What's in a Label?

We all want to eat healthier for our bodies and our environments, but a lot of food labels can be misleading, especially when it pertains to animal products. Use this cheat-sheet to make healthy choices for your family and avoid paying more for a label that really doesn't mean that much.

Meaningful Labels:

Organic and Biodynamic. You can be assured that these animals were given no antibiotics, growth hormones or feed made from animal byproducts. In addition, no genetic modification, synthetic pesticides or use of fertilizer made from sewage sludge is allowed in organic production.

Certified Humane Raised and Handled. Under the humane treatment program, growth hormones are prohibited and animals are raised on a diet without antibiotics, but can be used in the treatment of sick animals. Animals have access to clean and sufficient food and water and a safe and healthful living environment is required from birth through slaughter.

USDA-Verified Grass-Fed. This meat came from animals that ate a 100 percent grass (or forage) diet, and had access to pastures during the growing season. Studies suggest that grass-fed meats are lower in total fats than conventional meats, and have higher levels of “good” fats like omega-3s.

Misleading Labels

Free-range and free-roaming. This only means that poultry has had "access" to the outdoors, even if that means only that the door to the coop was left open for a few hours.

Natural. A natural label doesn’t mean that the animal ate a natural diet or was raised naturally. The only thing natural does mean is that no artificial ingredients or colors were added to the cut of meat itself.

No additives. There are no standards behind the "no additives" label. Chemicals, such as pesticides and antibiotics, could still have been used.

No antibiotics. This only means what it says. Pesticides, sewage sludge, animal byproduct could all be used if the only claim made on the product is “no antibiotics.”

No hormones. While it may be more valuable to buy beef and milk products that come from animals raised without synthetic hormones, federal law prohibits the use of synthetic hormones in chicken production. So while this claim is truthful, it may not be worth more than unlabeled poultry products, including eggs.

Applegate Farms is a great nationwide brand. All Applegate Farms products are USDA-certified organic and humane. Click here for a coupon and to learn about how Applegate Farms is working for a healthier school lunch program for your children.

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Beth said...

There's also Animal Welfare Approved. This label on meat, dairy and eggs means that a family farmer has raised the animals with the highest welfare standards, as designated by the World Society for the Protection of Animals. High welfare practices lead to better stewardship of the environment and produce healthier, safer products. Visit http://www.AnimalWelfareApproved.org for more information and a searchable database for where these products are available in your state.

Leslie said...

Thanks for the info Beth! That's a great reference.

lindsay said...

Wow! I had always relied on the free range label - that is very upsetting, but good to know! This is all very helpful and resourceful. Thanks ladies!

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