Dr. Janeal Yancey
Dr. Janeal Yancey

Last month, I was asked to speak to the Kansas Nutrition Council on Food Labeling. My friend, Jodi Oleen from the Kansas Pork Association invited me, and it was lots of fun to go visit with the nutritionists and dieticians for a day. I also enjoyed a quick trip back to Manhattan, KS, where I went to graduate school.  

My talk was about the labels that we see on meat, milk, and egg packages and while I was working on it, I thought that this would make a great blog series. So, that’s what I decided to do.

When you get to a grocery store, the labels you see can be so overwhelming. It’s so hard to know what they all mean. You have so many concerns when you are buying food. You want to consider your family’s health, the environment, the animals’ wellbeing, and you only have so much money to spend. 

The first label I spoke about was Organic.

In the US, foods labeled ‘Organic’ are regulated under the National Organic Program which is part of the Agricultural Marketing Service of USDA.

To be labeled with the USDA Organic label, meat, milk and eggs must be produced from animals that were raised following strict rules on farms that are subject to audits by the NOP.

Just a few of the regulations for organic farming include:

  • Animals must be fed only Organic feed
  • Animals are only allowed to graze Organic pasture
  • Animals must be allowed to graze 120 days of the year (and they must eat the grass when grazing, not just hang out in the field)
  • They may not be continually confined indoors
  • They are not allowed to be given any growth promoting hormones or antibiotics
  • Healthy animals MAY be given vaccines to prevent illness

These are by no means ALL the rules when it comes to raising organic livestock, but these are the main points. When I have questions about Organic farming I consult Emily Zweber at Zweber farms. Their family has an Organic Dairy in Minnesota, and she writes a great blog about her life as an Organic dairy farmer. She has a whole series about the Myths associated with Organic farming.

In order to use the official Organic label, a food must be made from 95% or greater organic ingredients. If a food has greater than 70% organic ingredients, the label can state that it is made with ‘Organic ingredients.’ If it is less than 70% organic, the organic ingredients are just listed on the ingredient statement.

Organic is not the same as Natural. I’m going to cover the Natural label in the next post in this series, so STAY TUNED!

Although, I’ve blogged about the difference between Natural, Organic, Grass fed, and others, I am planning to repeat some of that information in this labeling series and expand on it. Please let me know if you have any questions about meat labels and I’ll do my best to answer them.