Interpreting Labels: Natural vs. Organic Part 1

Here's the message of today's post: Be cautious of labels!  The "natural" label has no USDA regulations, and sometimes food manufacturers use it as mere marketing leverage.  The "organic" label is more reliable, since is has USDA regulations.  But ultimately, the value of a food should be judged by its ingredients, nutrition, and taste- not by its label.

There, I've made my point.
Now if you need to skip along your merry way, then skip!  I'll catch up with you later.  However, if you would like to learn more, then join me as I share some research from a recent school paper.
The Natural Label
Phrases such as "100% natural" or "All natural" can be slapped on a variety of food or beverage packages because the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no authoritative standards or regulation of the term.  "Natural" implies that a food has undergone minimal processing with no additional additives.  Some packages are more believable than others.  What do you think of these examples?

I found these examples on FoodBiz Daily.  It's a handy resource for tracking food industry market research, or finding new food and beverage products.  Check it out!
The Natural Label + Meat
The good news.  The USDA has set standards for naturally labeled meat.  The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Services define "natural" meat or poultry as products without artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or ingredients.  Also, these natural meat products must be in their original form.

"Naturally Raised." Yup, this term is legit too.
In January 2009 the USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service authorized this label.  "Naturally raised" meat comes from animals that are free from growth-promotants, antibiotics, and have never been fed animal- or aquatic-derived food before slaughter.  Livestock producers must request USDA certification before using this label.
Even with meat regulations, the "natural" label can still be skewed.  Anyone ever heard of Perky Jerky?
To repeat my main message: Be cautious of labels!  The "natural" label may be accurate, but it may also be mere marketing.  Without regulation, who knows?  Remember that "natural" does not necessarily mean "more nutritious" or "healthy."
And hey, let's give a shout-out to the most natural foods of all: Fruits and Vegetables!

*all product photos are taken from FoodBiz Daily.  I am not being paid by any company to market the above products.
Coming next in Part 2...The Organic Label.
Happy Friday!


MelindaRD said...

Great post. Natural is very misleading. People really think that natural is better. Sadly, people think organic is better too and it isn't. A parent feeding all organic "junk" foods to their kids can still be malnourished and obese.

Rachel said...

thanks, and I agree! It's a tricky business..

Unknown said...

i have so many people talk to me about this! big difference and labeling is confusing. i get so angry when people use "organic" as an excuse to buy anything. great post.

Jasmine1485 said...

Perky Jerky? Wow. That is a bizarre product. It's hard to know as a general consumer which terms on labels are meaningless and which are backed up by law and require standards to be met. It always amuses me when you see 'Fat free' jellybeans and the like.

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Disclaimer. I am not a Registered Dietitian yet. I provide nutrition information intended for the general public, not for the treatment of a specific medical condition. I try to use scientific research and reliable sources when forming my opinions and messages.
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