The Dirty Dozen: The Bad Boys of Produce & How to Make Healthy Choices

Do you love organically farmed products? We do too! Texans are especially fond of organically sourced produce, and the appreciation for farmers who use organic practices is growing all over the U.S. Consumers are increasingly concerned about animal welfare, sustainability, diversity, and healthfulness of the foods they purchase. Pondering what exactly the difference is between organic and conventionally grown foods? We’ve got your answers.

More Flavor, More Variety, Great Taste

Does the idea of more varieties, choices, tastes, and flavors from your food excite you? Organic farming has a variety of positive effects on improving biodiversity of landscapes, including the soil, flora, and fauna, and can increase species richness by as much as 30%! Want even more wonderful news? Research suggests that organic farming methods could play a significant role in preserving plant diversity around the globe.

Protect the Environment You Love

Here at Farmhouse Delivery, we work hard to say ‘NO’ to waste. Using organic farming practices helps keep waste in check by using fewer fossil fuels, consuming less energy, and producing less wasteful products. Organic farming practices also protect the welfare of many animal species, local lands, and waterways as a result of less contamination from pesticides and chemical fertilizer runoff. But can we depend on organic farming practices for the long haul? Research says organic farming has outperformed conventional farm yields during years of drought, temperature extremes, and water shortages. Sounds like a winner to us!

What About Your Health?

Did you know that organic produce does more than add food variety to your life, it can also impact your health? One of the great features of organic farming practices is that it restricts the use of synthetic pesticides. This results in lower pesticide exposure for consumers. Two thumbs up if you ask us. In particular, those who are pregnant, nursing, or have infants and young children may benefit from this pesticide reduction. Tell me more you ask? Well, research also shows that organic meat, poultry, and dairy products may be naturally higher in omega-3 fatty acids due to the foraging diets of organically raised animals. But wait, there’s even more! Consumer exposure to potentially harmful antibiotic resistant bacteria is also reduced when choosing organic products.

Tools to Use: Your Organic Adventure

  • Become a Label Pro: Need help navigating labels? We’ve got you covered. What does it mean if you see “100% Organic”? This means a USDA agent has certified all ingredients in the product are organic, including any processing agents. This product may also display a USDA Organic Seal. But what if you just see “Organic”? This means that a product is made with at least 95% organic ingredients. Well what about, “Made with organic ingredients”? Great question! This means at least 70% of the ingredients in the product are certified organic. However, the remaining ingredients also cannot be produced using prohibited methods (e.g. genetic engineering, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation). But what if there’s no label? Don’t panic! We’ve got your back. This might mean you’re at a Farmer’s Market or purchasing from a local source (like Farmhouse Delivery). Yay, we love our local farmer’s markets and local vendors! Now’s the time to ask your farmer a few questions. These include: Where did this food come from? Do you use pesticides when you grow your foods? Do you practice organic farming techniques? Most farmers are delighted to discuss their practices with you. You may end up knowing more interesting info about your food than you ever thought possible. *An important note: getting organic certification is an expensive and time-consuming process for many farmers. If you don’t see the organic seal, it doesn’t mean the farmer doesn’t use organic practices. So be sure to ask whenever you can!
  • Know The Dirty Dozen: Feel like you need some help choosing organic foods? For a good starting point, check out the “The Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” shopping guides developed annually by the Environmental Working Group. Their organization reviews the USDA’s records on conventionally grown foods and identifies which have the highest and lowest pesticide residues. What does this mean for you??? Well, if you’re trying to lower your pesticide exposure, or need to narrow your organic shopping list for financial reasons, focus on purchasing foods listed on the Dirty Dozen guide (listed below, organically. In contrast, Clean Fifteen foods have the lowest detectable levels of pesticide residues, ergo these foods grown conventionally likely pose little risk of exposure.


Strawberries, Cherries, Spinach, Pears, Nectarines, Tomatoes, Apples, Celery, Grapes, Potatoes, Peaches, Sweet Bell Peppers


Avocados, Sweet Corn, Pineapple, Cabbages, Papayas, Asparagus, Mangos, Eggplant, Cantaloupes, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Onions, Frozen Sweet Peas, Eggplant, Honeydew Melon, Kiwi

So what now? For those choosing to purchase organically farmed products, the exploration can be fun, but at times, also overwhelming. Taking an educated approach to choosing produce is a great start! The more you know about your food, the healthier your decisions can be.


This blog was contributed by nutrition enthusiast Lindsey Menge, MS. Lindsey Menge earned her Master’s degree in Human Nutrition from Texas State University and is currently completing her dietetic internship to become a Registered Dietitian. Her nutrition interests include worksite wellness programs, food sustainability, and pediatric feeding practices.



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