This resource guide was originally compiled by Dr. Stuart H. Freedenfeld, MD & has been modified by Dr. Kathryn Taketa-Wong, ND

Disclaimer: Sacred Healing Arts and Dr. Kathryn Taketa-Wong provide general information of interest on organic & healthy foods from a wide variety of sources and we do not independently verify any of it.  The views expressed therein are not necessarily those of Sacred Healing Arts or Dr. Kathryn Taketa-Wong.

Farmers’ Markets

Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSA’s)

Grass-Fed Beef Ranchers

Food Information

Understanding the Labels

Farmers’ Markets:

Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSA’s):

Grass-Fed Beef Ranchers:

Food Information:

Understanding the Labels:

  • 100 Percent Organic: Refers to single ingredient foods, such as fruits and vegetables, meat, milk and cheese. This may bear the USDA Organic Seal.

  • Organic: Foods labeled “organic” must consist of at least 95% (by weight) organically produced ingredients and the other 5% must be approved on the National List provided by the USDA. They cannot be produced with any antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides, petroleum or sewage-sludge based fertilizers, bioengineering, or ionizing radiation. Each organic ingredient must be identified along with the name of the certifying agency. This also may bear the USDA Organic Seal.

  • Made With Organic Ingredients: Refers to multiple-ingredient foods of which 70 percent or more of the ingredients are organic. This claim may be printed on the front of the package, listing the specific organic ingredients, but may not bear the USDA Organic Seal.

  • Contains Organic Ingredients: is a claim that may not be put on the front of a package and refers to a product that has less than 70 percent organic ingredients. It may not bear the USDA Organic Seal.

  • Natural: Food labeled “natural,” according to the USDA definition, does not contain artificial ingredients or preservatives and the ingredients are only minimally processed. However, they may contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and other similar chemicals. Regulations are fairly lenient for foods labeled “natural.” Producers must submit a sort of application at the time of slaughter, detailing practices used throughout the life of the animal. Labels are evaluated to prevent mislabeling but no inspections are conducted and producers are not required to be certified.

  • All Natural: The USDA does not define foods labeled “all natural” as any different than those labeled “natural.” Foods with this labeling are probably not any different than “natural” foods and may not be regulated, as the USDA does not define them.

  • Free Range/Cage Free: For a product to be labeled “free range” or “cage free” the animals cannot be contained in any way and must be allowed to roam and forage freely over a large area of open land. This labeling is very minimally regulated. USDA food labeling regulation only requires that the producer be able to demonstrate that the animals are allowed access to the outside and not contained, but applications and certification are not required. This level of regulation has allowed producers to keep animals closely confined, but without cages, and still use the label “cage free.”

  • Grass Fed: Food labeled “grass fed” usually includes the label “free range” or “cage free,” however, they are not necessarily connected. By definition a “grass fed” animal is one that is raised primarily on ranges rather than in a feedlot, which means that they can be contained and still show this label, as long as they are allowed to graze. If an animal was “grain fed” it was most likely raised in a feedlot, contained for most of its life, and is of less nutritional value. The USDA defines “grass fed” as it applies to labeling but does not regulate it in any way.

  • While the USDA does regulate most food labels, they do not regulate all labels and, as with “free range” and “cage free” labels, they do not always do so as thoroughly as possible. Knowing this, along with the meaning of each label, will help consumers make healthier and more environmentally friendly decisions.

  • For more information visit the USDA website or any other links listed on this page.

  • The definitions above can be found in the USDA glossary of agricultural terms.

  • PLU (Price Look Up) Codes are found on fruits and vegetables. Conventionally grown foods have 4 digits. Organically grown foods have five digits all starting with 9. Genetically modified foods have five digits all starting with 8.