Understanding Organic Food Labels

Today’s supermarket is flooded with items that emphasis their eco-friendly natures. However, it can be hard to tell the difference between the dozens of labels used by farmers and grocery stores. We’ve gathered information on  a few of the most common labels, to help you decode the grocery store jargon.


1. Organic Food

There are three main distinctions that you need to know for foods marked as organic.

  • 100% Organic: Foods with this label can only contain organically grown and produced ingredients. If you’re looking for the most natural option, this is your best bet.
  • USDA Organic: These foods are 95% organic. That means that they could also include synthetic ingredients or additives that are not organic.
  • Made with Organic: These foods must be made with 70% organic ingredients. The other 30% does not need to be organic.


2. Grass-Fed

You see this label frequently on meat products, especially beef and lamb. Theoretically, it means that the animal was raised on a diet that only included grass, hay, and forage. However, this label is only trustworthy if accompanied by a “USDA Process Verified” symbol.  Otherwise, it might not have been verified by the government.

3. Natural

This label is vague, and so are the ingredients it includes. While a product labeled as ‘natural’ does not include any artificial ingredients, it can include genetically modified ingredients–which many would argue are not natural at all. Since it is so easily manipulated to fit different products, this label is untrustworthy.

4. Hormone Free, No Hormones Administered, No Hormones Added

Like the grass-fed label, this label is untrustworthy unless it comes with an additional, independently certified label. It is better to look for rBGH-free and rBST-free. This label means that the product, usually beef or milk, was not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone, which is given to cows to increase milk production.

5. Go With Your Gut

There are dozens of food labels out there, and it can be difficult to decide which ones to trust. If the label’s promises seem vague, they probably are. Items marked with words like ‘natural’ and ‘local’ are nonspecific. If you are adamant about eating organically and want truly natural food, look for labels that are concrete, such as 100% Organic.

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