“Should I buy organic chicken?” It is a question I have been asked many times during the course of my career. There are clearly two sides to this debate. Does the quality justify the price?
It is a common occurrence to see people in the supermarket buying organic fruits and veggies, but what isn’t far behind in popularity with consumers is organic poultry.
High Price: Quality or Hype?
Anything organic, from fruit to chicken comes at premium prices, but is organic really worth it?
This is where you need to be a bit of a detective as a consumer. Because if you are going to pay more, you want to know you are getting a superior product. For one thing, to be considered organically-raised, a chicken must not be given any feed containing any chemical or given any antibiotic drugs. They must be allowed to wander outside free from pens and over-crowding. In short, the conditions need to be pristine for the chickens to be raised properly.
The cost of a regular whole chicken is about $1.50 per pound. Organic can vary from $2.69 to $4.99 per pound. In addition, organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts can cost between $8.99 and $9.99 per pound.
That is a price difference that people simply can’t ignore.
When I go to the grocery store, I always purchase regular boneless, skinless chicken breasts because I simply cannot justify spending the additional money on organic chicken. From a nutritional perspective, it is my view there is no benefit in buying organic chicken. The issue regarding the way organic chicken is labeled is also important to note. Chicken labeled as natural, farm-raised, hormone-free, pen-raised, free-range or fresh does not justify paying a higher price. But that’s just me.
This is a common trick producers use to make you think that paying a higher price for their chicken is justified—and I don’t think it is.
Become a Label Detective
Look on the label for “organic” or “antibiotic-free” if you are willing to pay a higher price for chicken. The chicken marked as “air chilled” may also be a better option for freshness and taste.
The taste is another issue. If the chicken tastes better, you might be willing to spend a little more money, too. According to some chefs, people looking for a taste difference are trying for something impossible. There is little difference in the taste of organic chicken which means the cost isn’t justified in yet another way.
Is Organic More Nutritious?
From a nutritional standpoint, there has been no research published that shows that eating organic has any specific nutritional benefit over regular, non-organic brands. The only slight difference noted was the elimination of some pesticides and antibiotic residues.
American buyers aren’t convinced either. Although the sales of some organic products have increased, organic chicken sales are estimated at less than one percent of a total market worth over $30 billion annually.
Unless you are consuming a lot of chicken, are passionate about eating organic and willing to ignore the cost, I would suggest that you buy your chicken from a store and forget organic! Enjoy your chicken in good health and without fear.
Smith-Spangler, C., et al., “Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: A systematic review,” Ann Intern Med. September 4, 2012; 157(5): 348–66, doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-157-5-
Dangour, A.D., et al., “Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review,” Am J Clin Nutr. July 2010; 92(1): 203–10, doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2010.29269.