Organics Part 4: Processed Goods

This is my specialty.

In the world of processed foods, organics is a through the looking glass notion in which the difference between organic and conventional are words on the page, and more importantly the production schedule order. For food manufacturing, you need to envision a large machine with a conveyor belts on either side. With that vision, picture ingredients going in one side of the machine via conveyor, and then a finished product coming out the other side. Organic ingredients cannot follow non-organic production, so organic goes first though the machine. The organic product must be at least 70% organic ingredients, so the recipe must have the right mix percentages and you must be able to show that you can trace the ingredients used in production. That’s it.

In the dry good side of food, most products are loaded with sugar and salt, and needless to say it doesn’t matter if your salt (salt is a mined mineral, it is not subject to GMO or organic concepts) or sugar is organic.  

The true difference in organic and non-organics for packaged foods comes in shelf life and mouth feel. All those chemicals you were trying to avoid in first place are there as texturizers, preservatives and masking agents, so organics is really about removing those from your food. Organic packaged goods are whatever is left once the food scientists have lost those tools from their toolbox. Having worked with some great food scientists in my career, I can tell you that they are happy either way. They’ll craft a new product to whatever the marketing department or customer tells them is desired. They’ll use a clean label, they'll use the cheap stuff, they’ll put in the poisons or leave them out if you want. They just want to give you the flavor and texture you want.

From a health and safety standpoint, I’m going to guess that organic packaged goods have small nutritional benefits, if any at all. But I can tell you for sure that they are going to have shorter shelf lives, and they are going to look, taste and feel more natural if natural still means anything.