Understanding Organic Food labels

diet-woman“Here are some of the labels you’re likely to see in the market place, organic,’ natural,’ ‘free-range,’ and ‘non-GMO.’ All of these can be seen in the market place. Understanding this terminology is essential to you, if you are to become a knowledgeable consumer.

The most important point to remember is the term ‘natural’ does not mean organic. “Natural’ is an unregulated term that can be used by anyone, on any product, whereas the term ‘organic’ means that a set of production standards have been met to produce the item. We’re already talked about the labeling of ‘organic’ products. The label ‘natural’ means minimal processing, we’ll talk more about that when we cover animal food labels.

If the term ‘free-range’ is used, it means the animal is not confined in a cage, and it is free to roam through an area. The term does not mean the animal is ‘organically’grown. There is no certification required in the use of the term, free-range.’

The initials GMO stands for ‘Genetically Modified Organism.’ The term may or may not be on a package of food. There is no legislation that requires food manufacturers to label a food as containing or not containing GMOs. Some do use the term non-GMO on a label, as a further inducement for shoppers to purchase their product.

There are some labels used in the meat, poultry and dairy industry that need to be clarified, they are: Meat, Poultry and Dairy Labels:

The organic label is the most regulated term, but when it comes to meat or poultry we often see many other terms used. In order to make informed choices, it is helpful to know what some of these terms mean (their use can vary from country to country):

*Natural-In the U. S., this label means “minimally processed” and that product cannot have any artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives or any other artificial ingredient in it. However, animals can still be given antibiotics or growth enhancers.

*Grass Fed-This term means the animals are fed solely on a diet of grass or hay (the term would apply to grazing type animals like cattle or sheep). These animals have access to the outdoors. Cattle are natural ruminants that eat grass, so they tend to be healthier and leaner when fed this way. In addition, grass fed beef has been shown to have more of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

*Free-range-This term means slightly different things in other parts of the world. In the U. S. the term broadly means that the animals weren’t confined to a cage and had access to the outdoors. Unfortunately, in the U. S. at least, the animal density can be high and the actual time out of doors may be quite small. For that reason, it is difficult to determine what “Free Range” means. You could contact the producer directly and ask for clarification.

*No hormones added- In the U. S. and in some other countries, where the use of growth hormones is permitted, this term indicates that the animals are raised without the use of any added growth hormones. For beef and dairy products that is useful information, but for poultry’ and pigs it is useless information, since by law, they cannot be given hormones. Don’t pay extra for poultry and pork that use this label…it’s just a sales gimmick.”

“Boy oh boy, some of these food producers are unscrupulous, I’ve read that very same thing on packages of chicken, ‘No hormones added.’ And they couldn’t add the hormone anyway because it’s against the law! That burns me up!”

“Yeah, I definitely agree. They take advantage of our lack of knowledge. It turns out, our only defense against such tactics is information. A knowledgeable shopper is a wiser shopper!”

“Ifeel better informed now, but I read something in the paper the other day I want to ask you about.”

“Okay, since this is my day for answering questions, fire away, but I should warn you it’s getting late now and I haven’t started dinner yet, and if I spend much more time talking about food with you, you might just have to take me out to dinner. Are you willing to risk that possibility?”

“I’m already on the hook for a month of shopping with the Granola Crowd so what’s a dinner out? I’ll pop for the dinner at a restaurant of your choice.”

“Okay Big Spender, what’s your question. You’ve got my 100% attention.’’

‘You know how I love fish, the article I read mentioned something about mercury contamination in fish.”