A guide to organic labels

Shopping in the food aisle can be very confusing. Everyone is selling you an image of what they offer.... but what are you really buying? There are a few easy ways that you can tell what you are purchasing! These are terms and word to be knowledgeable on when purchasing food at the grocery store or at the farmers market. 

 

Meat Chickens Raised Outside on Our Pasture

  Our Cows Are Grass-Finished

Our Cows Are Grass-Finished

Ask questions! 

Sustainable - Sustainable agriculture is a very broad term that means a farm has a commitment to improving the land with their farming practices. 

Bio-dynamic – Bio-dynamic farming is similar to sustainable. A bio-dynamic farm will usually be smaller but has a variety of animals and crops that all work together to create a balanced eco-system.

Local – “Local” is probably the most used term you’ll see and also the most vague… Local carries a connotation that the product is healthful but when purchasing, you really need to dig deeper because farming practices matter more than just location. Just because an egg is laid geographically close to you does not mean it wasn’t fed junk chicken feed!

Grass-fed – “Grass-fed” means that an animal had access to pasture. You have to be careful with this term because a cow can be fed grain in the final months of its life and can still be sold legally as grass-fed. The important question to ask is whether the product is grass-finished.  

Grass-finished – This term means that the animal you are buying has never been fed grain. We are proud to say that we finish all of our beef on grass at Alden Hills.

All-Natural or Natural – Legally this term doesn’t mean anything on a label. Ask the seller for more information!

Look at the label

Organic – Organic means that a product meets the USDA Organic standard and is inspected by a third party certifying agency to verify. I see people using terms like “better than organic” or “raised organically” but these mean nothing. If it doesn’t have the Organic seal, then it is not Organic! Alden Hills is proud to be a certified Organic farm and as of 2018 all our beef is certified as well. 

Certified Grass-fed – This is a certification that verifies that an animal is truly raised on grass its whole life.

Certified All-Natural – This certification is similar to Organic but less strict.

Certified Non-GMO – This certification ensures that no genetically modified organisms were fed or grown to make a product. Certified Organic includes these requirements as well.

Certified Humanely Raised – This certification focuses solely on how the animal was raised and verifies that it is raised in a humane way. 

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KNow your farmer

The most important thing to remember with all of these different labels is that you should get to know your farmer! That’s the best way to understand how they do things, and you can see for yourself if you agree with their farming philosophies.

I encourage you to visit not only us, but any local farmer that you buy from, so you can see how they do things. Local means nothing unless you know the farm and the farmer. If you pair the concepts of “local” and “Organic” I believe that you will get a superior product every single time.

 

Levi Powers

Manager, Alden Hills Organic Farms