How to read labels

 How many of you have been confused by marketing tools on food labels? I know I've been tricked a time or two. The point of a food label claim can be to ensure you the food you are about to purchase is "healthy" for you, but in reality it  may be feeding you a bunch of bull. So, how do we know which food to choose? Here I decode all the food label claims one by one and and share what is most important for you to consume.

Antibiotic free

means that an animal was not given antibiotics during its entire lifetime. other phrases could include "no antibiotics administered" or "raised without antibiotics"


Cage free

means that the birds were raised without cages. However is does not indicate whether the bird was raised indoor or outdoors. If you are looking to buy eggs, meat, or poultry it is best to look for a label that says "pasture-raised."


Fair trade

means that the farmers and workers have received fair wage and worked in acceptable conditions while growing and packaging the product


Free-range

This term is unidentified by the USDA. It does not indicate that something is antibiotic free or hormone free, it only indicates that the birds have access to the outdoors so they can engage in natural behaviors.


GMO-FREE, NON-GMO

GMO's or genetically modified organisms. are plants or animals that have been genetically engineered with DNA from bacteria, viruses, or other plants and animals. This is one of the most important labels.



Grass-fed

means the animals were fed a grass diet, their natural diet, rather than grains or animal by product, synthetic hormones, or antibiotics to promote growth. However, they may have been given antibiotics to treat disease so make sure it's antibiotic free as well.


Hormone-free

raised without added growth hormones. If they are given it, you will be eating it when you consume. Also look for "no hormones administered" and "no added hormones." Get a local butcher or farmer for your meats so you know where it comes from and how they are raised.


Pasture-raised

indicates that the animal was raised on a pasture where it is able to eat nutritious grasses and other plants rather than being fattened on grain. Farmers that pasture raise allow the animal to live in a humane manner and move freely to carry out natural behaviors


RBGH-FREE or RBST-FREE

Recombinant bovine growth hormone or recombinant bovine somatropin is a genetically engineered growth hormone that is injected into cows to artificially increase their milk production. It is completely illegal in European countries and Canada so why is it allowed in America?? Organic milk is rBGH free.


and last but not least...


Organic

For something to be labeled organic it must meet the following guidelines to qualify...

 

  • Abstain from the application of prohibited materials; synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and sewage sludge
  • Prohibit the use of GMO's 
  • Employ positive soil building, conservation, manure management, and crop rotation practices
  • Provide outdoor living and pasture for livestock
  • Refrain from antibiotic and hormone use in animals
  • Sustain animals with 100% organic feed
  • Avoid contamination during processing of organic products
  • Keep records of all operations

The best way to stay away from the bad labels and invite the good is to find a local farmer or meat manufacturing company that follows these protocols. DO your research! You may find buying from the local farmer will save you money in the long run. Personally, I get my meats from C Roy Farm in Yale, MI. They produce their own and get meats and poultry from other farmers in Michigan and have insanely good prices on Organic. I try to buy local for vegetables and fruits too. Check out my blog post What is a locavore? to see where else I get my food.

 

XO Jaclyn Renee