What "Organic" Means
So, you wanna feed your family organic food. But every time you're at the grocery store, you find yourself staring at all the labels totally lost. There's "organic" and "certified organic" and "100% organic" and "hormone free" and "free range" ... it can be downright daunting to try and figure out exactly what it is you're buying.
So what exactly does "organic" mean? To earn that swell "certified organic" sticker from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all of the producers and handlers of the food must be free of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, growth hormones, irradiation, antibiotics, artificial ingredients and genetic engineering. And the land the food is grown on must be free from synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, sewage sludge fertilizer, a fertilizer derived from the end product of the wastewater treatment (ew!!) and other chemicals for at least three years. Phew!
And it gets even more complicated than that. There's a difference between "100% Organic", "Organic" and "Made with organic ingredients." Here's a little cheat sheet:
- If a product is labeled "100% Organic" it means the USDA certifies that all of the ingredients used in the product are organically grown in soil that has been toxin-free for three years; grown without sewage sludge fertilizer and doesn't contain any genetically modified organisms (or GEOs).
- If a food is labeled "Organic" it means at least 95% of the ingredients in it are organic. The other 5% can be conventional as long as they aren't irradiated, grown with sewage sludge fertilizer (again, ew!) or contain GEOs.
- "Made with organic ingredients" means up to 3 things, or 70%, of the ingredients have to be organic.
- And don't confuse "natural" with organic. "Natural" food refers to food that isn't chemically altered or synthesized and is derived from plants or animals. And grass-fed, cage-free, hormone free or antibiotic-free don't mean "organic" either. They just mean the livestock was raised eating grass, outside of a cage and not given hormones or antibiotics. To be organic, the livestock must be fed organic feed and must be housed in specified conditions. Get it? Got it? Good!