Know your labels
Do you ever find yourself in the middle of the grocery aisle, scratching your head as you try to make sense of the plethora of food labels out there? Ponder no more: Let us be your guide. ANTIBIOTIC-FREE: In this case, no antibiotics were ever used to prevent or treat disease in this particular animal. The National Dairy Council says that a sick cow can be treated with antibiotics; however, the milk won’t be used from that cow until tests show there are no antibiotics present. CAGE-FREE: Birds were raised without cages, but it doesn’t guarantee they were able to go outside. You’ll see this a lot when shopping for eggs. The term is lightly regulated. FREE-RANGE: This indicates that poultry—chicken, turkey, quail, etc.—have free access to the outdoors. The guidelines are loose on how long the animal can be outdoors and the size of the area. NON-GMO: A fruit, vegetable, or grain has not been genetically modified—or a packaged food has no GM foods included. Many companies that are GMO-free will label their foods as such, and in most cases, organic foods and produce from your local farmer are non-GMO. GRAIN-FED: This label applies to beef products especially and means the cattle was raised on a grain diet (possibly with added supplements) instead of their natural grass diet. Studies have shown that meat from animals raised on grain-fed diets contains less vitamin E, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fats. Often GMO grains and soy are included. GRASS-FED OR PASTURE-FED: These animals have grazed on the pasture and eaten grasses with no other supplements. NATURAL: This one gets a lot of people. The term
is open to interpretation by food companies and doesn’t guarantee that the food is healthy or environmentally conscious. Usually it means these foods undergo minimal processing and don’t contain artificial colors, flavors, and other synthetic ingredients. However, there is no legal definition of the word in labeling. NO ADDED HORMONES AND HORMONEFREE: These animals were raised without receiving growth hormones. If beef is USDA-certified organic, it contains no hormones. ORGANIC OR CERTIFIED ORGANIC: These foods were grown without conventional pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, hormones, or antibiotics and are GMO-free.