Thursday, July 25, 2013

Organic, All-Natural, Free-Range Food Labeling Confusion



Are you confused by labels at the grocery store when shopping for meat, dairy, fruits, veggies and more? I sure am... because many manufacturers don't follow approved certifications because it's either expensive, a lot of work to undergo or they just don't care. Here is a large list of my understanding on many common approved food labels as well as non-approved labels (self-labeling) that you may think are safe, but may be risky to yourself, family and even the community.

Certified Labels: 
These are 3rd party verified by either USDA or non-profit groups that ensure protocol and ongoing practices are met to retain the approved and certified labeling. Often the labeling has a cost that could be expensive, too, so know that some farmers truly care.  These are to be trusted, but products could change over time. 


Fair Trade 
Often seen on coffee, bananas, tea, cocoa, sugar and is enforced by the non gov, Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) and if in the US by Fair Trade USA. Further, this signifies employees received fair wages, shelter, health, safety, may be in trade unions and any forced labor is prohibited. Very cool if you ask me.

USDA Organic
Since 1940 US government has been labeling fruits, veggies, dairy, meat, processed foods, beverages and even health and beauty items. This typically means more than 95% of the product was grown without synthetic growth hormone, pesticide, antibiotech, biotech, contamination in the wind/air from nearby farms, etc during any phase of process or production. If you've seen the phrase, "made with organic ingredients" that means the product has more than 70% organic ingredients. All organic products have a PLU number 9, while other products have a number 4. Basically nothing can be 100% entirely, purely organic similarly to how nothing can actually have 0 gluten ppm contamination either, sad I know.

Certified Naturally Grown 
This correlates with a similar practice to organic standards, but it was actually grown not on a farm certified by the USDA. This is a non-gov program.

Animal Welfare and Human Approved
These are run by different non profits with similar goals to certify that animals will be raised in a human manner. I can't believe that consumers actually get fed animals that are not treated this way, it's sad.

Grassfed
USDA enforces animals such as cows and goat are fed grass during the appropriate growing season and certifies dairy, lamb, goat, beef and bison. In addition animals have not been given antibiotics or hormone feedings ever.

American Humane Certified
Since 2000 this certification forced farmers raised veal, goat, swine, turkey bison, dairy, poultry and beef in a human manner created by animal science experts. This way livestock had ample food, water, shelter and that their staff was trained humanely, too.

Non GMO Project Verified
A unique 3rd party organization that is non-profit for labeling in North America of any food that is not genetically modified/engineered in any way. Whether it be at seedling, manufacturing, to shopping grocery store shelf there is a process in place to avoid any GMO process or even contamination.


Non-Certified Labels: 

These are non 3rd party labeling practices. These depend on a farmer and processor information to support the claim that the foods are in compliance with all standards. You may be wary of these practices and do your research as this is a self-labeling practice. These also can change so be sure to research product often to limit risk and trust. 
All-Natural 
We've all seen this labeling quite a bit. This may be warm and fuzzy label, but there is no universal standard of definition whatsoever for this claim. 

Raised Without Antibiotics
Animals are often fed low doses of hormones just like humans to grow faster or stay healthy, for example. However, this labeling signifies that meat and dairy was raised without antibiotic. 

Hormone-Free - rBGH-free
Farmers made their own decision not to injects livestock with artificial growth hormones or genetic engineered hormone for beef or chicken for example. However USDA prohibits hormones to chickens so the labeling here is a bit confusing. 

Free-Range
Signifies that poultry had time outside frolicking and being themselves (However this could be a few minutes or hours and nobody knows or keeps track) The important factor here is that USDA doesn't have a legal definition for free-range beef, pork or chicken eggs. 

GE-Free Non GMO 
There are no rules to label a food GMO, although there really should be. This labeling helps protect consumers though without the actual 3rd party certification. This means though that there could be traces of GMOs allowed.

Referenced FarmAid articles found here