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How to Choose Among Organic Food Brands

Many grocery stores now offer several brands of organic milk and eggs. But faced with choices, how do you choose the best organic brands? That is, how do you know which brands really follow organic practices, and which are factory farms playing at sort-of organic?

Meat and dairy products labeled "organic" can be vastly different in how the animals were raised, and whether they truly are organic. This means that they also have nutritional differences (e.g. in beneficial fatty acids), differences in whether the animals were organic from birth, what kind of food they ate, did the animals spend time outside, and what was given to the animals. Yes, there are big loop holes (which Big Agriculture actively lobbies for and follows).

This also explains why factory-farm organic foods are typically much cheaper than  organic foods from small farms or cooperatives. The small farms are being squeezed out. Organic is more than just being antibiotic and pesticide free. You get what you pay for!

There are two main things you can do: 1) buy organic foods from smaller farms, especially local farms,  and 2) look at ratings of organic food brands and buy the better, more reputable ones. But keep in mind that all organic brands are better than non-organic foods (which contain pesticides and drug residues).

COMPARING ORGANIC BRANDS:

1) An excellent resource is the Cornucopia Institute. (cornucopia.org) They have Scorecards that rate and rank different types of organic food (dairy, poultry, cereal, etc). They do research and investigations, and act as a watchdog organization for organic agriculture in North America.

If you look at their Organic Dairy Scorecard, you will see that organic factory farms score poorly (Horizon, many store brands such as Costco and Shoprite). There are many great organic  brands available nationally (e.g. Organic Valley, an independent cooperative of organic farmers that carries dairy products, eggs).

2) The Organic Eye (organiceye.org) is an investigative organization that is monitoring the "increasingly corrupt relationship between corporate agribusiness and government regulators" and how this is weakening organic food standards. See some of their work on the News page, including several videos called "Kastel's Kitchen" where Mark Kastel discusses and compares high integrity organic brands with factory farm organics, and also fraudulent organic foods from China.

According to Mark Kastel (in the videos) some very good organic brands are: Seven Stars yogurt, Hawthorne Valley, Eden Foods, Nature's Path cereals, Dr. Bronner soaps, Pure Indian Foods, Sno Pac Products (frozen vegetables and berries), and Frontier Co-op (herbs, spices, extracts). On the east coast Stonyfield Farms gets its milk from organic family farms (good!). Many store brands don't reveal where they get their organic milk, but many (most?) get it from huge factory farm Aurora Dairy, which has been the subject of investigations.

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