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What Are Biodynamic Foods?

Photo: PhenomArtlover / Getty

You may have noticed a new label on the grocery store shelves. Foods and drinks labeled as "biodynamic" are appearing more frequently at stores nationwide. So what exactly does this new label mean? 

As if the grocery store and packaged foods weren't overwhelming enough, another term has started popping up on labels from lentils to leeks. Here, we take a look at what the term "biodynamic" means and what, if anything, you should do differently when grocery shopping.

The label biodynamic refers to specific crop growing methods. Developed in the early 1920s by Rudolph Steiner, a scientist and philosopher, biodynamic farming was one of the first organic movements and has evolved over the last century. In short, the definition of biodynamic is farming that strives to create its own diverse eco-system.

You might be tempted to mentally mash-up organic and biodynamic farming practices, because they have quite a few similarities, but there are some distinct differences. 

Requirements for farms to be certified biodynamic:

  • Farmers must abstain from using synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Farmers must put aside at least 10 percent of their land for the sake of biodiversity.
  • Farms need to meet the standards of the National Organic Program.

A practicing biodynamic farm focuses on keeping everything generated within their farm (animals for manure, medicinal plants for pest control, etc.) to create their own closed eco-system. This process integrates all living beings in the process, from the farmer to the animals to the consumer. 

Although not a very common label, you're likely to see more and more biodynamic foods at your local grocery store in the future. If you're also participating in a CSA (community supported agriculture), inquire if they follow biodynamic practices. You'll be surprised at just how many do.

Bottom line: Biodynamic is an evolution of the organic movement. Organic growing is great for the consumer, but not always best for the planet. Byodynamic farming looks after both the planet and the people. It's another way to know farmers and growers are using planet-friendly growing practices. If you're interested in reducing exposure to pesticides while also encouraging healthy-planet practices, biodynamic is the way to purchase. If you'd like to save your food dollars, stretch your budget and buy biodynamic produce that's most likely to contain the highest amounts of pesticides. Check out the Dirty Dozen list. Likewise, the Clean 15 is a list of produce with the lowest levels of pesticides, so buying conventional is likely fine.