Okay, now that we know what red flags to avoid in our groceries, let’s talk about the second half of the issue, what do all the labels represent? If you go grocery shopping, you probably have found yourself confused about what every label such as Organic, non GMO, cage free, grass fed, free range, vegetarian fed, and a lot more, mean and asked yourself, if you should pay more for those labels. In this weeks blog post, I am going to shed some light on the labeling and how to choose the right product.
To make this easier, I am going to break this down by most popular labels that you see most often. If there is any other label, not covered here, and you like to know more about, please let me know and I will find the truth behind that label as well.
The organic label, I believe is by far the most famous label, that probably everyone has seen and come into contact with. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, Every year, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of produce that ranks with the highest concentration of pesticides. To determine which items typically have the highest pesticide levels, the EWG analyzes test by the U.S Department of Agriculture. A few months back, I wrote a post about “2017 GMO list, dirty dozen and clean 15″ Please make sure you get yourself very familiar with this list. Also in that post I go into details about all different kinds of Organic lables and what each label means.
What are pesticides? Pesticides are substances used to kill or repel insects, or plants that act as pest and can damage the crop. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the health effects of pesticides are not well understood, but their use has been associated with conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and neurological effects. A study of 50 pesticides and more than 30,000 licensed pesticide applicators linked exposure of seven pesticides that contain chlorinated compounds (including two herbicides, two organophosphate insecticides, and two organochlorines) to increased risk of diabetes.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some benefits in pesticides. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), pesticides are often the only effective way to control disease organisms. Thanks to pesticides, we are able to buy more food and clothes for much cheaper. Pesticides also can help prevent insects damaging our homes.
My personal intake: So many more studies need to be done to fully proof safety of pesticides on humans. The fact that we don’t know if these substances are 100% safe and could potentially harm our wellbeing, and the results that some studies are showing, is enough for me to try to avoid all kinds of pesticides in my environment and go Organic.
Some ideas to buy organic on a budget: If you like to buy organic, but you are concerned about your high grocery bill, here are some suggestions that would help you save some money:
- Cut back on junk foods, processed and packaged foods
- Buy whole fruits and vegetables and wash them, cook them, and prepared them yourself.
- Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season
- Buy frozen or dried (please watch for any additive or preservatives when you buy dried or frozen produce).
GMO or non-GMO
This is another one with big controversy and in need of many more studies. There are some suggestions, based on observation and correlation, that GM foods can cause allergies, antibiotic resistance, and cancer, but more studies need to be done. In fact, I am studying about GMO’s, Glyphosate and how the two go hand in hand right now, so hopefully in the near future, I will be able to share the result of these studies and researches with you. As up right now, there are so many valid debate on both sides that it is hard to 100% say GMOs are bad for you.
What are GMOs? GMO or genetically Modified Organism is an organism that has had its DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering. Usually, GMOs have been altered with DNA from another organism, such as a bacterium, plant, virus or animal, and the result is an organism that is more suitable for what we need. Incase of crops, At least 90 percent of the soy, cotton, canola, corn and sugar beets sold in the United States have been genetically engineered.
Fun Fact: Did you know that FDA has approved production of apples that don’t brown and potatoes that don’t bruise?!!
My Personal opinion: Avoid GMOs until we know more. Suggested risks are too serious to take a chance in my opinion.
Pasture raised (Grass fed), or 100% grass fed, free cage, etc.
Here are famous labels on our animal products.
What does grass fed mean: Grass fed means that the animal was allowed to graze on the grass majority of their time.
The difference between Pasture raised (grass fed) and 100% grass fed: Pasture raise means that the animal graze on pasture whenever possible and get supplemental grain rotations whenever possible. 100% grass fed means that the animal is free to graze on the fresh pasture majority of its time and if necessary will get dried forages like hey, but no grains.
Then what does organic meat represent? USDA certified organic simply means that the animal was fed organic grains free of GMO and pesticides and no hormone added.
What should you choose and why? I will go with 100% grass fed over Organic meat and here is why, Cow’s that graze on grass and eat grass their entire life, have lower fat %, higher Vitamin E, more healthy omega 3 fatty acids, and More CLA (CLA is a healthy fat found in the meat and milk of grazing animals).
So to rank your options:
- 100% grass fed or 100% pasture raised and USDA Organic, which can be hard to find because once the animals are free to graze it is hard to ensure that their feed is in compliance with USDA’s standards.
- 100% grass fed or 100% pasture raised
- USDA Organic
- Conventional (I personally will never buy this kind of meat)
SO is “free range”, “Cage free” and “pasture raised” all the same? NO, there is a reason I have put that “no” in all capitals! This confusion usually comes when we are dealing with Poultry and poultry products such as eggs. “Free range” same as “cage free”, just indicate that the hen was not limited in a cage, but they don’t guarantee that the hen had access to graze outdoors and this does not ensure the quality of her feed. Pasture raised or grass fed, however, means that the hen had access to fresh pasture. It has been proven that pasture raised (true free range) eggs are more nutritious than conventional one. They have higher Vitamin A, E, beta carotenoids and Omega 3 with less cholesterol and saturated fats. Pasture raised poultry also has less fat and more Omega 3 fatty acids.
I hope this post has helped to shed some light on all the labels that you tend to see in the market and helps you to make the right decision for you and your family. Remember, my goal by no mean is to tell you guys what to buy and eat. In fact, you should not let anyone make this decision for you. It is your body and your health, so you need to make the decision for yourself. My goal is to provide a guide for you guys, so your decision making process can get a little easier.
Hope you found this guide helpful
Stay happy and healthy