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Label reading 101
Let’s see what all of those confusing labels really mean.
Note: there are numerous products on the market that show
round green logos with some text inside. Some people mistake it with
Organic logo; if you don’t read, it does look a little bit like the real Organic logo
- “Organic” with green circular USDA Certified Organic logo: product in front of you contains minimum of 95% Certified USDA Organic Ingredients
- “100% Organic” with green circular USDA Certified Organic logo: product in front of you contains 100% Certified USDA
- “Organic” without showing green circular USDA Certified Organic logo: grown with USDA organic standards by a small producer, who sells under $5000 annually and thus is exempt from having to go through certification program.
- Natural: Used to highlight specific natural aspect of the product. To be legal, the label must explain the use of the term natural (such as – no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.) From: USDA
- “Treated with Radiation” or “Treated by Irradiation”: Many conventionally (non-organic) grown/processed veggies, fruits, meats and eggs are exposed to radiation to kill all bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. (From: EPA). Radiation induces formation of carcinogen formaldehyde from carbohydrates (fructose, sucrose, glucose)! (From: FDA and NIH). Make sure to read more about problems of the irradiated food on our Irradiation page.
- Grass fed: Grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning. The diet shall be derived solely from forage consisting of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. (From: USDA)
- Certified Humane: Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) is a national nonprofit organization that was created to improve the lives of farm animals through the highest animal welfare standards for farm animals in food production. This program includes all stages of the animal’s life including handling and slaughter. HFAC does that through the Certified Humane Raised and Handled certification and labeling program for meat, eggs, dairy, and poultry products. These products are from animals raised according to Humane Farm Animal Care’s Animal Care Standards.
- Certified Naturally Grown: Certified Naturally Grown is a Grassroots Alternative to the USDA’s National Organic Program meant primarily for small farmers distributing through local channels – farmer’s markets, roadside stands, local restaurants, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs and small local grocery store. Certified Naturally Grown is based on the ‘Participatory
Guarantee System’ model of certification. An estimated ten thousand
farmers worldwide participate in this type of peer-review certification program.
- CHEMICAL FREE: The term is not allowed to be used on a label. (From USDA)
- FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING: Producers have demonstrated to the USDA that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside. Used as a contrast to “caged” poultry. Term “outside” does not imply a pasture, it often is a concrete yard. (From USDA)
- NO HORMONES (pork or poultry): Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim “no hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”. (From USDA)
- NO HORMONES (beef): The term “no hormones administered” may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the USDA by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals. (From USDA)
- NO ANTIBIOTICS (red meat and poultry): The terms “no antibiotics added” may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the USDA demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics. (From USDA)
- BASTED or SELF BASTED: Bone-in poultry products that are injected or marinated with a solution containing butter or other edible fat, broth, stock or water plus spices, flavor enhancers and other approved substances must be labeled as basted or self basted. The maximum added weight of approximately 3% solution before processing is included in the net weight on the label. Label must include a statement identifying the total quantity and common or usual name of all ingredients in the solution, e.g., “Injected with approximately 3% of a solution of ____________ (list of ingredients).”. Use of the terms “basted” or “self-basted” on boneless poultry products is limited to 8% of the weight of the raw poultry before processing. (From USDA)