If you’re like most folks you probably try, (or at least think about ) taking care of your body by eating “right”. You may even be the type that occasionally buys foods that help conserve Mother Earth’s resources. But, if you’re like me, with dietitians, nutritionists, and “green” experts throwing terms like “hormone-free”, “free-range”, “natural”, and “organic” around, things tend to get confusing. After-all, isn’t organic just a fancy word for natural?
After doing a bit of research, I found the answer … No! Even though these terms often appear on food labels they don’t have the same meanings.
What is organic food?
Organic refers to the way agricultural products such as grains, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, poultry, and meat are grown, raised and processed. For example, organic farmers don’t use conventional methods to fertilize crops or feed animals. Instead of using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, techniques like crop rotation, adding compost and even beneficial insects are utilized. Animals raised on organic farms are fed organic foods, allowed access to the outdoors and kept in clean living quarters. And unlike conventionally raised livestock, they’re not given antibiotics, or growth hormones.
In addition, organic farms and companies that process organic foods must be certified by the government that they meet United States Department of Agriculture, (USDA) organic standards. The only exceptions to this law is are business that sell less than $5000.00 a year in organic products. Violators face a stiff penalty of $11000.00 per incident.
How Can You Tell If Food is Organic?
Read the label. Most, (though not required), certified farms and businesses label their products with USDA Organic Seal.
Use the guide below to help identify organic agricultural products.
Made With Organic
Some Organic Ingredients
While natural, hormone-free, and free-range are important product labels, don’t confuse them with certified organic foods – they’re not the same nor are the words interchangeable. Be a smart shopper by familiarizing yourself with all these terms. Understanding product symbols and labels allows you to make better nutritional decisions for you and your family.
Organic.org – Find practical educational material about “going organic”. Also, has fun activities for kids.
Local Harvest – Find organic farmers’ markets, and family farms in your area.
What are your thoughts on organic foods? Are they really better for your health? Are they worth the expense? Or, are they over-rated?
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