The Truth About Organic Food Labels

organic labels

There is a lot of talk more recently about the validity of organic products, with claims that they don’t have any added health benefits compared to conventional produce. And it’s even harder to tell the difference between the many organic food labels. With all the personal research done over the last 10 years, I’m going to share with you the summarized version of what all these organic labels mean and how to tell the difference.

Not all organic-looking products are truly organic. And anything modified to make better, is not better.  Some companies meet a barely-there qualification to get the different organic food labels onto their products. They get away with it, because the average customer doesn’t know the difference.

Also government regulations are sparse if none at all. There are a number of reasons to buy anything and everything organic. Your body will thank you because it doesn’t need to process the extra stuff that comes with non-organic produce. Enter: “GMO”, side-door enter: “Natural”.

Here are some of the food labels you will see on products and my bottom line provided for each label.

1. Organic

This is probably the ultimo of organic food labels that is regulated by the USDA. The USDA conducts in-person visits to the farm yearly. The others you read about below get office visits only. That already says enough. However, to go further – the organic seal certifies that the produce is… wait for it…. Pesticide-free, fertilizer-free, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free. And has access to organic land to graze on, shade and sun areas, and allows for natural behavior as described in detail by

Bottom-Line: The gold standard of produce. Buy and be well.

2. Non-GMO Project

The runner-up to the real “organic” food label. This is different from those who carry the “Non-GMO” tag. You need to look for the one that states it is “Non-GMO Project” verified. You know, the orange butterfly on the leaf icon. The latter being the one that is verified for not only being hormone or antibiotic free, but also a slew of other measures listed in their standards which is continuously updated for public knowledge. Read more about the Non-GMO Project here.

Bottom-Line: The silver star winner. Seeing the Non-GMO Project tag gives me peace of mind.

3. Pasture-Raised

While this term sounds “aww”, it’s a little fishy. I would still buy this if I had to, but these animals apparently just need to get 120 days of pasture out of a year. WTF? So for 8 months of the year, they apparently do not. Not sure how we are allowed to be blindsided by this. The states that producers can use this tag and don’t even require a in-person visit.

Bottom-line: I would buy if I couldn’t find the organic produce.

4. Cage-Free

In relation to birds, the “cage free” label is a softer term to say “they are all locked up together in hardly enough space to move, and never get to see sunlight”. It breaks my heart to hear of the practices we are using to further our human greed. Please do not buy cage free as you are supporting these practices while being blinded to the truth. In order of humane treatment, go for organic + pasture-raised first, free-range second, and thirdly, cage-free. If you have no option, look for the following added food labels as listed by the humanesociety. “Food Alliance Certified”, “CertifiedHumane”, and “AmericanHumane”.

Bottom-line: Sadly, that label has no merit unless it has the additional certifications from the independent organizations, too.

5. Grass-Fed

While this is good for the type of food the animal is consuming, you also want to make sure the packaging has another sticker – AGA (American Grass-fed Approved). This term will probably be alongside another “organic food label will who verify that the animal wasn’t given any added hormones or antibiotics and pasture raised on family farms. Like, how cute?!

Bottom-line: I buy this as long as I see the AGA label too.

6. Non-GMO

Imposter of the Non-GMO Project. While the produce may not have GMOs, that is all this label is about. A Non-GMO label without any of the other labels, means that while your produce isGMO free, it does contain other problems. According to foodbabe, they could include pesticides, herbicides, hexane, glyphosate, sewage slug, ractopamine, and antibiotics. Might be good to just avoid this one altogether.

Bottom-line: Not so fast, buddy! Get behind me, satan!

7. Natural and Naturally-Raised

Second imposter alert! Neither of these labels are regulated. And it is disheartening that companies will go to any extent even if they are doing the absolute worst to human and animal health. These labels I absolutely detest.

Bottom-line: Umm yea, no thanks!

8. GMO

I think I rather you buy this than the two imposters above, since at least you know they are modified. I kid. No, in all honesty if you can stay away from GMO produce, then stay away. The amount of modified ingredients down to seeds is sad and cause for future health issues even if the jury is still out.

In the near future, we will start to see these two new non organic food labels which will tell us if our food has been modified. While not yet a standard in the US, keep a look out for the “BioEngineered” and ” Derived From – Bioengineering” labels. The more you know…

Bottom-line: Buy only if you don’t have another option and also if it’s a rare purchase.

In Conclusion

Knowing what you are eating is a sure way to consciously and subconsciously start supporting your body and earth. You want the natural state of mother earth doing her thing, with all the birds and bees doing their thing, so we can all live in harmony. A reason dear to my heart, is the treatment of animals reared for human consumption.

While some of us may never become vegan, we should make it our ultimate responsibility to be the voice for the voiceless. Especially since we contentedly eat them at the end of the day. Shouldn’t we treat them well while they are alive, raised for those of us who have intelligence and awareness of existence? We should treat them well enough that they are so happy that they do not get any disease and live a happy full life.

Consequently, we would then not consume any animal that wasn’t happy and no remnants of disease be passed onto us. Another reason is to support your local farmers. Even if they may not have the most organic, at least you know that your product is closer to your backyard than it making the haul from another continent.

The more we support our local communities, the more sustainable we will become. Healthier planet = healthier you =healthier planet = healthier you. You know the drill – or you should by now.

Read about healthy eating here. Have you gone organic yet?

Featured image courtesy of

Article last updated on August 28th, 2021

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