because it is inorganic, but because it is water.

While organic has initially been used to refer to compounds with carbon atoms, today, it is being used as a health craze buzzword. And frankly, most people who do not understand the word may have severe misconceptions about the term. So now, we will discuss the term organic from a food processing standpoint.

Organic As Food

Kosher, gluten-free, and organic are only some of the few terms used by the food industry, and people being uninformed of their definitions is not exactly a rare occurrence. And while it initially started as a carbon atom identifier, today, you can now see the word organic plastered around cookies, microgreens, meat substitutes, and even sodas. The term organic used in food products is an indicator used for the sole purpose of appropriate labeling. 

According to the USDA, organic foods are cultivated and processed under federal criteria that cover, among other things, soil quality, animal husbandry techniques, pest and weed management, and additive usage. 

Produce constitutes organic if produced on soil with no banned compounds applied three years before harvest (including most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides). Organic farmers depend on natural ingredients and physical, mechanical, or biologically based agricultural methods to the most significant degree feasible. (source)

However, one thing is for sure. While organically labeled food is compliant with the USDA standards, producers can also make non-organically labeled foods without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The only thing stopping them from labeling their food as “organic” is certification. Remember, just because it isn’t labeled organic does not mean it’s inorganic. 

Is It Worth It: Organic Microgreens Vs. Conventional Microgreens

Various microgreens on a table

A controversial topic with long, excruciating debates along its belt, the organic vs. conventional microgreen fight has been going on for a long time now, and the end isn’t in sight yet. 

However, clear misconceptions are going around, and while we cannot conclude which is necessarily better for you, we may help you figure out the matter.  

Organic Microgreens vs. Conventional Microgreens

  • Methodology: how was it grown?
  • Cultivation: how were the microgreens cultivated?
  • Price: how are they priced?
  • Genetic Modification: is it a GMO?

Methodology: How Was It Grown?

Most people grow microgreens in two ways: through the soil and hydroponically. Hydroponic farming is a method that does not utilize soil, and instead exclusively uses water that farmers had nutritionally infused to sustain plant growth properly. Many proponents of hydroponic farming justify the practice due to its massive water savings, making it better for the planet. (source)

Although microgreens that have been grown via soil and those that incorporate hydroponic farming do not taste differently, one is considered organic, and one is not. Despite hydroponically farmed microgreens saving a lot of water while retaining nutritional benefits, most do not regard them as organic, contrary to soil-grown microgreens.  

“Observing that the framework of organic farming is based on its foundation of sound management of soil biology and ecology, it became clear to the NOSB that systems of crop production that eliminate soil from the system, such as hydroponics, cannot be considered as acceptable organic farming practices. … “

United States Department of Agriculture

Many microgreens grown in water can be grown organically in the sense that they abstain from synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. However, since the organic label is issued and is not awarded, it is nearly impossible to be certified as a hydroponic microgreen farmer. 

Cultivation: How Are Organic Microgreens Cultivated

Organic microgreens, as the name suggests, are organically farmed. This term implies that farmers abstain from using unnatural chemicals and grow fully in soil.

For most organic microgreens, the farmers grow them in extreme care as any enhanced protection, such as synthetic pesticides, are not available for use. This method implies that the farmers produced and cared for the plants ethically compared to non-organic variants, focusing on plant health, natural pest control, and more. Sure, they are more labor-intensive, but they also keep a precise focus on preserving the traditional method.

Price: How Are They Priced?

Although it is very tempting to buy organic microgreens, there is one big caveat: the price and availability. Although availability is a concern, a quick Google search can remedy that problem. Amidst the pandemic, many businesses, including microgreen growers and resellers, now opt to sell their products online. 

The major problem with organic food is that they are much pricier. According to the USDA, most foods with the organic label are, on average, 20 percent more expensive compared to their non-organic counterparts. Through this global recession, making ends meet is a hurdle in itself, and for many, 20 percent more for palatably similar food products is not an option. (source)

Genetic Modification: Is It A GMO?

GMOs or genetically modified organisms are a type of organisms that have undergone synthetic genetical modifications to tweak their characteristics. For most plant-based products, this type of modification typically manifests itself as a method to increase yield, enlarge fruits, boost immunity against insects, etc.

Although genetically modified organisms are not technically bad for your body, some take extra caution when purchasing them, and some also raise their ethical concerns. Organic products, including organic microgreens, are certified free of synthetic genetic modifications. According to the USDA, these are the guidelines with regards to GMOs in organic products: (source)

Guidelines From The USDA Regarding GMOs:

  • Plant-based products must be from seeds classified as not genetically modified.
  • Animals that are herbivores must not consume genetically modified plants.
  • Farmers must cultivate crops grown near other genetically modified crops wherein the two types of crops, organic and regular, bloom separately. This guideline ensures that there is no risk of cross-pollination. 

