Making Sense of Labels: Buying Organic, Farm-Raised, Hormone-Free and Local Does Matter!

Making Sense of Labels: Buying Organic, Farm-Raised, Hormone-Free and Local Does Matter!When you walk into the grocery store, all of the labels can be quite confusing. But learning to read labels is an important part of shopping for your self , your family and for the environment! Once you learn how to decipher labels, you will find it surprisingly easy to make these healthy, life-affirming choices.
The unbelievable, staggering truth is that organic produce has an average of 83% more nutrients, according to a Rutgers University study.
If that does not make you want to stop buying conventional products perhaps this will. Not only are the foods sprayed with chemicals and full of hormones not as nutritious, but they are seriously damaging to our bodies. Our bodies were not created to handle such a staggering amount of man-made chemicals, and it is no wonder that we are having a proliferation in our society of immune diseases, ADHD, cancer and infertility. Is this really what we want to put into our children (and our own) bodies when we have easier, more readily available choices?

Organic labeling can be confusing but here it is in a nutshell. The USDA Organic Seal means that the produce was grown, raised, handled without pesticides and herbicides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, genetic engineering or irradiation and produced with an emphasis on water and soil conservation. The100% Organic label can only be used on products containing only organic ingredients, the Organic label means that the product contains 95-99% organic ingredients, the Made with Organic Ingredients label means that the product has 74-94% organic ingredients, and an organic listing on the side panel means it has less than 73% organic ingredients. As a side note, Natural or all-natural just means that there are just some natural ingredients and does not mean that the product is free of unnatural additives and hormones.

Do you have to go all organic tomorrow? No! But take baby steps you are comfortable with. There is a group of produce called the Dirty Dozen (no, it’s not a rock band) that are fruits and vegetables containing the highest level of pesticides, and it is imperative that you buy all of these organically! The Dirty Dozen are peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes, pears, spinach and potatoes. The produce that is lowest in pesticides is called the Cleanest 12, which are the least important to buy organically. They are onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, frozen sweet peas, asparagus, kiwis, bananas, cabbage, broccoli and eggplant. If you are interested, you can go to download a shopper’s chart. We have ours laminated and up on the fridge for a nice reminder!

Does organic mean local? No! Take the time to consider where your produce or other items are coming from and buy local instead. Consider the“environment cost” and how much the food item has traveled to get to you. We are using so much fuel and creating so much carbon dioxide, which has been cited as a cause of global warming. Additionally, often fresh produce such as apples have to be picked before they are ripe and placed in an oxygen-free environment until they reach their destination to avoid spoiling? Not only is this not-natural but it results in apples that don’t taste as good as fresh ones.

Do we really need apples shipped from South America when we have delicious locally produced ones? Do we really need bottled water from Fuji when filtered water in a take away bottle will do? (Furthermore, do we really need to consume bottle after bottle of water to only have each bottle take 100 years to decompose? Not to mention the dangerous chemicals from the plastic leaking into our water!!!) Is it normal that we can have tomatoes, avocados and other seasonal fruits and vegetables year-round?

The other important set of labels is Organic, Free-Range and Hormone-Free. It is essential that you buy all of your meats, dairy and eggs with these labels. Not only do you want to make sure that the food you are eating was handled in a humane way, but you also do not want all of the hormones and antibiotics entering your body. As a side note, Natural does not mean organic and these meats are not held up to the USDA Standards and may or may not have been given antibiotics and hormones or treated in as humane a way. The meats from cows that have grazed on the land and not been shoved into feed lots are much more nutritious- and much better tasting, more nutritious and better for our bodies! Whole Foods has a fairly extensive selection of free-range and hormone-free meats but if you want to go the extra step, it is also possible to buy from local farmers. I would be happy to put you in contact with some local suppliers if you are interested.

Take baby steps and gradually make more informed choices for yourselves, your families and the environment!


  • […] as much fruit to your diet as you can, however, buy locally grown food in season for environmental concerns and maximum nutrition. But, as a side note, it is not recommended that […]

  • Jose
    July 29th, 2014 at 2:18 am



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