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What foods would you buy organic?

If you were living in Toronto or around it, and your budget didn't allow you to buy everything organic, but you could still buy some things organic, what would you spend the extra money on? In other words, how would you be a prudent consumer of organic food?

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  1. Many of the Loblaws organic products are pretty approachable. The mixed greens, carrots, bananas, canned legumes, etc. I'm not at that stage, yet, but they even have organic baby food that's pretty reasonable.

    If you're looking to increase organic consumption without breaking the bank, stick to the non-meats. Or if you buy meats, get cheaper cuts or smaller portions of more expensive cuts.

    One thing I don't get in the organics world of Loblaws is the organic maple syrup. Someone may have to enlighten me, but I thought maple trees were pretty much all organic.

    5 Replies
    1. re: grandgourmand

      Well, I should've mentioned that by 'prudent' i mean not only i get the most bang for the buck, but also the best bang for the buck. So I don't necessarily want to buy the cheapest organic foods, but the ones that are most "necessary." (e.g. organic meat is expensive, but it's probably one of the first things i would recommend to buy organic).

      1. re: sepandee

        So, in response to your question, one of the "best buys" would be apples. For example at my local Loblaws, they have 3-lb bags of various kinds that are not much more expensive than their non-organic counterparts, something like $3.99 to $4.99 a bag.

        This is especially when recent reports mention that conventionally-produced apples are one of the fruits that are most pesticide-laden, just like what another poster mentioned.

        Some more conventional apple/pesticide facts that I read somewhere recently, recalling off-hand:
        - Traces of pesticides are found even within the core of the fruit, so no peeling or washing would help
        - An apple goes through an average of seven different kinds of pesticides (from a recent Maclean's issue).

        1. re: tarteaucitron

          For the same reason, I always try to get organic strawberries and spinach (and recently I understand peaches too) because they tend to have more pesticides. I buy organic broc & caul but really there isn't as much of a health imperative to do so.

          1. re: Ediblethoughts

            Actually same here too, except the organic strawberries are so expensive where I live...

            1. re: tarteaucitron

              I bite the bullet and buy them whenever they're available. But at this time of year, it's often not an option unless you really do some aggressive hunting.

    2. According to those who know far more of the chemical manipulation of our food sources Pollan, Kingsolver et al), the best return for your money is dairy products. This is the part of the food chain that is the most tampered with...pesticides, antibiotics and hormones, so it is the area where you get the most positive difference.

      Milk and cream taste the same to me anyway, whether organic or 'regular', but I think the peace of mind is worth it. The sour cream, butter and cottage and cream cheese that are organic are definitely better tasting.

      For a less expensive foray into the world of organic where you will really notice improved flavour versus 'regular, try fruits and vegetables in season...that is local. I LOVE Fiesta Farms for this, quite a bit less expensive than Whole Foods and really supportive of the Ontario farmers.

      I don't go to Loblaws anyway because I don't ever use packaged goods products so I can't comment on their canned and pre-packaged meals. Seems like all the major supermarkets are jumping on the organic bandwagon.

      11 Replies
      1. re: LJS

        Speaking of supermarkets jumping on the bandwagon, any thoughts on how organics maintain their integrity if demand is creeping up?

        If you want to think "best bang for the buck", then I think the more mainstream products available at supermarkets are the best choice. Assuming the production is true to the organic standards, the added demand helps to reduce prices as producers deliver more volumes. I think organic meat, for the foreseeable future, is a premium-priced product that isn't approachable for the masses. This isn't really addressing the "what's healthier for you" issue as much as it is addressing the "how do you get more people buying organic". Know what I mean?

        The one thing that annoys me about the organic movement is how it's being positioned as a luxury (read: yuppie) product. And I think the result of that is that vendors mark up the products because their clientele view it as a premium product they can brag about.

        1. re: grandgourmand

          There are several foods that when grown conventionaly retain more of the pesticides and chemicals. These include strawberries, apples, celery, bell peppers, and potatoes. There are a few others but those come to mind. They should be organic whenever possible

        2. re: LJS

          I'm with you on the Fiesta Farms plug LJS, that place has allowed me to buy more organic veg than I thought I could afford, often having a sale items that are the same price as regular produce...like organic broccoli for 0.99!!...as for meat I have cut down my consumption and now eat less of it but at higher quality and a much better feeling about the treatment and life of the animal.

          I'm learning it is quite easy to restructure the foods I eat to have a more organic based diet, the only catch is budget and sometimes availablility of an item, also pretty simple to include a 200 km philosophy, I love to cook so that is key, but I'm sure many of you are the same...

