In May of this year, The Organic Center published Part I of a six-phase comprehensive grain study on their sister website, Generations of Organic. The study is designed to compare the nutrient, pesticide, and antioxidant content between organic, "natural" and conventional grain samples.
Part I is titled "A Closer Look at What’s in Our Daily Bread," and claims that "on average, organic breads contain more whole food ingredients, fewer preservatives and additives, and are more nutrient-rich than conventional breads."
Throughout Part I, any mention of the term "natural" appears in parenthesis with a brief explanation that "unlike 'ORGANIC,' the term 'NATURAL' is not regulated in the U.S. (except for meat and poultry) and can therefore be used in a variety of circumstances, and without any oversight. 'NATURAL' is applied broadly to foods that are minimally processed, free of synthetic preservatives and other additives, such as artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors, and (usually) free of hydrogenated oils, stabilizer, and emulsifiers."
What The Organic Center found was surprising.
"While we expected that conventional breads would have more ingredients than organic breads, given the preservatives and additives that tend to be used to extend shelf life and enhance flavor of conventional breads, we were surprised at the size of the difference," said co-author Erin Smith. "In addition, there was a striking difference in the type of ingredients used, with organic breads containing more than 60 percent nutritionally beneficial ingredients versus only 27 percent in conventional breads."
One of the biggest challenges was taking into account different factors from the field to the store. "Nutrient differences, in particular, can fluctuate depending on the climate, soil, variety, etc.," said Smith.
The center conducted its own analysis of various samples of organic and conventional grain, controlling as much as possible for these additional impacts by using samples that are the same variety, grown the same year and in the same region in the United States.
The study is funded by The Organic Center supporters, including Annie’s Homegrown, Bay State Milling, Clif Bar, Kamut International, Rudi’s Organic Bakery, Nature’s Path, and New Belgium Brewery.
The next six-phases of the study will be available on the Generations of Organic website.