Labels, Decoded

Clean Eating & Label Reading

(page 2 of 3)

Farm-Raised versus Wild Caught

Wild-caught labels represent that fish are caught in their natural environments by a fisherman. Farm-raised fish are grown in pens that are often submerged in ponds, lakes and saltwater. Farm-raised fish have been shown to have PCBs (a potentially carcinogenic chemical) and at times, antibiotics and pesticides. However, fish farming has been useful to prevent “over-fishing”.

Consumer Reports found that 56% of salmon labeled as “wild caught” were actually farmed. If it’s not labeled “wild,” it’s farmed and the country of origin labeling has little to do with the actual ocean it was caught in.

American Humane Certified

This label represents animals that have been raised for meat, eggs, or dairy and treated in a ‘humane’ manner. It is regulated by a third-party auditing group to guarantee the animals are “free from pain and unnecessary stress.” This label does not, however, require that animals grow up with access to the outdoors and it does not prevent physical alterations such as teeth filing, tail docking, or beak trimmings. Plus, producers do not have to meet 100 percent of the standards to be certified, they simply need to score at least 85 percent.


The “organic” label is to products like beards are to hipsters. It’s cool-looking and everyone wants one, but no one knows why. The organic label is regulated by the USDA and tells us that products were not created with synthetic materials such as pesticides, fertilizers, artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, sewage sludge, genetically modified crops, food additives, artificial processing aids, and irradiation. Sounds pretty great, but not all organic labels mean the same thing.

100% Organic: When 100 percent of the ingredients are organic. Nice!

Organic: When at least 95 percent of the ingredients are organic. Up to five percent of the product can consist of inorganic agricultural materials or artificial ingredients, which have been approved for a five-year period by the USDA. Non-organic products are deemed necessary to the organic product’s production however, and apparently won’t harm the consumer’s health. So, if the texture feels ‘recreated’ or the color glows in the dark, it still could be labeled “organic.”

“Made With Organic"

This label tells us that 70 percent of the ingredients are certified organic. The other 30 percent of the ingredients come from the same list of approved USDA products that are considered necessary to the product’s production.

THE GOOD: The extra ingredients claimed as inorganic cannot be genetically engineered, produced with sewage sludge, or irradiated. Phew!

THE NOT-SO-GOOD: The organic label does not guarantee that animals are grass-fed, humanely treated, free to roam pastures, or that fair trade was practiced. It also does not necessarily mean that the food is healthy, low sugar, or unprocessed.

Keep reading for more food label lessons!

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