Green Your Grocery List Part 2: Meat and Dairy Labels

Last week, in part 1 of Green Your Grocery List, part of my Resolutionize Your Green Life series, I talked about  Organic Food Labels. This week, we’ll look at the labels you find specifically on Meat and Dairy products. Being aware of what all the labels mean will help you build a healthy, green grocery list.

Organic Food Labels - Meat and dairy can earn the USDA Organic food label. As stated last week, this means the product is antibiotic-free, hormone-free, not genetically modified in any way and has not been irradiated. Looking for the USDA Organic label will ensure what you put in your cart is both healthy and green.

Antibiotic Free – Antibiotics are given to animals raised in confined spaces to halt the spread of any infectious diseases. Antibiotics are also given to help accelerate growth rates in these animals.

Even the FDA has stated antibiotics in meat pose a “serious public health threat.” This is due to the fact the drugs create antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can infect humans who eat it. Look for meat raised free of added antibiotics to best protect your family from antibiotic overuse.

Not Treated with rBST or rBGH- rBST and rBGH are growth hormones given to animals to accelerate their rate of growth to bring more meat to the table faster. For dairy cows, administering growth hormones can accelerate the amount of milk they produce.

Why should this concern you? They are finding that these growth hormones can be passed on to us when we ingest them. This is of particular concern to our girls because it may be the cause of early onset puberty. Look for the labels “no rBST” or “no rBGH” to make sure your food is free of these hormones.

It’s important to note that federal regulations prohibit the use of growth hormones in raising pigs, bison and poultry. So when you see “raised without growth hormones” on a package of poultry – don’t pay extra thinking you are getting something different from any other package.

Vegetarian Fed – Look for labels that say “vegetarian fed” or “no animal byproducts.” Why? Animals that eat feed that may contain other animal by-products is what leads to diseases such as Mad Cow Disease. Diseased animals can lead to diseased humans and these diseases can lead to serious consequences – including death.

Nitrate Free – Nitrates are used in products such as lunchmeat and hot dogs to help preserve them. Why avoid nitrates? Nitrates are thought to lead to some forms of cancer. Of course, there are studies on both sides of the issue. The fact is, it is pretty easy to find products without them, so why not avoid any possibilities?

Grass-Fed – For cattle, grass is the most natural form of feed. When you purchase grass-fed beef, most likely that cow was given free range of a pasture. It was not raised in a feeding pen where most of the diseases are passed from animal to animal. It is also leaner and healthier meat than the meat from its corn fed counterparts. Grass fed beef also tastes a bit different and has different cooking requirements because it is so lean. Read this post for more information on grass-fed beef.

Cage-Free – This is a misleading food label. You’ll find it on poultry products such as eggs. It implies the animal was raised outdoors. However, in reality, all this label means is the animal was given access to the outdoors – not that it ever went out there!

Poultry that is given outdoor access actually produces healthier eggs higher in Omega-3s.

There are egg producers who are truly raising their animals cage-free. This can especially be true if you shop the farmer’s markets. This is a great case to know where your food comes from. A small producer is most likely to give this label true credit.

On The Greenbacks Gal, I’m spending the month of January Resolutionizing Your Green Life.

The Better Living Network has lots of other great topics to help you Resolutionize!

Resolutionize Your Finances with Kay@Bucksome Boomer

Resolutionize Your Home with Nikki@Coupon Cookin

Resolutionize Your Wallet with Jennifer@The Coupon Mommie

Resolutionize Your Mommy-tude with Brandy@Savin Some

Resolutionize Your Kitchen and Cooking with Tiffany@Eat at Home

Resolutionize Your Mom Groove with Crystal@Crystal&Co.

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Comments

  1. Great post Andrea! I didn’t know all of the differences so thanks for sharing. I learned a lot. Thanks!

  2. Andrea, I have been loving this series – awesome and important stuff!! I remember getting really angry when I first learned about the cage-free myth, myself. I have since been buying eggs that have the “Certified humane” label on them. There are also meats that are “Certified Humane” but I have a harder time finding them in the stores around me. You can check them out at http://www.certifiedhumane.org/

  3. Hi Andrea, this is a nice list! I am very concerned about what I put in my body. I suspect that a lot of the disease “epidemics” in the West are caused by poor lifestyle habits like eating crappy food. I am a big fan of grass fed beef, and I avoid nitrates and nitrites after reading an article titled Processed Meats Declared ‘Too Dangerous for Human Consumption’

  4. I’m glad you like the series! I have to admit I’ve never seen the certified humane label. I always just buy organic. But I will definitely be on the lookout from here on out.

  5. Hi Jennifer, I would agree with you that poor diet is definitely a cause of disease. Unfortunately, from the years I’ve spent overseas, our diet is being exported. I am just learning about nitrates but ate a LOT of them for years, regrettably.

  6. Kroger brand milk does NOT use hormones in their dairy cows. I try hard to stick to their brand of milk.

    Awesome info Andrea!

  7. Hi! I found your article from a link posted on Eat at Home. You have great advice. I recently watched “Food Inc” and decided to take some steps to eating “greener’ and more animal friendly. I do have a question for you. You were talking about chickens and that made me think about eggs. Do you know if the Egglands Best Eggs really live up to their price tag? They are much more expensive than regular eggs (even with coupons) and I’m wondering if they really are cage-free, etc.?!?! Thanks for your great article!

  8. Hi Kari! Food Inc is such a great movie, isn’t it? I don’t do Eggland’s Best cage-free eggs because I truly don’t know if they are those chickens like in the movie where there is the tiny door open at the end of the feeding pen, but the chickens never go outside. The only time I buy cage-free – not organic – is at Natural Grocers. Natural Grocers carries a line of cage-free eggs raised by a Menonite group here in Colorado. They aren’t certified organic, but I can see how the chickens live – and they are definitely cage-free.

    I do buy Eggland’s Best Organic eggs upon occasion. My King Sooper’s doubles coupons, making Eggland’s Best Organic less than $3 a dozen. Just to compare prices, a dozen “regular” eggs can go for .99 or lower. I do not know about the treatment of the chickens – whether they are actually let outside or not. All I know is that to be certified organic eggs, their feed has to be certified organic.

    I think the best way to know how the chicken is treated is to find a local source of eggs and to meet the farmer. Not always easy to do. However, I personally do think that the organic designation on those eggs is worth something. The feed has to be grown free of pesticides – which is better for the planet.

    I don’t know if I clarified anything for you. But that is what I try to do.

  9. “antibiotic free” is prohibited by USDA to be used on meat. You can say “raised without antibiotics” but that is not a regulated label so it means nothing. Antibiotics may be used even with that label. If you want antibiotic free meat, buy organic. USDA organic is a regulated label and the guidelines actually prohibit antibiotic use.

  10. Thank you Karen for teaching me a little more about meat and dairy labels! Andrea

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