          1. re: LJS

            This brings to mind a question I've had for a while about organic versus conventional milk/dairy products. I was starting to think that I should start buying organic, largely due to the hormone content in conventional milk, until I heard ads on the radio (I believe put out by Lactancia Pur Filtre milk) stating that their milk, along with all milk in Canada, is hormone (and antibiotic? I can't remember) free. Does anyone know anything about this? Is it really worth buying organic milk in Canada? Aside from the added cost, I often find it difficult to get to a store that sells organic milk - it's so convenient to pick it up at the corner store...

            1. re: torontofoodiegirl

              About the Lanctancia milk. If their hormone/antibiotic-free claims are proved true, I might actually consider going back to buying them.

              Years ago before I was educated enough about the hazards of conventional milk (and related products), I thought the Lactancia brand was one of the better-tasting milk in the mass market.

              For organic milk, I agree it is harder to get it unless you have access to the more specific stores that carry them. I used to be able to get Liberty's which tastes pretty good, but recently all I could find was the stuff from Organic Meadow(s), and for some reason they taste terrible to me.

              Does anyone find it that way btw?

              1. re: tarteaucitron

                To me, Organic Meadow products are just "OK" (not objectionable but bought for the "organic" rather than the taste factor), but I typically find it the easiest to get in bigger grocery stores. My preferred brand of organic milk is Harmony, which for the convenience crowd is carried at some Rabba and even select Shoppers Drug Marts. Their site lists area retailers: http://www.harmonyorganic.on.ca/page/...

                1. re: urbnmns

                  They also sell Harmony (most of the time) at the Noah's near Yonge and Eglinton. And it's the brand of milk that Green Earth Organics will deliver to your house if you order fruits and veg from them.

                2. re: tarteaucitron

                  I usually drink 1% milk and when I tried Organic Meadow's 1% I found it terrible too, with a strange fatty aftertaste. However, I tried their skim milk and I loved it, it terms of richness it somehow tasted exactly like my old 1% milk.

                  1. re: kellybobo

                    Definitely the fat content can make a difference. I personally find that Harmony's milks taste richer than their actual fat content too. Maybe it's some weird organic thing. (And maybe it's me, but I find a difference between the glass bottle (which I prefer) than out of a carton.)

                  1. re: torontofoodiegirl

                    I should clarify that the ads I read were for Natrel milk (not Lactancia). I thought there was some interesting information in their FAQs re: organic versus conventional milk:


                    I recognize that this is obviously not an independent/unbiased source and hence may be missing certain information, but I expect that most of what is contained in it is factually accurate (given that they'd be in some hot water if they misrepresented the truth). I would be interested in hearing a response from organic dairy farmers.

                3. First I would choose organic herbs and lettuces. I was told by a nutritionist that these can potentially hold the most chemicals due to water content. If I have any cash left I'd opt for organic meat.

                  FYI - Sobey's is on the organic wagon this weekend, as per their flyer.

                  1. Coffee popped to mind, but the suggestions about keeping pesticides down are also good.

                    I always think organic coffee just tastes better, might be psychological, but knowing that doesn't stop me from buying it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Pincus

                      Coffee from very poor countries tends to be organic by default: the growers can't afford fertilizers or pesticides. The list at Greenbeanery points out many of these coffees, such as Zimbabwe or Rwanda. They are usually very good. Another shop, Birds and Beans, sells only organic, fair trade beans from plantations friendly to birds.

                    2. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has issued a list of the Dirty/Clean dozen - basically, berries, bell peppers, peaches, spinach, etc. are the most contaminated fruits, whereas bananas, avocados and asparagus are much less contaminated. That's off the top of my head - google EWG for more info.

                      I normally go by that list when deciding whether to buy organic or not. I'm also a Front Door Organics and The Big Carrot client and between those two manage to find reasonably priced produce. If you go to the Big Carrot in the morning, their selection of "quick-sell" produce is pretty good and you can get good deals.

                      As for dairy, I don't normally buy organic, as growth hormones are not used in canada.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: pâté chinois

                        really? So there's no difference between organic meat and regular ones in Canada in terms of growth hormones?

                        1. re: sepandee

                          As far as i know, that is correct -- no growth hormone in Canada. So organic meat and dairy means the animals were fed an organic diet.

                          1. re: sepandee


                            This is the response I got from the Canadian Dairy Farmers Association when I asked about their milk.

                            "To answer your first question regarding your concern for the use of hormones such as rbST or any other hormones in the production of Canadian milk products, you are not to worry since Canadian dairy cows are not given ANY hormones. The use of hormones to increase milk production is NOT permitted in Canada. As a result, hormones are not found in any Canadian milk product.

