Is it worth paying more for organic food? To find out we asked three of Canada’s top chefs: Guy Rubino of Food Network Canada’s Made to Order, Brad Long, executive chef at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, and John Bishop, owner of Bishop’s Restaurant in Vancouver. Their verdict? Sometimes it’s worth paying extra for organic— and sometimes it isn’t.
It definitely is worth paying more for meats, cheeses, milk and eggs. If you have a limited budget for organics, that’s where you should splurge. “You’ll get a noticeably denser, richer product,” says Bishop, and you’ll get the biggest health benefits too. Animal proteins make up a large part of most people’s diet, says Rubino, and proteins take the longest time to digest, so going organic in this area will significantly reduce your exposure to growth hormones and other harmful chemicals.
On the other hand, our chefs agree that when it comes to grains and cereals, there isn’t much difference, even though organics can cost 80% more. “Most people are misled to think organic cereals are healthier,” says Long. “But unless you’re Jerry Seinfeld and eating three bowls of cereal a day, then go for the non-organic.”
With fruits and vegetables, you’re wasting your time worrying about whether they’re organic or not, say our chefs. The real question should be whether they’re local or not. “I would rather buy a nonorganic Canadian apple than an organic apple from Chile,” says Long. He says that fruits and vegetables from outside Canada must be shipped over enormous distances, so foreign growers will sometimes resort to sleights of hand—such as tinting the skin of oranges—in order to give their product the illusion of freshness. Local produce is always much fresher, even if it isn’t technically organic.
The best news is that as of this December, finding true organic foods in the supermarket will become much easier. That’s when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s revised Organic Products Regulations will take effect, and you’ll see the debut of a new “Canada Organic” logo. Producers can only use the logo if they raise their livestock in natural environment conditions, restrict non-organic ingredients to 5% of their product’s total composition, and avoid the use of genetically modified plant seeds. Sounds like a natural winner to us.