Organic 101: The Truth Behind Food Labels

Last week, Baked wrote about different food labels that aren’t always self explanatory or transparent. This week we bring you the meaning behind specifically organic and natural food labels. Questions you may have: What does a “natural” label mean? What about “grass fed,” or “local”? This week, Baked will decode 5 common organic labels so you can master the art of understanding what you’re buying at the grocery store.


1. USDA Organic

This label is super expensive for farmers to have on their food, so you know it’s legit. It means the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) regulates the soil conditions, animal raising practices, use of pesticides or weed killers, and use of additive chemicals. This doesn’t actually mean, however, that no pesticides or weed killers are used. USDA organic products must have 95% organic ingredients. Some farmers don’t agree with the USDA regulations, so they opt for the simple “organic” label.


2. 100% Organic

This label is extra legit, and means that the farmer or food manufacturer went the extra mile to make sure every single ingredient is made without pesticides, chemicals, additives, synthetic materials, and is not genetically modified in any way.


3. Grass-Fed

Typically farm animals are fed corn or soy products that make them grow faster and bigger than usual. Grass-fed animals are supposed to be primarily fed grass, or allowed to graze, however, there are no other specifications or regulations for this label. Don’t let the hipsters fool you; this isn’t really sanctioned.


4. Local 

The demand for local foods is ever-growing, but how far away can something be grown to still be considered “local”? It turns out, no one knows. Some people think a 100-mile radius is local; others think 500 miles is suitable (Whole Foods says 200 miles, FYI).


5. Natural

This one is especially sketchy. What does “natural” even mean when the majority of our produce is being genetically modified or grown with scary chemicals? There’s no legal definition or government regulation for what is considered natural, and even foods with genetically modified ingredients can be labeled as such. Be extra careful with this one.


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