Organic food is no longer a niche market and is going mainstream, reports USDA Economic Research Service (ERS). It is possible to find organic food of almost every kind these days.
Fruits and Vegetables
The ERS reports that 43% of organic sales are fruits and vegetables (produce). Thirteen percent of all the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. in 2015 were organic according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), and these products increased by 10.5% during the year. Certified produce is readily available and includes:
- Vegetables - Greens, asparagus, cabbages, carrots, chard, eggplants, mixed melons, leeks, lemons, herbs, lentils, garlic, ginger, peppers, radishes, and more can easily be found.
- Fruits - Grapes, apples, apricots, plums, cherries, bananas, kiwis, and tangerines are a few of the fruits that are available. Many fruits are available also dried and in the form of juices.
They can be found at supermarkets and farmers' markets across the country.
Dairy makes up about 15% of organic food sales. Organic milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, cream, and ice-cream are all available from various sources, with online orders possible for few products, but not all. The International Dairy Foods Association reports that milk is the most sold among organic foods.
Supermarkets, as well as natural shops, carry these items. Yet not all supermarkets carry them. Check your favorite company's website to find outlets in your area. A couple companies to consider include:
- Organic Valley has a wide distribution, and offers specialities like protein milkshakes, soy milk and half-and-half besides the usual dairy products. Their products are available online and in stores near your home.
- Horizon is available in numerous places and participates in the National Organic Program. Products include traditional dairy offerings, but also kid-friendly yogurt tubes and seasonal drinks like eggnog. Look for them in a store near you.
Beverages like tea, coffee, and cacao are commonly available as certified organic products in supermarkets, groceries, organic shops and can be ordered online. Beverages make up about 11% of organic sales.
- Alcohol - Spirits can be certified organic, from beer to wine to liquors. Bison Brewing sells USDA certified organic beer in a variety of flavors - some seasonal and some year-round - from a honey basil to a chocolate stout. Find them through distributors in 13 different states.
- Sports and energy drinks - Even sports drink mixes can be found in organic versions, like those available through Nature's Flavors. All products labeled organic are USDA certified. They have options in 10 different flavors, like cherry and pina colada. Just mix with water and go.
- Soft drinks - Soft drinks can also be certified organic, although they are often local. Check out the USDA certified line of Oogave sodas from Rocky Mountain Soda Factory, where you'll find everything from ginger ale to strawberry rhubarb flavors. Buy them online if you don't have organic options available in your area.
Grains, Lentils, Oil, and Baked Goods
About 9% of organic sales come from breads and grains. Commonly found cereals may be oat, corn, barley, wheat, or rice-based. Lentils, and oilseeds like safflower, sunflower, and coconut, as well as oils, can also be found easily in organic forms. The OTA suggests that there is a huge demand for more organic grains, and supply has not been able to meet the demand for these foods.
There are number of bakeries that make organic breads, rolls, muffins, wraps, tortillas, bagels, and more. Bakery products can be made from different grains, and be gluten-free, yeast-free or wheat free, points out Organic Kitchen. Certified organic baking ingredients from flours to pancake mixes can be purchased in stores.
However, not all supermarkets carry fresh organic bakery products. One of the problems is distribution points out Baking Business.com. Even though 80% of American families buy some organic food, bread is still not a regular. Many organic firms are working to correct this problem.
Examples of Organic Bakeries and Offerings
Ready-made bakery products can be purchased from the following companies at various locations in the U.S.
- Rudi's Organic Bakery sells 20 types of breads, including seasonal pumpkin breads, plus rolls, bagels, vegan options, and gluten-free breads and buns. Their frozen bread is made for transporting over long distances. Use their locator to find a store nearby that carries their fresh and frozen products. They're certified through Quality Assurance International.
- Dave's Killer Bread can be purchased at supermarkets, supercenters, and food stores. Their range is USDA certified organic with bread made from 21 grains and seeds. They also have buns, bagels, and snack breads.
