Grocery shopping can sometimes feel overwhelming. Foods are often packaged with a dizzying array of labels, sometimes with healthy-sounding buzz words like organic, natural, and cage-free - so how do you know if those labels actually mean anything?
Consumer Reports cuts through the confusion to help you focus on the most meaningful food labels.
Once a year, locations like co-ops and teaching kitchens are thoroughly inspected by A Greener World, a group that Consumer Reports says is free of conflicts of interest and performs unannounced farm visits, to earn the seal “Animal Welfare Approved.”
“I feel that raising animals according to the highest standards is the most important thing I can do as a farmer, as a supplier of food and as an educator,” said Donna Simons, who runs her own food co-op.
Consumer Reports says “Animal Welfare Approved” is a seal worth searching out. A recent guide by CR analyzed and rated many of the food-labeling seals and claims consumers encounter from the farmer’s market to the supermarket.
“It’s very hard for consumers to know which of these claims have a good definition behind them and good standards that meet their expectations,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, a policy analyst.
Take, for example, “All Natural,” Pesticide Free,” or “No Antibiotics.” In some cases, those labels may be accurate, though shoppers can’t always be sure because the claims are not well-defined or required to be properly verified.
“The USDA Organic seal is a very good one. It’s backed by federal law and federal regulations that are really quite comprehensive,” said Vallaeys
CR also highly rates seals like “Non-GMO Project Verified,” “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” and “American Grassfed.” The bottom line is you might have to do a little homework, but at least you’ll understand what the labels really mean.
For all the steak and burger lovers, you might want to look for the American Grassfed seal. It means that the cattle graze on pasture and eat only grass their entire life. These animals are not treated with antibiotics or growth hormones — and the farms are inspected every 15 months.