With green living and personal health being frequent topics and trends in the media, you may have noticed the spreading popularity of Organic foods and products. While most assume this means they are more nutritious and healthy, knowing exactly what it takes for a food or product to receive a United States Department of Agriculture Organic certification and the various levels of certification may help you to see the benefits more clearly and promote better food choices for you or your family.
At the most simple of levels, organic food is grown or produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or chemicals. However, there is much more to becoming a USDA Organic certified farmer or food processor. There is a full list of rules and regulations set forth by the USDA National Organic Program that monitors everything from soil quality to grooming and herding practices and packaging that determines a farmerís eligibility. While this program results is less chance of harmful products making it to your table and into your body through the food you eat, it is also much better for the environment. By choosing organic foods, you are also ensuring that the world and food that future generations have is a cleaner and healthier place.
The process of earning a USDA Organic certification takes approximately three years. During this time, no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or genetically engineered organisms can be used on the soil or livestock. This includes seeds, animal feed and breeding stock as well. Precautions must also be taken and systems set up to prevent contamination from nearby facilities. Testing is extensive and frequent, if residue on any plant or product exceeds 5-percent of the allowed tolerance, the farm may lose its certification. If a farm is producing both organic and non-organic products, measures must be taken to prevent commingling of the livestock or harvests to maintain an organic certification.
For livestock, there are special rules regarding feeding and medicinal treatments as well. All feed must be 100-percent organic and animals must be allowed to graze in open pasture at least 120 days during the year. While the use of antibiotics and growth hormones are strictly prohibited, farmers cannot withhold treatment to retain an animal's organic status. This ensures that while the benefits of organic farming and food production are maintained, the animals are not subjected to cruel or inhumane treatment in the process.
When picking the best organic products looking at the labeling on the package will help to provide more information on how it was grown or produced. Labels will use one of four ways to identify their organic status. Products labeled '100% organic' have been made or raised using only organic ingredients and methods. If the label only states 'organic' the product contains at least 95-percent organic ingredients. 'Made with Organic Ingredients' lets you know that at least 70-percent of the product is of organic origins. However, of the remaining 30-percent, there must be no use of GMOs. If the product is less than 70-percent organic, they may only specify organic ingredients in the ingredient listing on the side of the package.