I recently purchased Netflix and have been watching all the food documentaries. If you’ve watched any of them and are like me, you may have felt quite nauseas by the end of most of the movies. Shortly after watching all movies I have been known to say “that’s it we’re eating all organic.” Honestly, I do not purchase all organic right now. It becomes quite expensive and also research can still not prove that organic is healthier from a nutrient composition. So, I pick my battles. Being a registered dietitian has its upsides when reading food labels, but when I speak to clients, friends, or even my husband, the labels can be quite confusing.
The term organic references the way farmers grow and process dairy, meat, fruit, vegetable, and grain products. Instead of farming the conventional way, utilizing pesticides, and such or regulating where livestock lives and matures, organic farmers utilize crop rotations, mulch, manure, compost and such to prevent disease. Animals are given organic feed, allowed to be outside, and live in a clean household.
The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) regulates and certifies organic products and different foods have seals that state where they stand organically. It is important to realize that the seal is voluntary and that producers who sell less than five thousand dollars of product a year are exempt from certification, but still need to follow USDA standards.
So what does each seal or statement mean?
Everything plus ingredients is organic. Usually a single ingredient food
95% - 100% of everything plus ingredients is organic
Made with Organic Ingredients
70% of ingredients are organic
Contains Organic Ingredients
Contains less than 70% of organic ingredients
A lot of times meats will utilize different terms instead of organic. Here's some clarification.
Minimally processed, no artificial flavors or coloring but may still receive antibiotics
Fed grass or hay, access to outside. Usually healthier/leaner
Not caged, allowed to be outdoors, however this label is unclear. Best to call to get clarification
No Hormones Added
No growth hormones are added. Keep in mind by law poultry and pigs cannot be given hormones
To be organic or not to be is the question. Research is inconclusive regarding if organic foods are healthier from a nutrient composition, but I feel there is an argument worth stating that organic foods are free of hormones, genetically modified organisms (foods that have altered DNA), food additives, food coloring, and many more.
If on a budget it is always worth checking out your local farmer markets, food co-ops, and community supported agricultural farms as prices may be more reasonable. Do you do organic? What’s your trick to the trade?