Wow! What a mouthful!
If you were asked to define ‘organic’, what would you come up with? A lot of people are misled by the definition of the word to believe that this term is an umbrella for all molecules, and foods made with these molecules, that are comprised of carbon. While this is the textbook definition, the word organic encompasses so much more when it comes to the production, characteristics, and quality of our food.
So what exactly are the guidelines for growing food organically? The USDA has developed three ways to categorize organic food: 100% organic, organic, and made with organic ingredients. All foods with organic anywhere in the label must follow guidelines set by the USDA for growing. These include: prohibited use of synthetic and non-synthetic substances and ingredients (including those used in processing plants), no radiation, prohibited use of vaccines, and no sewage sludge. The land the crops are grown on is also required to have buffer zones, which may be forested areas, to prevent contact with prohibited agricultural substances. The farmer must also practice crop rotation, composting, proper feeding practices (which includes the animals being limited to organic feed, no poultry slaughter by products – which are fed to feedlot cattle, and no antibiotics or steriods – unless organic), and also allow the animals proper living conditions and grazing sections. All of these restrictions, of course, have exceptions. I know, so many rules, and this is the abridged version!
As far as food labeling goes; to be considered:
“100% organic” – products must contain 100% organic ingredients
“organic” – products must contain 95% organic ingredients
“made with organic ingredients” – products must contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients
The remaining ingredients in products labeled “organic” or “made with organic ingredients”, must comply with certain restrictions as well – though not as strict as the organic restrictions. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may have the organic ingredients listed on the label, but may not make any organic claim. I hope I have convinced everyone reading this to jump on the organic bandwagon 🙂