Eating Organic: What Do All the Labels Mean?

Eating organic is at the forefront of the food industry today. People are more concerned than ever before about the quality of the food they put into their bodies. With so much attention to eating organic, it is easy to lose sight of what that term actually means.

What does organic mean?

Organic is a horticultural practice of using organic soils that utilize compounds of carbon. This means that growers cannot corrupt the natural soil to grow food. Growers must work the soil and rotate crops to achieve the desired results. In fruit, vegetables, herbs, and plants organic refers to the way foods are grown, produced, and handled. They are grown without the use of petroleum based fertilizers, genetic engineering, fungicides, conventional pesticides, and synthetic soil compounds. Because the soil is nutrient rich and chemical free, organic food is thought to be more nutritious.

Organic meat

In animals, organic means that the animal was given access to the outdoors, for instance “cage free” turkey and chicken lived in an environment that encouraged movement and outdoor activities. The same applies to “grass fed beef”. Cows were given access to fields of grass and were given no animal by-product to eat.


The USDA, (United States Department of Agriculture), regulates the use of the term “organic”. Manufacturers of food products must meet quality standards in order to gain the USDA stamp of approval. If the food manufacturer participates in false advertising of their food or product, they will pay a fine. There is great incentive to be honest in the food industry because one fine can easily put a company out of business. The labels and the wording on the labels can be tricky to understand at first.

The terms

The term “100% Organic” can only be used on a food or food product if the product is made from 100% organic ingredients and meets USDA requirements. If the product meets the standards, the product receives the USDA seal of approval. If a product simply says “Organic” then 95% of the product must be organic and the manufacturer can use the seal. If the product is labeled as “Made with Organic Ingredients” then the products has used 60-70% organic ingredients and cannot use the USDA seal.

Food products marked as “natural” are not certified organic, although they may have organic ingredients listed. Other products may claim to be good for you, but if they do not have the USDA 100% Organic seal then the food product is likely to contain a certain percentage of artificial ingredients. is the other of this post. To learn more about organic food and to find and order organic Portland catering or catering for hundreds of other locations nationwide visit