For your microgreens to be certified organic, they must use regular seeds, or even better, certified organic seeds. Genetically modified seeds are a no-go, so rest assured that your organic microgreens are GMO-free. 

The Misconceptions Of Organic Microgreens

One does not need to lurk around health magazines and internet articles to know that organic food products appear healthier and more ethical than non-organic food products. Aside from the scientific-based facts, many of these beliefs come from the extensive marketing poured by the health industry. While it may be convenient to polarize organic and non-organic products from each other, the world isn’t simple like that.

Organic and non-organic products are not opposites and cover a broad scope of products. When people think of these products as opposites, it results in a wave of misconceptions and stereotypes against one food group. This section will tackle people’s stereotypes with organic food, microgreens in particular.

The Misconceptions With Organic Microgreens And Other Organic Food Products:

  1. I buy organic because they have more nutritional value.
  2. All organic products are the same.
  3. Organic products are safer to consume as they do not contain pesticides.
  4. Not certified organic foods are inferior.

Misconception Number One: I Buy Organic Because They Have More Nutritional Value

In an article written by Harvard University executive director Stephanie Watson, she has examined over 250 studies comparing organic vs. conventional food. She ended up with an unexpected conclusion. 

Apart from slightly greater phosphorus levels in many organic foods and a higher omega-3 fatty acid content in organic milk and poultry, the researchers found virtually slight variation in nutritional content. (source)

READ ALSO: The Most Nutritious Microgreens To Grow And Eat

Misconception Number Two: All Organic Products Are The Same

Organic food products are not the same, and although it is very tempting to clump all organic food products under the umbrella of “organic,” that is not the case. One easy way to understand this concept is by familiarizing USDA organic labels. (source)

Organic Labels: What Do They Mean?

  • 100 Percent Organic – These food products use certified organic ingredients, and producers make these products through organic standards. This label is essential, especially for cooked products such as “organic.” cupcakes, “organic” lunch packs, and more.
  • Organic – at least 95 percent of the ingredients are certified organic. Food products labeled as organic are not necessarily and entirely “organic” per se, as long as they reach the 95 percent threshold. 
  • Made with organic ingredients – at least 70 percent of the ingredients are certified organic.

Misconception Number Three: Organic Products Are Safer To Consume, As They Do Not Contain Pesticides

In the same article from Harvard, the researcher Stephanie Watson concluded a difference with 30% lower pesticide residues than conventional foods. However, in general, pesticide levels in organic and non-organic foods were within allowable safety limits. (source)

Also, it is untrue that organic foods, including microgreens, do not contain pesticides. Ultimately, they can have pesticides, as long as the pesticides used are organic. 

Misconception Number Four: Not Certified Organic Foods Are Inferior

There is a difference between a certified organic food product and an organically grown food product. While all certified organic food products are organically grown, not all organically grown food products are certified organic. Before using the “organic” label, farmers, growers, and distributors need to get certified first.

Summary

Organic foods are those grown using organic methods, meaning that they do not use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Moreover, they need to be certified by the USDA to become certified organic. Initially, the term organic referred to everything with a carbon atom, but it has long transcended from such definition.

Organic micro greens are typically grown by soil and are GMO-free and synthetic chemical-free. However, in all of this organic microgreen vs. regular microgreen debate, one thing to note is that organic microgreens cost significantly more.

As “organic” became less of an identifier and more of a buzzword, misconceptions have arisen. One of the most common misconceptions is their nutritional content. Organic microgreens, and all organic products for that matter, do not contain marginally more nutrition compared to their regular, conventional counterparts.

Another misconception is that all organic products are the same, but the fact is that organic products are different to a certain degree. While some are 100% organic, many products need to cross that measly 70% organic line to be a part of the organic family. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Organic And Natural The Same?

No, “natural” and “organic” are not synonymous. A food labeled as “natural” signifies it has no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. It has nothing to do with farmers’ procedures or materials to make the food ingredients. (source)

Are Organic Microgreens Sourced Locally?

Organic products used to refer to food that was grown locally, but today, huge producers employ comparable transportation methods to send food hundreds of miles.

What Is Local And What Is Organic?

Unlike organic standards, there is no formal definition for “local food”. It might be cultivated in your neighborhood, state, area, or even in your country. You can generally find food grown near home at locations like a farmer’s market during most of the year.

Microgreens Corner
Microgreens Corner
We are Janette & Jesper, and we love microgreens.

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