There is no easy answer to this question. Today we are faced with a plethora of food choices and a formidable challenge in understanding food labels that can be deceptive and confusing. Strolling through the isles of a supermarket is like venturing through a maze of unfamiliar terms, misleading labels, and words we can’t pronounce.
To help you make good choices about the food you eat, and better understand what you see, let’s start with a few basic things you should know.
Organic food is produced by farmers who use renewable resources and practice conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. It is produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, sewage sludge, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic is a labeling term that means the product was produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act.
Keep in mind that organic is not synonymous with healthy. Organic food can still contain high amounts of fat, calories, and sugar. Companies like to add the words organic ingredients on products to make you think it’s healthy. More on the fallacies and fantasies of labeling in future posts.
- Dairy: Mother’s milk and milk products may be labeled as organic only if organic milk comes from cows that are organically managed for at least 12 months.
- Poultry: Birds must be kept in flocks of less than 500 and must be raised organically from the second day of life. They must have free access to the organic pasture and be fed on at least 80% organic, non-genetically modified feed.
- Be aware of labels saying “raised without added hormones” on poultry. In fact, Federal law prohibits the use of hormones for poultry, therefore the use of “hormone-free” labels on poultry products misleads consumers. A higher price can be charged by claiming that the product is different.
- Chicken Eggs: Organic egg production is the production of eggs through the process of organic means. Look for eggs labeled “certified organic”, “uncaged”, “free-range”, and “eggs from pastured hens”. Grass-fed pastured hens are raised on pasture, not grains. Pastured hens produce eggs that can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens. Note that words like “fed vegetarian feed,” “farm fresh” or “Omega-3” on egg cartons mean nothing about the animal’s welfare. In fact, eggs in these cartons are from hens in cages.
To find out where to buy these products in your area, visit http://www.local.com
In the next post, we will talk about the various types of beef and the differences in the way the cattle is raised, fed, treated, and labeled. In future posts we will discuss various lifestyle and dietary choices such as omnivore, vegetarian, vegan, and more.
Until we chat again,
Merci and Bon Appétit