When it comes to choosing between organic and non-organic wheat berries and flour, it’s 100% a personal choice. There are people on both sides who can articulate sound and logical reasoning.
This article is meant to help you come to your own personal conclusions. I’ll share my opinion, but it’s just what works best for me and my family.
Let’s dive in.
Understanding organic and non-organic wheat
There is so. much. conflicting information on the internet. But I’m thankful that I live in a rural part of Texas that is very agricultural. Although this area is primarily cow-related (dairy and ranching), my closest friends own farms and they are on all sides: conventional, regenerative, and organic.
Organic farming practices
When it comes to organic, farmers adhere to strict guidelines set by the USDA organic program. Some of the main characteristics of organic farming include the use of natural fertilizers, like compost and manure, and an emphasis on avoiding synthetic pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Organic farms also practice crop rotation and use cover crops to maintain soil health.
It’s important to note that “organic” does not mean farmers don’t use fertilizers or pesticides, it’s just that they are held to different rules. Some organic fertilizers and pesticides are arguably not the best for the soil and can have a negative impact on the climate.
Organic also doesn’t mean that they use regenerative practices or even keep their animals out on pasture.
I personally know organic farmers who follow the bare minimum to meet USDA standards and I know farmers who don’t have an organic certification (they are incredibly expensive and time consuming to obtain!) and yet follow “better than organic” standards.
Non-organic farming practices
Non-organic, on the other hand, is cultivated using more conventional methods. These practices may include the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically engineered seeds. Growers may also opt for irradiation, a process that kills pests and germs to increase storage life. While efficient, these methods can result in a final product that may contain GMOs, chemical residues, or traces of antibiotics and hormones. Non-organic farming practices can have a negative impact on the environment, as synthetic chemicals and sewage sludge can contaminate soil and water sources.
Environmental impact of organic and non-organic
I believe that farming is inherently healthy for the environment. If you look at the United States before it became industrialized, large animal groups used to graze on grasses and then move-on, creating a wonderful symbiotic relationship between animals and soil and plants.
I want to talk about “environmental impact” through this lens, as good soil quality, water, and pollution generated needs to recognize that animals and plants are meant to be together, not apart, in nature.
Soil quality and conservation
When it comes to soil quality, organic farming practices have been shown to be beneficial but it’s really when farmers take it to the next level that we see the most benefits.
In organic farming farmers also avoid synthetic fertilizers, which can lead to soil degradation and loss of nutrients. Moreover, organic practices often involve crop rotation, which can help conserve soil and prevent erosion. But it’s really the farmers who ALSO apply the use of animals and get away from single-crop growing that makes the biggest difference. It’s creating biodiversity through multiple crops, the use of birds in tree-filled greenbelts, composting with animal-based fertilizer, and so many more ways.
Unfortunately, most conventional farming ignores the role animals play in healthy soil. Acre after acre of the same crop, with no trees for birds to help manage bugs, creates a reliance on synthetic fertilizers because the soil has no biodiversity, and also a reliance on pesticides to kill weeds and invasive insects.
Water resources and pollution
Being aware of water resources is essential for sustainable farming, and organic wheat production seems to be more conscientious in this regard. Non-organic farming often relies on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can leach into the water supply and contribute to water contamination. In contrast, organic wheat farming minimizes the risk of water pollution by utilizing compost, livestock manure, and cover crops. These natural and renewable resources are not only beneficial for the environment but also help conserve water resources in the long run.
Comparing nutrition and health benefits
Do the differences between organic and non-organic options matter when it comes to nutrition?
Pesticide residue and exposure
Organic over non-organic wins here because of the reduced exposure to pesticide residue. Organic farming practices restrict the use of synthetic chemical pesticides, which can be harmful to our health and the environment.
As I mentioned above, when hundreds (or even thousands) of acres grow the exact same thing, the soil has no biodiversity. Birds leave and the soil becomes essentially “dead.” Birds eat bugs and it creates an environment where bugs have no predators and pesticides must be used to prevent the crops from being completely taken over and ruined.
There is no long-term data to show that conventional pesticides have no impact on our health. It’s quite the opposite. In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, part of the World Health Organization – classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” And it’s been found in the urine of 87% of children.
This is the main sticking point with me prioritizing organic over non-organic. What is the impact of glyphosate on our health? Do we really know?
Antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids
Some studies have found that organic foods may contain more antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids when compared to their non-organic counterparts. These nutrients can provide various health benefits, such as reducing inflammation and improving heart health. By choosing organic wheat berries and flour, I’m could not only reducing my exposure to pesticides but also potentially increasing my intake of these beneficial nutrients.
In short, opting for organic may provide some additional health benefits by reducing pesticide exposure and offering higher levels of antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids.
Price and accessibility of organic wheat products
The cost of organic
When it comes to buying organic wheat berries or flour, cost is a big consideration.
Organic farming practices tend to be more expensive, which leads to higher prices for organic crops. For instance, the average difference in net returns to land between organic and conventional crops, such as corn and soybeans, was $133 per acre. This price gap may make it a bit more challenging for budget-conscious shoppers to prioritize buying organic products.
It’s important to note for any home-baker, buying store-brand generic all-purpose flour and making from-scratch baked goods and foods with it is 100% better for you than buying generic white bread that is full things you can’t pronounce. If you can’t afford organic, stick to mastering wonderful bread at home and your body will thank you!
