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The Truth About Organic Products

By Carmen Truman

You only need to take a quick trip to the grocery store to see the growing popularity of organic foods. The phenomenon of organic foods is good for consumers, but unfortunately there are some misconceptions about these foods that remain very prevalent.

Simply seeing the word "organic" on a food product's packaging tends to make us assume that it's the healthiest distribution of that particular food available. It implies that the food is prepared in a natural way, with none of the contamination that the food industry sometimes causes.

That's probably true in the case of most vegetables. When it comes to meat, however, the organic label skips over some important aspects of the meat preparation process.

Fish provides one example where the organic label doesn't necessarily mean what we think it does. All that's required for a USDA organic label for fish is that the fish is wild. However, the label doesn't enforce any regulations on the amount of heavy metals found in the fish, such as mercury.

The organic label for meat also doesn't place any regulations on the treatment and living conditions of livestock.

The organic label does address the types of foods that can be fed to animals raised for meat. The USDA doesn't allow meat to obtain an organic label if the animals are fed substances such as hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals. So the organic label does ease our fears that we may be ingesting foreign substances along with our meat, but it does nothing to assure us that the animals lived a healthy and happy life.

In any case, if you're at the grocery store and find that you have a choice between organic and standard meat, the organic meat will be a better option. If you'd like to buy meat with a certification regarding the quality of the animal's life as well as its diet, look for high-welfare labels. The RSPCA label is a good example of a high-welfare label, and you would also do well to seek out biodynamic labels.

It's obvious that there's a disparity between the standards of raising organic meat versus the public conception of what the organic label means. In order to address this problem, two things must happen: the public must educate itself regarding the real qualifications for the labeling of meat, and the industry must enact stricter standards for the organic label.

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