General Question

MissAusten's avatar

How trusting are you of foods labeled "organic" or "free range?"?

Asked by MissAusten (16142points) April 8th, 2009

Do you ever wonder if the cage-free eggs are truly laid by hens roaming free, or if the manufacturer is exploiting a loophole in the guidelines? Do you think store-brand organics are just as “organic” as higher-priced name brands? I’m always suspicious of the labels.

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18 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

I shop at a food coop that sells only locally produced products. They are often from cottage industries run by acquaintances. I trust everything in the store.

RedPowerLady's avatar

Sometimes organic labels are people just being exploitative. But really there are guidelines one must follow to label their products as organic. And organic, even with it’s flaws, is much healthier than standard food. Especially meat, dairy, and produce. Also it tastes so drastically different. We buy organic whenever we can afford it. We always buy organic meat & cage free no hormone eggs. We tried it for the health benefits and stuck with it for the taste. Also if you don’t believe me on the taste thing try an organic orange vs. a typical one. Huge difference! Of course we can’t always afford the organic ones but wow they are good.

Hubby works in the organic industry so I am pretty aware of the issues surrounding organic foods. They are worth it IMO.

And as @gailcalled mentioned, shopping locally is a great option as well. We love our local Farmer’s Market. Also when you do that you can ask the growers themselves about their foods.

charliecompany34's avatar

i do free range and organic. not skeptical at all. you can find these in abundance on the shelves in local supermarkets because people just dont know or think it will not taste good. shame on them who are ignorant about healthy choices.

VzzBzz's avatar

I know free range doesn’t mean organic unless specified and organic can mean different things. Mostly I wonder the following which I know little about:

*The conditions of the cages/pens/lots where the animals are raised
*The type of feed the animal is given
*The kinds if any antibiotics/hormones/medicines given
*Chemicals used on the farmland where the animals roam

laureth's avatar

If you really want to know, call up the farmer or visit the farm. If they are uncommunicative, that might be a clue.

Some are valid. Some are loopholes. Investigating the source is your best bet.

(I used to work in one tiny piece of the industry.)

MissAusten's avatar

I wish we had a coop here, but we don’t. I’m sure there are local farms where we could buy meats, and when I have a bit more daily freedom (in other words, when all three kids are in school all week) I wouldn’t mind the extra time to go to those places to pick up meats.

The grocery store has many organic options for produce, meats, and veggies, including a store-brand organic that is more budget-friendly. I usually buy organic, although it took me a while to work up to the price of organic milk. Talk about sticker shock!

Our farmer’s market starts up in June, and is a weekly event. I love it, and go every Friday. The produce is unbeatable, there’s a guy who sells fresh seafood, and even a local beef farmer who sells grass-fed beef. Breads, cheeses, and fresh eggs too. I’m always sad to see it go in October!

@VzzBzz, those are the things I wonder about too. I’m going to try to research the different brands and see what I can find.

VzzBzz's avatar

@MissAusten: thinking so much about the meat and dairy I like to eat has made a difference in me not eating as much of it partly because of expense, proximity and general animal welfare concerns. I have relatives who hunt and raise meats which I’d love to be able to have vacu sealed and shipped to me.

MissAusten's avatar

@VzzBzz, I think my husband would flat out die if I tried to remove some meat from our daily meals. If there’s no meat, it’s not a meal, as far as he’s concerned! My youngest won’t eat meat, and gets most of his protein from dairy and eggs.

We also have relatives who hunt, and whenever we visit them we look forward to a meal made from whatever they’ve recently shot. Wild boar is really good, venison is tasty. Probably the most interesting was the moose. At Christmas we had moose steaks stuffed with seafood. It was actually really good. I’ve never thought about asking them to share meat, but I bet they’d be more than happy to give us some.

cak's avatar

We have found a local grocer that carries full lines of organics and is very clear about what farms he buys from. One of the farmers is someone we’ve started buying most of our produce from, directly. As far as meats, we’ve cut back drastically, and what we do still buy, it’s only free range and organic fed. No hormones.