Finding organic, specifically wheat products
Accessibility is always a big concern. In the past, it might have been difficult to find organic wheat berries or flour in local grocery stores, but I’ve noticed that the availability of organic products has improved significantly in recent years.
I have been pleasantly surprised to find organic wheat products in my local grocery stores, specifically HEB (a Texas-based chain) and also Walmart. This has been limited to pre-milled flour, but it’s still nice to have local access!
What has made the biggest difference is online shopping. Especially buying in bulk directly from the distributor (and not paying Amazon’s sometimes crazy-high prices) you can really save in buying organic wheat berries.
Organic and non-organic wheat in the kitchen
Can you really tell the difference between organic and non-organic at home?
Bread making with organic vs. non-organic flour
Some people say that organic flour gives a richer, more robust taste compared to its non-organic counterpart (source) but I have honestly not ever been able to tell them apart. I’ve noticed a bigger difference using store-brand generic all-purpose flour vs. King Arthur all-purpose flour over any organic product.
Side note: I was actually out of White Lilly Unbleached Self-Rising Flour (which is MY FAVORITE all-purpose self-rising flour) and so my husband picked up a store-brand generic bleached self-rising flour and it made the worst biscuits I had made in recent memory. I ended up throwing out the rest and ordering White Lilly online, since I can’t find it locally …
This is just my personal experience, but if you can’t find or afford organic flour, find a conventional brand that you love and stick with it!
Preparing and cooking wheat berries
Wheat berries, the whole grain form of wheat, are a versatile and nutritious. I have experimented with organic and non-organic wheat berries in various recipes, and I still can’t taste the difference.
Choosing the best option for you and your family
n this section, I’ll discuss the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, as well as the importance of supporting local farmers and smaller farms.
Dirty dozen and clean fifteen
One factor I take into account when choosing between organic and non-organic products is the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists. These lists help me prioritize which fruits and vegetables to buy organic based on pesticide exposure risk and although wheat berries and flour aren’t technically fresh fruits or vegetables, the principles can help when deciding to buy organic grains.
Do you care about these lists? Then consider organic. Could you care less if your berries are organic or not? Then don’t!
Supporting local farmers and smaller farms
As I mentioned, we live in an agricultural community and I try to buy local, supporting my neighbor farmers and smaller farms. Over the last few years we’ve managed to source:
- Eggs: From our own chickens, my mother-in-law (who is a chicken whisperer), as well as friends whose kids often sell eggs as a start-up business
- Beef: We buy a half-cow from a local rancher and it’s significantly cheaper. Plus, he is a great guy and I love supporting their family business
- Dairy: One of my best friends owns an organic dairy and we buy their raw milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Veggies: During the seasons, we stop at the roadside stands and support local growers
- Fruit: This is a bit harder here in North Central Texas, but we do have local peach, strawberry, and other fruit farms we support
Unfortunately wheat is just not a Texas crop, but if you live in an area of the country that offers it, get to know your local farmer! Your purchase goes to real families, not big companies.
Moreover, I find that purchasing from local farmers and smaller farms often results in fresher, more natural products than those found in larger grocery stores. They don’t have to travel far so they are picked/pulled/processed right before you get them.
I can also ask questions about their farming practices, such as if their products are grass-fed or if they use organic methods. This transparency allows me to make better-informed decisions for myself and my family.
In my journey to understand whether to buy organic or non-organic I have learned a lot but I am still learning!
Ultimately, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons based on your personal preferences and priorities. If your budget doesn’t allow for the higher-priced organic option, non-organic might be the way to go. On the other hand, organic wheat berries or flour could be a better choice.
Whatever the choice you make, remember that it’s crucial to stay informed about the food you consume and ensure that you’re making the best decision for yourself and your family. In the end, it’s all about maintaining a balance between what’s best for us and the environment we live in.
Frequently asked questions
What are the health benefits of organic flour compared to non-organic?
Organic flour typically contains fewer chemicals because no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are used in its production. Additionally, organic farming helps preserve the soil and keeps chemicals out of the ecosystem, which is beneficial for the environment.
How do organic and non-organic wheat berries differ in farming practices?
In my research, I found that organic wheat berries are grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, while non-organic wheat berries may be grown using these chemical substances. Organic farming practices focus more on sustainability and preserving the natural environment.
Does organic wheat flour have a better nutritional profile than non-organic?
While the nutritional profile of organic and non-organic wheat flour might be similar, the primary benefit of choosing organic flour comes from the reduced exposure to chemicals found in pesticides and fertilizers. I discovered that organic wheat flour might have a slightly higher nutrient content in some cases, but the main reason to choose organic is the absence of potentially harmful chemicals.
In terms of taste and texture, is there a difference between organic and non-organic flour?
When it comes to taste and texture, personal preferences may vary. In my experience, some people report a better flavor and texture with organic flour, but I have personally not noticed a difference. It’s worth trying both types to see which one suits your preferences better.
Do organic flours generally have fewer pesticides than non-organic options?
Yes, organic flours usually have fewer pesticides than non-organic options because organic farming practices avoid the use of synthetic pesticides, specifically the herbicide Round-up (or glyphosate). In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, or IARC, part of the World Health Organization – classified glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” And it’s been found in the urine of 87% of children.
Is the environmental impact of producing organic wheat flour less harmful than non-organic?
Organic wheat flour production is generally considered more environmentally friendly since it avoids the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which can harm the ecosystem and soil health.