By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The word “organic” is now common to see on products in the grocery store.

It was not so long ago it could only be found in specialty stores.

The price is typically higher, but what does certified organic mean? And what are you paying for? Cost varies from store to store.

There are different ways how the food we eat goes from the ground to the store. Mary Rogers, an assistant professor of organic horticulture at the University of Minnesota, says with people paying more attention to what they consume, many turn to eating organic.

“Everything really has to come from a natural source in organic agriculture,” Rogers said.

She explained organic foods have less pesticide residue than conventionally-grown produce. But even then, Rogers said the pesticides found are considered safe.

“I think there’s a perception that organic foods are naturally healthier or are safer or are better for you in some way,” Rogers said. “We haven’t been able to substantiate those claims in science, however, you are getting an assurance your food was grown according to those organic standards that are set by the USDA.”

Rogers said growing organic is rooted in the ecological benefits.

“The philosophy of organic is really grounded in soil health and soil fertility, as well as preserving biodiversity,” she said. “These things are more sustainable in a lot of ways. So we’re preserving the ability of the soil and the land to produce for us in upcoming generations.”

WCCO priced compared a list of organic food known to have the highest level of pesticide residue at five stores in Eden Prairie: Aldi, Cub, Lunds & Byerlys, Target and Walmart.

organic produce What Are You Paying For When You Buy Organic Foods?

(credit: CBS)

We shopped for organic strawberries, spinach, grape tomatoes, apples and pears. The price for organic, recognized with the USDA seal, are often times higher.

“So why is the price higher? Really, the premium … reflected in that price difference is related to the higher cost of production,” Rogers said. “So the input costs are a bit higher in organic production systems.”

Cub and Target carry organic strawberries for $4.99 a pint. Lunds & Byerlys has the same brand at the same price, but for a smaller size.

The price for organic spinach was $3.99 at Lunds & Byerlys and Cub. We found it for less at Walmart and Target at $3.49 and even cheaper at Aldi at $2.49.

What you will pay for the same amount of grape tomatoes varies by store. Aldi’s price was $2.59 and it only goes up from there. Walmart was $2.98, Lunds & Byerlys came in at $3.99, with Cub topping out at 4.99.

Organic apples are a little tricky: Cub and Lunds & Byerlys carry Granny Smith, and the price for two pounds of loose apples matched at $5.98. Target’s regular priced bag is lower at $5.19, but on this Tuesday came in well under, with a sale at $2.69.

Walmart at $4.96 and Aldi at $4.99 were within cents of each other for Honeycrisp and gala apples. Similar bags cost dollars more at other stores.

We found the lowest organic pear prices at Cub and Lunds & Byerlys at $3.99, with Aldi pricing 40-cents higher for a two-pound bag.

Cub and Lunds & Byerlys were the only stores to have everything on our list on the day we shopped, but — with the exception of pears — our grocery bill was higher there.

If organic does not fit your budget, Rogers recommends eating conventional fruits and vegetables.

“Fruits and vegetables, they’re low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods that we should all be eating more of,” Rogers said.

Whether you choose organic or conventionally-grown produce, experts said it’s a good idea to wash fruits and vegetables. It helps remove pesticide residue from the surface.

Also, read the label carefully. Some products may be made with organic ingredients, but is not certified organic. Look for the USDA seal if you want 100-percent organic produce.

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