Thursday, September 18, 2008

Deciphering Egg Carton Claims

I've realized that lately when I pick out a carton of a dozen eggs at the grocery store, I'm completely guessing about or even rationalizing the veracity of the claims made on the outside of the carton. "Cage free," "free range," "natural," "organic," "vegetarian," I've seen it all and don't know what to think.

I'm a skeptic and assume (rightly, I truly believe) that companies will put anything and everything on a label that they can get away with legally in order to convince you their product is better, safer, cleaner, and more 'natural.'

When it comes to organic labeling the USDA gives us some rules we can follow, but I have absolutely no idea about egg labeling.

Fortunately Catherine Price at the New York Times has done some research for us in her article, "Sorting Through the Claims of the Boastful Egg."
Some claims on egg cartons are regulated by the federal government, some by the states and some not at all. Some affect consumers’ health, some touch upon ethics and some are meaningless. All purport to describe how the hens were raised, or what they were fed, or what extra benefits their eggs might provide. So, what do these terms mean?
Even better, if you don't feel like reading the whole Times article, misterjalopy at BoingBoing has parsed the facts down to an egg buying cheat sheet he carries in his wallet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Organic To Go's New Seasonal Menus

Organic To Go, America’s first organic fast-casual cafe chain to be certified organic by the USDA, has launched new, seasonal fall and winter catering menus.
“At Organic To Go we dispel the notion that eating ‘organic’ means having to sacrifice our time-tested favorite dishes; we present fine fresh food and work hard to provide excellent service to put Customers First on every occasion, from tailgates and election parties to corporate meetings and holiday events,” said Jason Brown, Chairman and CEO of Organic To Go. “With 40% of our overall business coming from catering, we see an opportunity to offer our bicoastal markets a change toward wholesome organic catering options at work and at home. Now event planners and hosts can bring fresh, delicious meals to the boardroom and the table, free of harmful chemicals and additives. Our catering menu is made with all natural ingredients from sustainable sources for any size group.”
In addition to Organic To Go’s signature breakfast items, sandwiches, wraps, salads and entrees, 30 new seasonal menu items have been added including Beef Stew, Chicken Pot Pie, and Turkey Roulade made with organic and prairie-raised beef and all-natural chicken and turkey. Two new pizzas, Hawaiian and Supreme, have been added to the Pizza Organico selection of 18-inch hand-crafted pies. New snack bowls, such as the Good Morning, Healthy Choice, or the Chocolate Lover’s Snack Bowl are perfect for any meeting or event.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sustainable Table interview

Food Karma has an informative interview with Sustainable Table founder Diane Hatz.

Diane Hatz develops and manages creative projects to raise awareness and educate consumers about issues surrounding the sustainable food and agriculture movement, while promoting solutions to the problems caused by factory farms. She is founder of, The Meatrix, and the Eat Well Guide.

An excerpt:

Q Are the words "sustainable" and "organic" interchangeable?

A No. "Organic" implies a standard. "Sustainable" is really more a philosophy.

Organic food can be sustainable, but it might not be. A lot of organic farms are sustainable, but the hot-button issue right now is industrial organics-the big agribusinesses getting into the market. Many times they monocrop; you can have acres and acres of one kind of lettuce, and still label it organic. But that is not sustainable.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

O!Burger: Organic fast food burgers

Has the organic food trend finally spawned a fast food restaurant?

The menu at O!Burger in Los Angeles fits the bill. The all-organic menu offers burgers, shakes, and fries.

Sure, the "classic O!burger" is $7.99 (the combo is $10.99), but it's 100% organic... including the grass fed beef.

There's also the O!turkey sandwich (made with free range turkey) and the O!veggie made with spinach and corn.

And reports indicate they taste good, too:
"The "classic" O! burger tasted as good as the best hamburgers I ever ate."
-Shockwave @ DailyKos
More from O!Burger's web:
We aspire to make a delicious burger that leaves you satisfied without feeling stuffed.

We are a completely organic burger house. This includes the buns, the sauce, vegetables, meat, ketchup, mustard, fries and salad dressing. If it’s edible, it’s organic.

Organic food is free of pesticide, chemical fertilizer, insecticide, food coloring, genetic modification, cloning, antibiotics, steroids, hormones, and other unknown elements. The land on which the vegetables and fruit are grown, and the pasture on which the cattle graze, have been cleaned for a minimum of 3 years.
Watch news coverage of O!Burger.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Understanding Organic Product Labeling

The purpose of this page is to simply and concisely answer the questions: What do the different organic labels mean? And what descriptions of organic products are allowed by law. We’ll also take a look at the labels and logos of some organic certification entities.

For the legal definition of “organic,” see our Organic Defined section. See our Certification section for an explanation of how products are certified organic.

The following is a guide to the descriptions, labels and logos that are used and how their use is regulated by the US government.

The 3 main organic labels you will see are 100% Organic, Organic, and Made with Organic. The 4th describes labeling requirements for products with less than 70% Organic ingrediants. All 4 are shown and described below.

100% Organic:

100% Organic: Only products that contain 100 percent organically produced ingredients, not counting added water and salt may be labeled “100% Organic.” These products may also be labeled with the UDSA Organic logo (more on the USDA logo below).


Organic: Products which contain at least 95% organic ingredients, not counting added water and salt, may be labeled “Organic.” The USDA Organic logo may also appear on the label.

The other 5%: Must not contain added sulfites. May contain nonorganically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form and/or other substances allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

Made with Organic Ingredients:

Made with Organic Ingredients
: Products containing at least 70% organic ingredients, not counting added water and salt, may include a list of the organic ingredients on the label. An example is, “Made with Organic Oats, Raisins, and Dates.”

The other 30%: (same as above) Must not contain added sulfites. May contain nonorganically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form and/or other substances allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

The USDA Organic logo is not allowed to appear on the label.

Less than 70% Organic ingredients:

If a product is made with less than 70% organic ingredients none of the descriptive labels above may be used. Instead, it is only allowed to state what percentage of the ingredients are organic and to list them as such in the ingredient list. Again, the USDA Organic logo may not be used.

In all of the cases above, the ingredient list on the label must identify organic ingredients as “organic” when any other organic labeling is used.

(The cereal box images below were produced by the USDA as examples of correct organic labeling.)

Organic Defined

The US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program describes organic food this way:

Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.

Simply put, organic is about what you won’t find in your food. It is produced without using pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or ionizing radiation. Animals products such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products were not given antibiotics or growth hormones.

There are various classifications of organic consumer goods, such as “100% organic” and “Made with Organic Ingredients.” For more information on these classifications and how they are labeled along with information on the official USDA Organic logo see our section on Organic Labels.

About Organic Observer


As my interest in organic products started to grow in 2007, I decided to start this site to document what I learned about the organic products industry and review some of the organic products I’ve tried.

Things my start out a little slow while I find my 'organic' footing, but this should be fun.

I’ve been writing another food related blog, Fast Food Facts, since April 2005.