Learn Your Labels!
When standing in the grocery store deciding what foods to buy it can feel like a battle of the labels. Should you buy the Organic, Free-Range, or Grass-Fed? Or is Natural the key? And what do all these labels actually mean? To better prepare yourself for the war its time to be demystify those terms.
Don't be fooled by labels that are not backed up by strong standards... Below is a list of labels that are trustworthy since independent parties certify them.
Effective since 2002, ensures that the food was produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, genetic engineering, antibiotics, hormones, sewage sludge, or irradiation. It also implies that the farmer is promoting biological diversity by crop rotation, conserving and renewing the soil, and protecting water sources
There are four USDA Organic categories:
o "100% Organic" - may proudly display the USDA Organic Seal. The product must be 100% organic by weight, not including water and salt. No synthetic ingredients are allowed by law. A cereal could be called "100% Organic Granola" for instance.
o "Organic" - 95% of the content by weight (excluding water and salt) is organic. These products may carry the USDA Organic Seal. The cereal could be called "Organic Granola".
o "Made with Organic Ingredients" - at least 70% of the content is organic. The front of the product may display "Made with Organic" with the specific organic ingredients listed. The remaining 30% must come from the USDA's approved list. May not display the USDA Organic seal. The cereal could be called "Granola - made with organic oats, organic oil, organic flax seed and organic almonds".
o Less Than 70% Organic - may list specific ingredients, which have been organically produced on the ingredient panel. May not display the USDA Organic seal. May make no mention of the word organic on the package front.
Fair Trade Certified
This label ensures that farmers (or artisans, depending on the product) receive fair wages and working conditions, thus allowing them better access to education, healthcare, and so on.
Foods certified: coffee, tea, chocolate, tropical fruit, rice and sugar
Guarantees that livestock receive continuous access to natural outdoor forage during growing season
Foods certified: dairy, beef, and lamb
Animals had access to clean food and water and were raised without antibiotics
Foods certified: meat, poultry
American Humane Certified
Assures humane care of livestock, no use of growth hormones or non-therapeutic antibiotics
Foods certified: meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy
Food Alliance Certified
Indicates sustainable farming practices, soil and water conservation, and fair treatment of workers
Foods certified: milk, frozen food, fruit, wheat, meat, and vegetables
Protects tropical bird habitats
Foods certified: Coffee
No synthetic pesticide use, no genetic engineering, no crops grown in areas with strong electromagnetic fields, and agriculture timed with planetary rhythms
Foods certified: wine, cheese, eggs, fruit, meat, and vegetables
Marine Stewardship Council
Foods certified: Wild and farmed fish
Protects rain forests
Foods certified: bananas, coffee, orange juice, chocolate, and tea