Ask Your Grocer

Veggie Market Sign

Clarify Your Food Choices

I wonder about the difference between “organically grown” and “conventionally grown” produce at the grocery store. Being an introvert, I never ask about it.  I started researching online and found myself overwhelmed with competing information. I see information that reads like marketing based on fear and self-promotion on every side of the “organic vs conventionally” grown debate.

I have my personal opinions

I haven’t updated these opinions or perspectives in a long time.
Today I’m putting on my “big girl boots”, pushing through my introversion and asking my grocers directly what these designations mean.  I shop at a few different stores and farmers’ markets,  I want to know exactly what is going on in my little world.

Together We Can!

I’m asking you to join me in the pursuit of real information about the produce in our stores. Below is my list of questions that I’m taking with me on my journey toward concrete, “real-time” information.  I’m sharing them with you in case you need a little support to do the same.

Ask Your Grocer:

  1. What is the difference between this product (apple, lettuce, carrot, etc) labeled “organic” and the ones labeled “conventional”?
  2. Can you give me a list of the fertilizers and pesticides used during the production of these vegetables/fruits?  (I want the list so that I can research things on my own)
Just like clear labeling on canned foods I want to know the “ingredients” of my produce.
  3. For meat products: What is the difference between “organic, grass-fed, natural, conventional?”  If hormones, drugs, or chemicals are used in the meat I am buying and eating, can you please give me a list of them so that I can research them on my own?

funny veggie cartoonIt seems crazy to wonder about the ingredients of fresh produce, meat, and seafood. But this is the world we live in now.  I will share my answers as I get them and I hope you will too in the comments below.



So far I have asked three different produce people at different grocery stores my questions.
Here is what I’ve learned so far:
Conventional uses “things” to boost growth and deter pests.
No one has been able to tell me what those “things” are. One person told me to go to the company website and search.  I looked around on the Dole Fruit website for information but couldn’t find anything.  One produce person told me that finding this information is very challenging.

They all said that organic means you can’t use the chemicals that conventional growers can use.

Below is a website I just found that talks about some of the chemicals used by conventional growers. You can search by the product you are purchasing and see some results of tests that tell you how much of a particular chemical is found on that product.
What’s on my Food?


Posted in

Cindy Black

Cindy Black is the Founder of Big Tree School of Natural Healing and the author of Meridian Massage, Pathways to Vitality. She is appreciated for her ability to make the complex accessible, fun, and practical.


  1. Kristin Stevens on September 2, 2023 at 6:34 pm

    introverts ask questions!

  2. Amanda on May 7, 2021 at 11:26 am

    Another great question for the grocery store is “What chemicals are being used on the wet rack?”

    The wet rack is the section in the produce department that is periodically sprayed with water (and whatever additive they choose to use). It may be a way that undesired chemicals are making their way into the produce after it is grown.

    In addition, “What is being used as pest control in the store?” “When freezer and refrigerator temperatures drop below safe levels, for example during a power outage, what is done with the product that has been exposed to unsafe temperatures?” “How is incoming product stored before it makes it to the shelf? Outside in the heat and sun, inside but not properly refrigerated or frozen?”

    Also, “What percentage of a product is required to be organic to have an organic label, 95% 90%? This varies depending on the company certifying the product.

    We absolutely should ask more questions from the people we obtain our food from!

    • Cindy Black on May 8, 2021 at 7:42 am

      Thanks so much for these additional questions.
      I notice that I ask organic growers at Farmers Markets so many questions that I never ask to produce managers in grocery stores. I want to change this habit for myself as I know how hard individual organic farmers are working! It seems upside down that people growing without chemicals have to justify themselves and “conventional growers” do not.

  3. Nancy Zi on March 27, 2021 at 4:06 pm

    Always eat organic. C’mon!

    • Cindy Black on March 27, 2021 at 4:07 pm

      That’s what I do!

  4. Connie Breunig on March 26, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    Thank you! I try to stay away from anything that contains chemicals and pesticides. We have a wonderful grocery store chain here, but still, I sometimes just don’t know what to eat that’s safe. I don’t eat much meat- maybe once a month. I cook from scratch. It seems when I eat processed foods, I feel sick.

    • Cindy Black on April 1, 2021 at 11:07 am

      Hi Connie,
      It’s great to have a good grocery store…and I think it is good for us to be asking about the produce and meats we are interested in right there, inside the store. Our collective asking will have an impact over time as the grocer will supply what we ask for.

  5. Henry S. on March 25, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    You Ladies Rock!
    No wonder they havent found a cure for cancer! We keep putting crap in our bodies and it turns into ‘C’.

  6. Eva on March 25, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    I will take you up on this but I know that here in Spain, where there is little organic, I need to make sure I get the most from my own garden.
    And that is also the reason why I want to have a bigger and bigger veggie garden and more and more fruit trees

    • Cindy Black on April 1, 2021 at 11:08 am

      Hi Eva,

      Yes, grow your own! Yay!

  7. JoAnne on March 25, 2021 at 3:58 pm

    I like to buy my produce at my local organic farmers, they work very hard providing fresh organic fruit and vegetables. I also buy grass fed and grass finished beef from a local farmer that raise black angus , free range pasture raised chickens and eggs. They also use humane butchering practices. Whenever I have questions about my local farmers they have no problems with answering. I do go to regular grocery markets but they don’t really care or know how the food is grown. So, mostly some paper goos and non food products. I’ve been organic most of my life, we grew most of our food growing up. We rarely eat out, unless I know where the food is sourced. Likely, I enjoy cooking so it’s not a problem. It’s up to us to do the research and find good food sources. I know many claim it’s too expensive to eat organically. But I figure that I save money, since eating healthy grown foods. My health is worth it, not to mention the taste of food is so much better. I would love if I had a strip of land to grow my food. I’m only able to grow pots of herbs indoors. Still enjoy getting my hands in the dirt.

    • Cindy Black on April 1, 2021 at 11:12 am

      Hi JoAnne,
      I am with you 100% I’ve been eating organic for decades now, growing my own food, and researching.
      I realize that I’ve been asking lots of questions to local farmers, who always have answers as you say. For me, it’s time to start asking in the grocery store in order to help them understand what they may not know and to motivate the stores to provide better products, which I hope in turn will support those hard-working farmers and ranchers.
      I hope you get that strip land!

  8. Nancy on March 25, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    Cindy, Thank you for this post. Yes, I want to know…I read all the labels as I pick up anything in the market. Also, I learned that 4 is natural, 9 is supposed to be organic, and 3 is the man-made that came out last year. I tell everyone this, it is that 4 digit # on food.

    Also, H F C is one no no, and the 2 markets I go to now know me and how I shop. I talk to the meat dept, the produce dept and now I am on this baked and bread dept. 2 years ago I wanted the regular shredded wheat. I stood in the cereal aisle and just looked at so much garbage packaged cereal that Mom’s put on the table for their little ones to eat before they get on the bus!

    I am nearly 85, at the moment I have a grilled cheese sandwich to put in the little oven my daughter gave me. I wanted the plant-based butter, got the regular unsalted, salted keeps it on the shelf longer, so it is considered nearly rancid.

    I very seldom get prepared anything. I sure do miss a good place as I had in upstate NY to get good foodstuff to fix the many meals I did for my 5 children and husband.

    Yes, we ALL need to put on our big girl boots, pull up our socks, go to the manager and ask, maybe that person is in it just for the money. Well, if no help from that person, my money will go where someone will listen to me. I might just say that!!!

    Thanks again. We all need to educate ourselves and help others.
    Love, Nancy

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