Prepared and Packaged Products
This group of food makes up a sizeable chunk of organic products at 11%. However, this range includes a long list of products, and they may not all be widely available. Many items that supermarkets are full of can have scanty organic equivalents. However, you can usually find jams and spreads, packaged pastas, milk powders, herbs, and soup mixes easily.
Examples of more difficult to find options include:
- Spices - Supermarkets like Gateway may carry a limited selection of options, like tumeric or ginger powder. Otherwise, check for online options like those from the USDA certified Spicely Organics, which carries spices and seasonings from garlic to basil.
- Baby food/formula - Infant foods and baby formula are also available for parents who want to go organic. Formula for babies, food for toddlers, infants and kids, kosher products, as well as snacks and frozen food suitable for kids are produced by USDA certified Earth's Best.
- Food coloring - Food dyes are rare and are best accessed online from firms that manufacture them. Seelect Tea is one such firm that produces certified organic colorings. They offer black, orange, caramel, pink, cherry red, and yellow colors that can be used in baking and to dye easter eggs.
- Certified flavors - Nature's Flavors also sells flavorings for food, water, tea, coffee, frozen yogurt, oil, chocolates or lip-balm. Vanilla, allspice, almond cola, banana, blueberry, cherry, eggnog, and ginseng are a few of the items that can be bought from them. They also have flavored organic syrups; all items can be purchased directly from them.
- Super food additives - Amazing Grass sells a range of food additives like protein super-foods, wheat grass, raw reserve, and beauty, belly, and brain elixirs.
- Sugar products - Items like sugar cubes, sticks, and granulated white and brown sugars that are certified organic and ready for use with coffee, tea and cocktails are produced by Natsucar. They can be purchased at stores on the west coast of the U.S. or through Amazon.
- Specialty diet foods - Foods meant for weight loss and special diets can also be certified organic. Look for products from Annie's Homegrown, like six types of soup, as well as cookies, chocolate grabbits, and fruit tapes for healthy snacking.
- Frozen pizza products - Organic frozen pizzas and pizza bites are part of a larger offering produced on a massive scale by Frozen Specialities Inc, that they distribute to large supermarkets, convenience stores, and also to school and food services.
Meat and Poultry
Three percent of organic foods sold are meats. According to Sustainable Food News, sales of organic meat grew by 32% to $569 million in 2015. This is 92 million pounds of meat, of which:
- 6.7% was chicken
- 5% was ground beef
- 3.3% was beef
- 0.4% was organic pork
- 1.4% was turkey
The USDA has no certification for organically grown fish. So fish like "salmon, shrimp, cod and tilapia" called organic are those which are usually imported. However, the Environmental Defense Fund cautions that these fish may have been raised with chemicals used as medicines or feed.
Production Is Difficult
Meat production in general is resource intensive and uses 80% of land for grazing and feed production. In terms of grains, 40% of global cereal production goes into feeding livestock, according to Agriculture at a Crossroads. The feed given to (future certified organic) animals needs to be organic itself. Feed from transitional fields are not acceptable, nor is use of antibiotics, hormones, or stall feeding. The meat cannot also be irradiated to preserve it. So growing organic livestock needs more land than conventional meat, more care, and the risks are high, making producing organic meat more difficult, explains Organic Facts.
Moreover many small farmers, for example those with annual gross income less than $5,000 do not need certification as it is an expensive process, reports the USDA Agricultural Service. These farmers are sell their products locally and directly to customers through farmer markets, box schemes or at their farms. These meat sales are not reflected in certified organic products. Most of the organic meat available in U.S. is sold through supermarkets reports Organic Facts.
Products and Where to Purchase
Among the supermarkets, Whole Foods Market sells select organic meats and recommends their Panorama beef products. Additionally, counter meat options can be organic - just ask the next time you're visiting your local store. Other local markets may also carry beef, chicken, or pork products that are certified organic, so check in at your favorite butcher or grocery store.
