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Did your organic produce travel 5,000 miles for your eating pleasure?

The natural sweetness of the red bell pepper makes it one of my favorite vegetables. I recently needed some for a cooking demo. The price wasn’t one I would normally pay—I prefer to buy when they’re $1 or less each. Love them, just not that much.

Anyway, they were $1.50 per pepper. Pricey still but not too bad, plus they were huge and beautiful. I happened to walk by the organic section and saw these weeny red bell peppers at $2.19 each. As often happens curiosity got the best of me and I looked to see where they originated.

That annoying little sticker

The cool thing about produce is that little sticker—you know the annoying one you sometimes forget to remove. However, its information is invaluable providing an identifying number and country of origin.

Hmmm, where did this red bell pepper originate I wondered? Where was it grown?

I vs conventional

The Netherlands.

Distance from Dallas about 5,000 miles.

The pepper I bought had a country of origin—Mexico, less than 900 miles away.

organic vs conventional

The question: Pay $2.19 for a red bell pepper grown 5,000 miles away or $1.50 for one conventionally grown less than 900 miles away?

If organic produce is your thing…

When you choose organic, consider why. Is it the:

  1. Environment? What’s the carbon footprint, the energy needed to transport your produce? Many organically sourced fruits and vegetables travel a good distance. What’s better? Locally but conventionally grown? Or organic sourced thousands of miles away?
  2. Nutrition? How much nutritional value is lost in the transport? Furthermore, there is little substantive research indicating organic has a higher nutritional value.
  3. Pesticides? Newsflash. Organic produce uses pesticides. The organic seal does not mean pesticide-free. Pesticides made from plants are used as well as several synthetic ones.
  4. Higher prices? Okay. You got me on that one! With a few rare exceptions, you will pay more, see here.

Does a hungry person care if their produce is organic?

Here’s the thing—I’m a realist. Having spent nearly seven years early in my nutrition career working as a clinical dietitian at the county hospital, all I wanted some of my patients do was eat one fruit or one vegetable—per day. Just one! I would have settled for one a week in some instances.

If in their mind they had to buy organic or not bother, what message is that? Not a good one. Does a hungry person care if their produce is organic? I think, hunger, nutrition, produce

Final note

The myriad of studies on health benefits of fruits and vegetables are not based on organically grown produce. ?

Eat your veggies. I’ll wait.


P.S. The organic red bell pepper was not nearly as tasty as the others.


Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist | Wellcoach® Certified Health Coach
@JenniferNeily Twitter | @NeilyonNutrition Instagram



  • Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90:680–5
  • Ann Intern Med. 2012;157
  • Consumer Reports, The cost of organic foods, March 19, 2015
  • Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment 86 Vol. 36, No. 2 December 2014
  • Nutr Today. 2016;51(5):242-250
  • Pediatrics 2012;130:e1406–e1415
  • Applied Economics Letters 2017: 1-6

Photo credits: Neily on Nutrition and

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19 Responses to Did your organic produce travel 5,000 miles for your eating pleasure?

  • Excellent points, Neily! Folks need to understand that organic is a method of agriculture that follows a set of government guidelines. It does not mean it’s safer, healthier or more nutritious. When 75% of the US population isn’t eating enough fruit and 84% do not eat enough vegetables, how produce is grown should not be the issue. Eating more of it should!

    • Thanks Neva, exactly! As I said I experienced that frequently at Parkland. I didn’t mention it specifically but there was a study (Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment Vol. 36, No. 2 December 2014) and I was saddened by the comments gathered from the in-depth interviews conducted.

  • Good post Neily, I will admit to not checking the stickers for origin location when I buy produce. We are fortunate to be in an area where there is a large supply of local vegetables.

    Transport is a huge drain on resources, especially environmentally. I think it’s great advice to find product grown closer to home. I also am more than happy to sacrifice organic for produce originated closer to home. Thanks for the post, I will definitely be checking the stickers more closely from now on.

    • Super! Glad you found it helpful. Yes, I think few people know to look at the label and pay attention. I’m glad you will! Thanks for your post.

  • I really enjoyed this! I haven’t put much thought into where all my produce comes from.

  • What a great blog. I love the yellow peppers too. Red and yellow are my favorite. I care if the fruits or veggies I eat are organic or not. What I do care about is not over paying and the quality. Much happier to pay less for the nonorganic if the quality is better and vise versa. How ever I never thought about nutritional value being lost during transport, but when you mentioned that it does make a lot of sense. I am looking forward to reading more blogs. Thanks for sharing

  • Great post!

  • Great post!
    I always avoid buying organic produce because its much more expensive and I like to save money where I can. I also think the non-organic produce has a little more flavor.

    • Thanks Otto! Yes, I agree – I like to save money as well. Furthermore there are not many reasons to buy organic, especially nutritionally. -Neily

  • The information about organic versus conventionally grown produce is very informative. I am surprised to learn that organic does not have much to do with the soil quality or type of pesticides used. I will also be paying more attention to stickers and the produce.

    • Organic is big business and has grown exponentially over the past decade. The campaigns (and misinformation) to encourage more consumption may mislead people to think it’s better. Thanks for your comment! -Neily

  • very good. thank you…

  • Great Article! It doesbot matter…just eat healthy and incorporate the fruits and vegetables into your diet.

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