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Which is better All Natural or Organic?

Updated on August 1, 2013

The Debate

So many labels at the grocery! How do you know which ones to pick?
So many labels at the grocery! How do you know which ones to pick?
One is "All Natural"- One is "Organic"......
One is "All Natural"- One is "Organic"......
The ingredients seem to be the same but to make your decision, you have to look further!
The ingredients seem to be the same but to make your decision, you have to look further!

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Are you clear on the Differences?


Over the past few years, companies have recognized the growing need for "Healthier" foods and seem to have responded to the call. Nowadays, you can stroll down your grocery aisles and find the terms Natural and Organic slapped on every jar, bag, box, and bottle. Do you really know and understand the differences in these terms? I recently stood in an aisle for over 5 minutes debating on which chicken to buy for my family. One was labeled "All-Natural" and the other was "Organic". Both options sounded healthy but if they were the same then there wouldn't be two different labels, right? So I whipped out my trusty "smartphone" and googled it right there in the aisle!

It turns out that I am not the only one confused about the all-natural/organic debate. There are a lot of questions and misunderstandings about exactly what each label means. Doctors and health gurus are constantly talking about "Clean eating" ---so which term is "cleaner"? Even the vegetarians don't get a break! This war goes all the way down to flour, vegetables, and fruits!

"Green Washing"

It also turns out that many companies know how confusing this "Natural" term is to the consumer! In fact, there is actually a term for companies attempting to use this label as a marketing tool and it is called "Green Washing". This can be anything from a label, marketing campaign, or image showing the healthfulness and wholesomeness of their item- when in fact, it may not be true. Kellog's , the makers of Kashi, recently came under fire for their brand. Kashi as a brand attempts to stand for health, well being, and clean eating. Recently, however, a Rhode Island grocer started a media frenzy when they replaced Kashi cereal on their shelves with sign pointing out Kashi used genetically modified (GMO) soy to make the cereal. So How DO you Make the Right Decision?

The Differences between "Natural" and "Organic" can Be HUGE!

Natural

The label "Natural" can mean a lot of different things. It could vary based on your region, who made the food, and even by where it is sold. Except for in meat products- the term "natural" doesn't really have a clear set of defining factors. With such a loose definition, it is the company who is able to determine how their item is labeled...and what motivates the company to do this?

  • High Fructose Corn Syrup is considered Natural and can be included in items labeled as such.
  • Sewage "Sludge" is often used as a fertilizer in crops and CAN be used in foods labeled as "All-Natural"

Organic

Thankfully Organic has a clear set of guidelines and rules in the United States. Companies who label foods as "Organic" undergo audits, inspections, and are held to clear guidelines by the USDA. When buying organic, you can be sure that there is

  • No GMO's (genetically modified)
  • No pesticides
  • No antibiotics or artificial growth hormones
  • No SLUDGE

Here is a Quick Reference Chart

 
Organic
All Natural
 
Toxic Pesticides and Herbicides
Not Allowed
Allowed
 
GMO's
Not Allowed
Allowed
 
Antibiotics
Not Allowed
Allowed
 
Growth Hormones
Not Allowed
Allowed
 
Sludge and Irridation
Not Allowed
Allowed
 
Animal Welfare Requirement
Yes
No
 
Lower levels of Environmental Pollution
Yes
Not always
 
Audit Train from Farm to Table
Yes
No
 
Certifications and Inspections Required
Yes
No
 
Cows required to be on pasture for Pasture Season
Yes
No
 
Legal resrtictions on allowable materials
yes
no
 
Table information taken from Stoney Fields Farms Website http://www.stonyfield.com/why-organic/organic-vs-natural

If you are looking to avoid things like GMO's , pesticides, and "sludge" - it may be a hard battle to fight and slightly unrealistic! Here ate some tips..

  • Beware of “all-natural” claims.
  • Avoid fast food and eating out
  • If you do eat processed foods, look for “USDA Certified Organic” and “Non-GMO” on the label.
  • Stay clear from corn and soy as 65% of the crops grown are done so with GMO's. Cross contamination may be possible.
  • Eat mostly organic veggies and greens.
  • Buy meats and poultry that is “USDA Certified Organic.”
  • Buy local whenever possible-Check with the farmer about their practices
  • Stick with minimally processed, whole grains labeled “Non-GMO” or “USDA Certified Organic,” such as quinoa and amaranth.
  • Other food ingredients that may contain GMO ingredients include sugar, vegetable oils (particularly canola), wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, flax, peas, and others.

It is hard to know exactly what is best from your family and sometimes even when you think you are making the right choice, you may not be. The fact is though, if you are reading this then you are making concsious efforts to educate yourself for either your own or your families well-being. Being concerned, causious, and aware are keys to making the right choice for your family.

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    • Mommymay profile image
      Author

      Heather May 4 years ago from Ohio

      Hello Careermommy! Thanks so much for reading! I used to notice the pinch (okay not a pinch...more like a right hook) of the organic label BUT I recently started to cook as much as I can from scratch AND I found ways to edit what I make around my local Earthfare's sales. I used to do a bulk shopping trip once every two weeks. I spend less when I budget and visit every few days with their coupons! Just the other day I got one for $25 in product for $5-peanut butter, jelly, cookies, crackers, and applesauce BUT it expired in 2 days. I am a cheapskate but trying my best to stick with it!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Hi Mommymay, thank you for this valuable information. I agree that the "natural" label is so misleading. I try to go Organic as much as our wallet with allow!

    • Mommymay profile image
      Author

      Heather May 4 years ago from Ohio

      To my knowledge there is no listing! I did see that a bill was being introduced in January of this year "To amend the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the egg, meat, and poultry inspection laws to ensure that consumers receive notification regarding food products produced from crops, livestock, or poultry raised on land on which sewage sludge was applied."--Here's hoping!

      I have not seen Soylent Green but am adding it to the must watch list! Thanks again for sharing!

    • hawaiianodysseus profile image

      Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

      Wow! Wakeup call! I had no idea, Heather, so I'm very grateful and will be quick to discuss this with my wife. And the thing about sewage sludge...is that ever listed on the boxes or cans? Just curious. I had no idea.

      Ever see a Charleton Heston movie called Soylent Green? After reading this hub, I'm beginning to think that writer's concept wasn't so far-fetched after all...pardon the pun, but it's certainly food for thought.

    • Mommymay profile image
      Author

      Heather May 4 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you for reading and for sharing! I am trying my best to get better about what I feed my family and I plan to share everything I find out!

    • Mommymay profile image
      Author

      Heather May 4 years ago from Ohio

      Kerry Anita - Thank you for reading the hub. I hope that it helped clarify the questions because I had no idea what the difference was until 2 days ago! The more research I do...the scarier it gets!

    • purl3agony profile image

      Donna Herron 4 years ago from USA

      Great information. I never knew there were such differences between these labels. Thanks! Voted up and pinned!!

    • KerryAnita profile image

      KerryAnita 4 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

      Awesome hub! I agree that labels can be so confusing and difficult to understand. Thanks for clarifying a lot of the questions I had. It's crazy how companies can put that "all natural" label on their product and still use GMOs and hormones. There is definitely nothing natural about that!