I don’t have proof, but I am one of the firm believers that hormones had led to earlier puberty…girls should not have a their first period at 6. They should not need shots to stop them.

casheroo's avatar

If I’m curious, I do research.
When our son switched to cows milk, we used Horizon’s Organic. I then did a little research and did not like what I read about their “organic” ways. I don’t use their product anymore.

laureth's avatar

Yeah. Horizon is the “organic” version of a factory farm.

While it might be technically organic, it also seems to be everything that the Organic movement was protesting at the beginning.

Bagardbilla's avatar

I’ve been eating organic all my life till I came to States. And the food here just had no flavor!
Since out of college I’ve gone back to eating organic. If you can find some “Bio-dynamic” it’s just awsome! You know the recognisable jump in taste/flavor from regular to organic? well it’s twice that from organic to BD!
I recommend to everyone that at the very least they should consume organic fats, for the simple reason that environental toxins accumelate in the fatty tissues, so anything with high fat content (such as milk, butter, cheese, oils, preferably meats unless you can cut the fat out), please use organic.

Zen's avatar

Very wary

aviona's avatar

I was just talking to my mom about this yesterday. She was buying eggs from Lucky’s and I was telling her that it grossed me out. She was like “well they’re organic!” and I was like “that’s what they say!” And she claimed they couldn’t put that on the label if it wasn’t true…ehh…

mattbrowne's avatar

Unfortunately, there are a lot of black sheep out there trying to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers. The best way in my opinion is getting a recommendation from someone you know well. Or from websites you can trust, websites related to consumer advocacy and consumer protection.

EmpressPixie's avatar

I trust the “label” on my food. Which is to say—I go to the farmer’s market and chat up the farmer’s. Oh! But yesterday I got my first ever CSA box. It was great! It wasn’t labeled as organic, but I know that it was sustainably farmed. I got red onions and beets and parsnips and carrots and radishes and turnip greens and baby bok choy and thyme and…. I might be forgetting something.

Anyway, I think the point is that I’m far more likely to trust the label on my food when the label is actually in my mind, not literally on my food. When I can talk to the people who farmed it, hear about the farm and what’s going on, get recommendations for things to do with the food, and hear about the plants and animals. They generally don’t bother to really label the food, but the chatter that goes before the purchase is label enough for me.

As for buying at the store, when I can’t avoid it I tend to get brands that are just barely big enough to make it to the store—our stores actually carry a few brands from the farmer’s market. Either that or I buy brands noted in eateries that note food source. So, we have a few places to eat that buy from the farmer’s market I go to. The meat and stuff they don’t get there, they still call by name. I can then trust that those brands are more humane than others and buy them in store. It’s a weird process, I know, but one that I’m very comfortable with. It leaves me less trusting that something is “free range” or “organic” and more trusting that the same people who vet the farmer’s market are vetting my food. That’s good enough for me.

laureth's avatar

@aviona – It’s true that if they don’t meet the organic standards of whoever’s certifying them organic, they can’t legally put the seal on there. That’s why the USDA wanted to put one meaning befind “organic,” instead of several organizations doing their own certification. (Of course, the UDSA didn’t pick the most stringent conditions, and they’re usually in bed with corporate interests, so the “organic” seal is only as good as the USDA makes it, if they’re the one who’s certifying it.)

The differences come in with the more vague terms like “free range.” For chickens, for example, Free Range could mean “they get to play outside, eat bugs, mate freely, and take dust baths in the sunlight.” Or, it could mean “two thousand chickens cramped into a tiny barn that has one little 12-inch square exit to a tiny fenced-in dirt area, but which none of them use because they’re afraid of the door.” Both chickens are “free range” because they have access to the outside, but while one farmer is embracing the meaning of Free Range in his treatment of his chickens, the other farmer is taking advantage of a technicality.

jfuzzy's avatar

Like @laureth says, if there’s a label, there’s the law behind it. Check out this article on eXtension for some background on the organic laws. But the label is only good as the people who are certifying the farms, on the ground doing the work. Overall, I trust the organic label quite a bit. But I’m not really sure how a bag of packaged crackers can philosophically be called organic even if they meet the requirements. “Free range” I am more skeptical of. It can basically mean that instead of cages the birds are cramped in an open shelter, with no access to the outdoors. I would still prefer that to caged hens though. Hit your local farmers market for great eggs!

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