I think a lot of us are very confused about food labeling. Sometimes I wonder, what am I buying anyway? What’s the difference between organic and natural? And what do I really know about the USDA or FDA regulations. After a bit of research I’ve come up with some information that could help you out as you wheel around your favorite food store.
Here are some basic guidelines:
NATURAL: According to the FDA, food is no longer natural once it has been processed. This label may be used only as long as the product does not contain anything artificial such as coloring or flavoring.
FREE RANGE: We would all like to imagine that our chickens are roaming around on some beautiful farm getting sunshine and fresh air. But the truth is that any animal allowed “ACCESS” to the outdoors can be considered free range. There is no regulation for the specific amount of time they are actually confined or allowed outside. Also note that with the current epidemic of Bird Flu, even free range poultry is being confined in an attempt to isolate the disease. Avian flu is not a threat to humans however it is likely to put many chicken farmers out of business which in turn will raise the price.
GRASS FED: According to the USDA these animals are only allowed milk before weaning and then strictly grass fed. It has been proven that this beef contains less fat, more omega-3 fatty acids and more vitamin E.
HORMONE FREE: Now this is very interesting. Did you know that hormones are strictly prohibited in all Pork and Poultry? So if the label reads “No Hormones Added” you should not be paying a premium for that. It must also say that federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones. In other words, it’s just a marketing thing! Again, all of our Pork and Poultry is hormone-free! But producers of Beef can boast of no hormones or antibiotics as long as they have the proper documentation to prove it. So if you choose, go ahead and pay extra for hormone-free Beef.
Standards vary from product to product. Some claim there can be no chemicals used,while others say that at least 70% of the ingredients must be chemical free, with only 30% artificial. We can only control so much about what we consume. But buying organic probably means you are getting the purest form of that food available today. Whole Foods claims to have the largest selection of certified organic products. Here’s what they have to say about choosing organic.https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/organic-food Items such as eggs, meat and milk may use the term organic if the animals were not given antibiotics or growth hormones.
NON-GMO: By the year 2018 all genetically modified products in the U.S. and Canada will be required to be labeled. In this country the majority of our corn, soybean, canola and sugar beet are genetically modified. In other words they are engineered by scientists. Anything labeled “Non-GMO” may not contain any genetically modified organisms. But note that this does not mean the product is organic. When given a choice, at this stage of the labeling regulations, I would choose organic over non-gmo because the requirements are stricter. Read about Whole Foods commitment to labeling gmo products.
Food Shopping is a tricky business today. We have to educate ourselves about the products available to us and then do our best to make good choices. It can seem overwhelming I know, but the pay-off is worth it as we strive to eliminate toxins from our bodies. Decide what you are and are not willing to pay a little extra for. And if you would like to try some fun Blog reading, check out the Food Babe @ http://foodbabe.com/2015/02/26/difference-between-organic-non-gmo-labels/ After you gather as much information as you can use your best instincts when shopping for food. Read labels carefully. Support your local Farmer’s Market. And then have fun making creative, nutritious meals for your friends and family.