When you do your grocery, you will often see food labels such as organic, free-range, natural, non-GMO. But what exactly do these labels mean?
"Natural" does not equal organic
"Natural" is an unregulated food label. This means the term can be applied by anyone.
USDA Certified Organic Food Label
When shopping for organic foods, look for the USFA Organic seal. It is the only label that specifies that a food is certified organic. Only foods that 95-100 percent organic can use the USDA Organic label.
100% organic – foods that are completely organic or made with 100 percent organic ingredients can use this USDA label.
Organic – foods that are made of at least 95 percent organic ingredients can use the USDA seal.
Made with organic ingredients – foods that contain 70 percent organic ingredients do not display the USDA seal. However, they may list the specific organic ingredients on the front of the package.
Contains organic ingredients – foods that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredient do not display the USDA label. Instead they may display a list of organic ingredients on the package’s information panel.
Meat and Dairy Labels
Meats and dairy have other labels aside from those above. Understanding these labels can help you make better food choices.
Natural – This means that the mean was "minimally processed." They can not have artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, or any other artificial ingredients in them. However, animals may still be given antibiotics or growth enhancers.
Grass fed – just as the label suggests, it means the animals are fed solely grass or hay. The animals have access to the outdoors. Cattle are natural grass eaters. Thus, feeding them on a diet of grass of hay tend to make them healthier and leaner. Grass fed beef also tends to have more of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Free-range – this means the animals were not locked up in cages and have access to the outdoors. Unfortunately, in a small area, animal density can get really high, and their outside may be limited. It is still hard to define exactly what free-range means. You might want to contact your local producer for clarification.
No Hormones added – This term is allowed when animals are raised without the use of any added growth hormones. For beef and dairy products it can be helpful, but by law, poultry and pigs cannot be given hormones, so don’t pay extra for chicken or pork products that use this label.