More and more people these days are choosing eco-friendly and organically grown foods — instead of or in addition to — the conventionally grown food they’re accustomed to buying. Nowadays, even regular grocery stores stock organic food brands.
However, just by buying a product whose label says “Organically Produced” doesn’t necessarily solve anything. Here are a few things you should consider when buying eco-friendly food products:
How to Read The Label on an Eco-Friendly Food Item
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines an organic food item as one that is grown without using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, antibiotics, bioengineering, hormones and ionizing radiation. This goes for both vegetable and animal products. The company or farmer that produces the organic food must be inspected and certified by USDA to ensure that the organic standards and rules are followed. Farmers that produce organic foods are required to use renewable resources; this helps conserve the water and soil for future generations. It’s also required that any company that handles or processes an organic food item on its way to the store must also be certified organic.
- Check if your food item is labeled “100% Organic”, which means it’s been made 100% out of organic ingredients, or “Organic” which means that the food is at least 95% organic.
- If the label says “Made with organic ingredients”, you can safely assume that the food is comprised of 70% organic ingredients, but is not 100% organic … Buyer Beware.
Do Sustainable And Organic Mean The Same Thing?
Some foods are grown in places using sustainable farming and agricultural methods. Food-growing techniques that don’t cause harm to the environment and that which help preserve the farming land are sustainable practices. Sustainable farming also ensures that animals are treated with kindness, which results in more and better quality produce. Sustainable practices are eco-friendly and they ensure that the farm lands are not depleted and they are used seasonably to ensure longer term yields.
It is possible to grow products using sustainable practices while the product itself might not be organic. So don’t get confused between these two terms. For example, you might buy an organic tomato that has been shipped to your store but it was probably not grown using sustainable principles.
Today, the trend among health-conscious people is to buy food that is both organic and sustainable.
What Do Bird Friendly Or Cage Free Mean?
Coffee that’s grown in the shade is marked as Bird Friendly or Shade Grown, to indicate the coffee is grown under trees used by migratory birds. This coffee is more expensive than the one that’s grown under the sun. Coffee grown under the sun is exposed to more pests; it requires more pesticides and chemical fertilizers to grow.
Cage-Free or Free Range are labels you see on eggs and poultry products. Cage-free indicates that the hens weren’t housed in cages, but does not mean that the birds were granted access to the outdoors. Also, this label cannot be verified by any third party. However, if the label says “free-range”, it’s required that the poultry product producers demonstrate that the poultry has been allowed to roam freely. The label Free Range is put on eggs or poultry products only if the USDA has validated the farm’s free range poultry practices.
What Do Grass-Fed or Open Pasture Mean?
When you see Grass Fed on a meat packet, it signifies that the livestock was allowed to forage outdoors naturally. However, most cattle are fed grass indoors in a pen at least for the first few months. Therefore, don’t presume that Grass Fed means pasture raised, or open pasture. However, if the label says Open Pasture, it means that the animals have been raised fully outdoors, allowed to roam freely and graze. Animals that are pasture raised get to eat grasses that their bodies are best suited to digest, which means the meat won’t be contaminated with toxins.
What Does Marine Stewardship Council Mean?
This label on your fish and other foods from the ocean indicates that the seafood was caught without any harm to the local ecosystem. It also indicates that the seafood was caught without endangering other ocean creatures.
Are Natural Foods Eco-friendly?
Foods that are prepared using minimal processing while retaining most of their wholesome original state are called natural foods. The term “natural” indicates that the product does not contain any artificial preservatives or ingredients. While only some natural foods are also organic, they are somewhat eco-friendly, as fewer chemicals are used and fewer toxins are released. Organic food is usually labeled as such, following USDA’s standard stipulations.
Is Organic Food Healthier Than Non-organic Food?
Organic food can be part of a healthy diet, though the USDA does not claim they are safer or more nutritious than conventional foods. Organic foods are pesticide free, which is an eco-friendly factor. However, while buying these eco-friendly products, it’s best if you follow the same safe handling practices for all foods.
- Always wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly and peel the skin if it looks unclean.
- Even organically raised and processed foods can harbor bacteria. You should handle these products, especially meat in the same way as you would handle conventional products. Make sure your kitchen is bacteria free and cook your poultry to a 180 degrees F and beef to 160 degrees F.
Author Bio –
John Smith is a retired RN running an online nursing scrub store. He is living eco-friendly life for the past 3 years and enjoys teaching others about doing things in an eco-friendly way.
Source: The Alternative Consumer
It pays to read labels carefully and understand the terms that are being used. Different countries have different standards and certification levels. In South Africa, ‘organic’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are being seen on an increasing number of food and other products. There are certainly some who are using these terms as marketing tools but their production facilities remain unchanged while they continue to degrade the environment. If you can, buy local and find out more about the producers. Check for well-known certification logos and if in doubt, contact the manufacturers- they should have nothing to hide and will be proud of their certification. The food you buy and eat directly affects your health; food that is sustainably and organically produced is better for the environment which leads to healthier living. Check out www.ecovitality.co.za for interesting information about how health and the environment are linked.
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