Organic or Natural?
The dilemma should have part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc… but for now I will just focus on the poultry dilemma. So first off, let’s consider chicken. In our pursuit of the healthiest possible foods to eat, we should eat organic first whenever we can. When it comes to produce, be sure to follow the dirty dozen guidelines as your first choice in organic.
So why is organic different than “All Natural”? Well, sadly all natural really means nothing according to this Doctor’s research on the USDA, and the USDA guidelines are what matter. If the term all natural is used, it appears as though it means NOTHING! Even use of chemicals that have been altered from their original state appears to be fine in the all natural world, because all natural means derived from nature. And as far as I know, nobody is using moon rocks in your food yet!
Organic however, is a much more strict term, and if a product is actually ORGANIC then the USDA label will be attached.
With this label, you know that the product has been certified organic by the USDA… so what does that mean? Well this USDA-FDA article sums it up better than I will, but here are the important details:
The symbol above means 95% or more of the product is Organic.
Organic means that there have been no chemicals used in improving growth rates (fertilizer for plants, or growth hormone for animals), reducing pesticide rates (arsenic is present in conventional chicken feed, or pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on conventional plants), or reducing disease rates (antibiotics are given constantly in most conventional meat farming). Organic farms use non-chemical methods for all of these areas.
A separate distinction “Made from organic ingredients” is allowed if 70% of the product is made from organic material.
Organic designation can apply to foods that have been grown in CLEAN soil, which requires that the soil has been free of the above chemicals for three years, before the organic designation can start. As I dig deeper into this ruling, it appears as though this requirement falls under the jurisdiction of the state, thus will vary from state to state. Reading through Washington’s guidelines helps to understand WHY it is more expensive for organic!
Because there is no specific designation for all natural, does not mean that you can make label claims of any type without reprimand. There are very spcific rules for what claims are placed on a label, and fines can be steep if a producer is found to be outside of those guidelines. If a product says no antibiotics, then it had better be… or no growth hormones. However, claims of no antibiotics, no growth hormone, which are common in chicken. Does not do anything to insure that the chickens are not raised on chemically treated feed (arsenic has been used to insure lasting storage in grain silos as well as to promote growth – don’t trust me… how about the NYTIMES).
You can find good ORGANIC chicken at either of these sellers websites:
Eggs are another example of slick marketing to help sales, and encourage belief that you are eating the healthiest option for eggs out there. In reality, organic in this industry is a mis label according to organic standards. Mercola recently reviewed an article from The Cornucopia Institute that showed that most hens producing organic eggs have no access to the outdoors, which is part of the definition of organic in egg industry. They conclude that the majority of US organic egg product should carry a label “Given Organic Feed” vs actually baring the USDA Organic label.
The most valuable piece that comes from their research can be found HERE which is the scorecard of different egg producing farms. Organic Valley, which is a very popular brand that can be purchased here in GA, receives a 3 out of 5. Horizon Organic and Eggland’s Best both receive a HORRIBLE 1 out of 5 for their extemely poor conditions. I would recommend you do not waste your money on either of those brands.
I currently do not know where Trader Joe’s get’s their privately branded eggs, so I am unsure if that is a good option. I would keep an eye out for wherever you can find Organic Valley. They have a great “pasture butter” as well, which is organic butter from grass fed (pasture grazing) cows!