                            Canadian dairy cows are fed a balanced diet consisting of forage (pasture, silage and hay) and grains (barley and corn). In addition, they also receive nutritional supplements to maintain optimum health. All these measures help ensure the production of high quality milk for all Canadians to enjoy.

                            Hope this has answered your question. Once again, please do not hesitate to send us any future questions you may have concerning milk products and nutrition."

                            Marie Douce Soucy, Registered Dietitian
                            Dairy Farmers of Canada

                            I was surprised too since you hear about hormones so much, but maybe that is just in the USA. If anyone has any additional info please share it!

                            1. re: cjklatt

                              well, grains are not part of cows' 'balanced' in nature, and this addition is responsible for much of the antibiotics and supplements that are added to cows' feed in conventional farming. lack of hormones is good but there is much more that is plain wrong about conventional animal farming.

                        2. I suggest buying organic dairy. It's easy to find organic milk at most supermarkets and even at Shopper's Drug Mart, where it's the cheapest. I love the taste and have gotten used to the price ($8/4L)

                          1. I'm not all that knowledgable about the health or environment factors, so I'm going strictly by taste here... I love organic apples and organic, cage free eggs. Both have much more flavour.
                            I agree with Pincus about the organic coffee. It does taste much better, especially because it's usually shade grown. The coffee at Ten Thousand Villages is good and reasonably priced.

                            1. If you check the bad stuff, you will find that there are several layers of needed organic quality. For example, ALL fruit is sprayed to some degree. ALL internal organs gather toxins. ALL milk is riddled with toxins.
                              Buy ONLY organic fruit, ONLY organic innards, ONLY organic dairy products, ONLY organic eggs, and ONLY organic chickens.

                              That's the basic, and it won't cost you much more than you are already spending if you choose wisely and don't waste.

                              The other middle ground is to check on what the word "natural" means when you see it on products, such as from Rowe Farms. You don't have to go fully into organics.

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: Dean Tudor

                                As far as I understand it, the term "natural" is pretty meaningless in the grand scheme of food buying since it doesn't have any legal meaning. (Also, as noted above, some fruits, like bananas, don't pick up that much in the way of pesticides; I buy as much organic fruit as possible but I buy organic bananas mainly to support the organic movement, not so much to avoid pesticides.)

                                And I could be wrong, but regarding the "all fruit is sprayed to some degree", I don't think organic fruit is sprayed with pesticides at all. Those organizations that regulate/certify (which I realize is a whole other mess of a subject) won't recognize it as organic if it's received pesticide sprays.

                                1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                  "Naturally raised" can be an improvement over regular beef, poultry and pork, if the farmer is conscientious, but does not want the hassle and extra expense of certification. That's why it is important to know your sources, locally.

                                  1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                    You are right...I should have said ALL conventional, etc...I meant to say that non-organic foods are sprayed, hormonized, etc. "Natural" has little meaning, of course, but a local producer that you know may be trusted, and at the least, spraying and hormones, etc. has been kept to a minimum.

                                    OTOH, no matter how cynical I get, I can never keep up.

                                    1. re: Dean Tudor

                                      I see what you both mean about knowing your local producers---but that's probably not something that, for example, most Torontonians (as displaced from the actual producers as we generally tend to be) are likely to be able to do.

                                      1. re: Ediblethoughts

                                        My wife and I go around to the various organic markets in Toronto and we chat to all of them. Great people, remarkable stories. I know a few from my food and wine writing activities, my wife was once involved with Toronto Organics and LETS. As a start, people should go to, say, Dufferin Market, and talk away .. ask questions. Visit web sites.

                                        As for other farmer markets, people have got to avoid those places which sell bananas, oranges, and outofseason veggies and fruits.

                                        BTW, there was a great deconstruction of Michael Pollan's latest book in the Sunday Star. I had the printed copy, but I'm sure it is out on the website.

                                        1. re: Dean Tudor

                                          Another way to find local food (and stories) is to take a drive into rural areas on a day off work. I'll stop at farms or country stores offering eggs, baking, syrup or honey, and produce. And I have found several farmers who will sell me inspected, butcher-wrapped meat from the freezer.
                                          The next project will be to have a farmer raising an Aberdeen Angus calf for me.

                                          1. re: Dean Tudor

                                            "As for other farmer markets, people have got to avoid those places which sell bananas, oranges, and outofseason veggies and fruits."

                                            :( At this time of year, Dufferin Grove has vendors selling imported *organic* produce. Or else I've missed all those local pineapple and kiwi farms.

                                            I think we have to be reasonable in terms of what we expect people to give up. If someone is going to eat a pineapple, I'd rather see them buy an organic, imported pineapple than a conventional one.

