We all want to feed our family only the best available products. In other words, we all want to be responsible consumers. Unfortunately, being a conscious shopper is easier said than done, as companies are often sneaky when labeling their products. They make it intentionally hard for consumers to stay informed and be aware of exactly what they are putting in their bodies. Here are some of the most-used buzzwords in labels and what they actually mean.
Organic – If you want to eat healthy, the first thing people will recommend is buying organic. While that’s usually the better choice, the requirements to label your product “organic” are not exactly high. Usually, it means that cattle was not fed synthetic hormones or antibiotics, poultry did not eat GMO feed or animal by-products. Organic produce contains fewer pesticides.
Free-range – Free-range chicken must be kept uncaged, with access to food and water. They must be in a large enough barn or warehouse, with access to the outside. This does not guarantee that their feed is GMO-free, so look for an “organic” label as well.
Cage-free – Even though it sounds nice (and more and more companies are starting to add this to their labels), cage-free is not the same as free-range. Cage-free chicken must be kept outside of cages, but farmers are not required to grant them access outdoors and the conditions inside the warehouses are usually stressful for the animal.
Grass-fed – Grass-fed cattle means beef richer in nutrients and lower in fat content. Unfortunately, companies can slap that label on their products if they allow their cattle to eat grass only some of the time. They can complement their diet with grains to “improve texture and taste” and they can also include hormones, antibiotics and GMO feeds.
Grass-finished – This is the label you are looking for. In order to claim “grass-finished” cattle, companies are required to feed their cattle grass right until the slaughter.
Air-chilled – If you are buying chicken, look for “air-chilled” products. This is because most chicken is processed in huge chlorine baths before packaging. This adds extra water weight to the meat, it makes them lose their natural flavor and they contain more bacteria. Air-chilled chicken does not go through this process and as a result, has an 80% lower bacteria count.
Non-homogenized – Most milk is homogenized, which means breaking it down into different components and then reassembling it while artificially defining the fat percentage to ensure every bottle tastes the same. Non-homogenized milk, on the other hand, has not been through this process and it’s much more natural as a result. While buying milk, always go for the opaque packaging, because light can actually degrade the products.