Brands that have certified meat products, which may be found at your local supermarket or grocer, include:
- Organic Prairie - Organic Prairie has many beef products like steaks, patties, hot dogs, sausages and snacks. Pork products include pork loin roast, sausages, ham, bacon and ribs. They also have chicken breasts whole and cuts, as well as whole turkeys, ground meat, and bacon.
- Applegate - Applegate's Organics line covers hard-to-locate meat products like deli-sliced meats, chicken nuggets, and even flavored sausages. Be sure you're shopping their Organics selections and not the Naturals selections, as the certifications differ.
Condiments, Sauces, and Dressings
Though condiments make up only a small portion of organic sales, at about 3% according to the ERS, they are widely available in the U.S. Seventy percent of condiments in the U.S. are sold through supermarkets. Health retailers sold only 1.3% in 2012, according to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (pg. 5). Tomato ketchup is easily available as an organic certified product, but the other sauces are more difficult to find.
- Worcestershire sauce - Annie's Homegrown was one of few American firms that makes USDA certified Worcestershire sauce. They also sell four mustards and three barbeque sauces.
- Mayonnaise - Woodstock offers many condiments certified as organic such as varieties of mustard, barbeque sauces and mayonnaise, which can be bought online from them.
- Dressings - Organicville Foods has salad dressings, vinaigrettes, coleslaw dressings, and even non-dairy dressing options. Refrigerated salad dressings are also available.
- International sauces and seasonings - You'll also find international sauce options at Organicville Foods. Options include General Tso sauce, teriyaki sauce, Korean barbecue sauce, miso sauce, and more; check descriptions to be sure that you're getting certified organic options.
Snacks like chips, energy or breakfast bars are widely available even in supermarkets and local grocers. For example, Walmart could have six types of chips from Late July, or Annie's Homegrown snacks, or gimMe Organic Roasted seaweed snacks. The ERS puts snacks at about 5% of organic sales.
Chocolates, candy, and licorice are surprisingly difficult to find in supermarkets and local grocery. One reason could be that they are more expensive than conventional chocolates. So they are stocked mostly by organic and natural shops and sourced online. USDA certified examples include:
- Licorice - Sun Organic Farm sells licorice and chocolate coated snacks. The licorice comes in individual 8 ounce spiral packages or in sets of three packages through their online store.
- Chocolates - Pick from a variety of chocolate bars at Theo Chocolate. They come in flavors from hazelnut crunch to orange to salted toffee and can be purchased online.
- Candy - Look for a variety of candies from sour candies to gummy snacks, fruit chews, and caramels at Black Forest Organic. Check for them in a nearby store.
Not All Organic Foods Are Certified
Though many food items are grown organically only a certified product can bear the USDA organic label. This is designed to protect the consumer and assure consistent quality within the industry. To bear the USDA Seal, the product must have more than 95% ingredients that are organic. When only 70% or more of the ingredients are organic, it is said to be "Made with Organic Ingredients". Products with less than 70% ingredients are not certified.
Organic Food Outlets
Organic food can be purchased in the U.S. through three kinds of outlets - conventional grocery and supermarkets, natural and organic food shops, and local direct-to-consumers market reports the ERS. Seventy-five percent of supermarkets and 20,000 natural food stores stock organic products.
However, there is more variety and brands available in organic shops. This happens because many organic producers are still small and cannot supply the large volumes that supermarkets and grocery chains need to offer them as part of their franchise. So limited stocks are carried only by small organic shops.
Changing to Organic Foods
Organic food is not only good for the environment, but certified food is guaranteed to be free of GMOs. It is being widely accepted that organic food is also better for health especially children's reports Mercola. The sales of organic food peaked in 2015, and the industry is growing by nearly 11% according to the Organic Trade Association, and at a much faster rate than the conventional food sector which grew by only 3%. Yet there is a shortage of organic food, with demand outstripping supply in the U.S., and it accounts for only 3% of the total food consumed. Spurred by demand, this sector should see healthy growth in the future.