                                            1. re: SherylKirby

                                              Amen. I fell in love with farmers markets a couple of years ago, and go to several of them each week in spring/summer/fall. I can't get enough. I love local and organic. But give up lemons/oranges/grapefruit, olives/olive/oil, kiwis, and a hundred other things? Not a chance.

                                  2. Apples, pears, bananas, and tomatoes for me. When I ate my first organic apple, pear, and tomato, I was amazed to discover that these fruits actually *do* have flavour. I just don't even bother with regular apples or pears anymore; they're more often than not far too big and bland to eat.

                                    I'll happily eat bananas organic or not, but I do find that they have a much stronger, more pleasant taste without added chemicals.

                                    1. Most beneficial:
                                      Coffee: Most heavily sprayed food crop in the world
                                      Berries: Highly permeable skins and thus absorb the most toxins
                                      Dairy/Meat: What they feed animals to produce more is horrific

                                      Maple Syrup: Some maple syrup producers add formaldehyde to the trees, which produces longer "sap" periods i.e. more sap, more syrup http://www.sustainabletable.org/featu...

                                      Having said that, I find the USDA organics label not 100% reliable, their certification is too lax, but the BEST way to buy organic is local farmer's markets in Toronto, so you actually KNOW WHOM you're buying from.

                                      I also suggest that people making claims please back them with real data... saying "I read it somewhere in a Macleans article" is the equivalent of making up and leads to confusion amongst readers

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: koko

                                        I agree with KOKO ... the best way to buy is local and organic ... and the tasteis just fantastic. im currently buying a salad mix from my favorite organic farm and its so good .As for coffee that from poorer countries esp- arabica is sometimes organic by default just because pesticides are an added cost ... fair trade and organic via a transfair canada roaster is the best way to go.

                                        1. re: koko

                                          Thanks for this good info. I would add that there is a difference between Dairy and Meat cows. In Canada Dairy cows are generally fine. Its the meat cows we all need to be carefull of.

                                          I would also warn people to ask questions at local farmer's markets. Some of them import organic produce to round out what they grow locally. Nothing wrong with that, but they should tell us what is imported versus what they grow.

                                        2. In case anyone is interested, I'm trying this out, it is an organic local farm where you buy shares up front to cover costs and then you are supplied with produce weekly:


                                          ...we are splitting it with another couple to see how it goes...

                                            1. re: LTL

                                              Great article LTL thank you..
                                              Here"s an article from Canadian Business on what 3 top Canadian Chefs believe to be the priorities when buying Organic.


                                                1. re: McCree

                                                  Here is the article. Chefs say meats, cheese, milk and eggs.


                                              1. only the ones that taste better than non-organic.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Tout Garni

                                                  ive been buying organic ginger lately. I peel a chunk and put it into hot water....the flavor is more intense that normal ginger (imho).

                                                  1. re: domesticgodess

                                                    if you're buying organic ginger, you don't even have to peel it.

                                                    p.s. i would also love more information about the dairy in canada. i'm such a huge advocator of organic dairy products if nothing else, just for the more ethically raising of the animals.

                                                    1. re: domesticgodess

                                                      where did you buy the organic ginger from?

                                                  2. Tea. I drink a lot of green tea and was very glad someone posted about Hasu Teas on here, they have many organic versions.

                                                    I'm allergic to regular apples and peaches - my lips burn and my throat itches, but organic ones give me only a negligible reaction.

                                                    1. Oranges, lemons and limes for cooking or anytime you need rind. The regular versions can be waxed and you don't want that wax in your lovely preparation.

                                                      1. I would focus on dairy, eggs, and soy products, the "dirty dozen" fruit and veg, try and avoid low quality farmed fish, and try and find animal shares if you eat them. I'd priortize animals who are not confined and have a better quality of life over organic feed. I'd go lower down the food chain (canned sardines, etc., beans) to pay for it. I'd also choose fair trade/shade grown coffee.

                                                        1. I go by these guidelines:

                                                          Dirtiest/Go ORGANIC
                                                          Bell Peppers
                                                          Grapes (Imported)

                                                          Safest from pesticides
                                                          Sweet Corn
                                                          Sweet Peas
                                                          Sweet Potato

                                                          1. Non-organic vegetables and fruit should always be peeled and very thoroughly washed before you consume it. Especially those in this list which requires use of a lot of pesticides in standard industrial production:


                                                            With organic produce you will save some time on all the washing.

                                                            The longer list:


                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: jostber

                                                              "With organic produce you will save some time on all the washing."

                                                              I hope nobody reads this as suggesting that organic does not need washing. ALL growing methods have the potential to support harmful bacteria. Organic doesn't mean "sterile" so you should always employ the same hygienic practice to produce, organic or otherwise.