Deciphering Food Labels - Step 3. How were the animals raised?

Deciphering Food Labels Series - These posts will point out some of the most important things to look for when shopping for REAL food in varying food categories. Ideally, you want to stay on the outskirts of the grocery store and shopping mostly for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, eggs and dairy..all without additives and preservatives. In fact, I enjoy purchasing from local farms where I can get to know the farmer. Ideally grow some fresh produce on your own. Reminder: Everyone must consider the benefit, or disadvantage, of eating from each of the food groups for themselves. 

Step 3. How were the animals raised? There is usually a bit of a price increase when the animals are better cared for, but there are many health benefits to consider for ourselves also.

Let's now consider how the animal which we are using for food was raised? It's likely that you have heard and seen the term 'Pastured' often enough. Food from pastured animals should be a normal part of our lives. But instead, most of our commercially processed meat comes from animals that do not have access to roam and eat the natural diets they were meant to eat. For example, cows should eat grass and chickens should have access to insects.

Psalm 104: 14 reads
"He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate—  bringing forth food from the earth"
Did you know that most of our meat in the U.S. comes from animals that are fed corn and other by-products similar to cereal grains? Our animals are being fed processed foods that cause them to be full of inflammatory diseases and conditions. So, when we eat animals that are sick (i.e. we eat sick food) - how are we supposed to remain healthy if our food isn't?

Initially I thought that the term CAFO stood for 'commercial agriculture of farmed animals'. (Don't laugh at me if you have always known better.) But even though I didn't know what the acronym actually stood for, I did know that it meant that animal conditions were crowded and not ideal. So for those of you who are not yet aware, CAFO stands for 'confined animal feeding operations'. The purpose is to increase production of a large population of animals that are confined to small areas of land. No roaming for the CAFOs and unfortunately most of our foods on the grocery store shelves come from such operations. I don't know about you but I think these animals should have access to open airy places where they can freely exercise and breathe fresh air. It just makes sense.

Since most of our animals are not raised in ideal conditions, then the meats, milk and eggs that they supply to us aren't ideal either. Additionally, I shouldn't fail to mention that farmed fish aren't ideal either. Yes, just like farm animals, they too are often fed cereal grains in place of their normal diet! So, opt for the wild-caught meats for hopes of a better selection.

Better Nutrition for Us: Making better meat and animal products will provide our bodies with better nutrition.  If we eat sick animals our bodies become toxic and have to work harder at doing what it should be doing naturally (re-growing healthy cells and fighting environmental toxins instead of toxins we create). Pastured animals have a better balance of omega-3s and omega-6s. They usually aren't full of hormones and antibiotics because their natural way of eating and roaming causes them to be healthier.

So, how can we make better choices when buying these products*? 

  • Buy from your local farmers at Farmer's Markets
  • Join a co-op that sells meat products: Co-op Directory
  • Select products that are 'Pasture Raised' when shopping major grocery stores. Whole Foods has an animal welfare rating system.
  • Find a butcher that you know and trust
  • Order online: U.S. Wellness Meats (just one I'm aware of, surely there are more)
  • Raise your own cattle, chickens, etc.
*Although sometimes these animals are finished with grains...but, hopefully they had more time in the pasture (seriously).
If you think of anything else I can add to this article, please send me a note. Thanks.


FYI: There are still many farming practices of today that don't follow the original farming practices since man first began herding cattle. Once specific example is the way the animals are slaughtered. You can look up terms such as 'Kosher meats' to discover how animals should be properly treated and prepared for food.

In the next article, we are going to focus on more specifics regarding EGGS!


Carrageenan Free Ice Cream


So now that you have read a couple of articles on 'Deciphering Food Labels' Part I and Part II, let's take a look at specific food item that you can apply all that you've discovered - Ice Cream! Yes, there is something more that you should probably consider when purchasing ice cream. Otherwise, it's best to make it at home using single, real food ingredients.

Ice cream is everyone's favorite, right? If not now,  I'm sure there once was a time that you loved ice cream anyway. So it's my daughter's favorite dessert. I think it's because her options had been so
limited. I discovered there was something in ice cream that was making her sick.

My daugther's reaction would begin with congestion that often led to asthma. At just barely three years old she was on inhalers, nebulizers and antibiotics much too frequently - and it always occurred just after a birthday or some type of celebration where sweets were plentiful.  It was her reaction to ice cream that I first noticed. I have photos taken just days after parties we attended the day before where she would be on the nebulizer and that's exactly how I put it all together. From that point on I avoided ice cream, frosting, cool whip and anything dairy that was in a can or carton.

So my thoughts went from first thinking that she was allergic to just one brand of ice cream to being allergic to all dairy, until I discovered the one common ingredient for many snack/dessert products that triggered her symptoms is a preservative called CARRAGEENAN that acts as a stabilizer for many packaged food products. 

For years I made ice cream (using single, real food ingredients) for her to eat at home and she even took her own ice cream and sometimes her own cake to friend's parties. It was a bit difficult for her emotionally, but she knew that she didn't want to be sick and that mommy could always make her "special" ice cream.


In the beginning we first noticed that Breyer's 'Natural Vanilla' flavor didn't contain carrageenan...so that was our 'go to' ice cream. But recently my daughter, now 14, has been on a quest to find ice cream (on the grocery store shelves) with all the exciting flavors that she loves. In the photo below are all the ice cream brands and flavors she found at a Kroger store on just one visit. I'm happy to see that she has options now when she wants a special treat.


But note, just like some flavors of Breyer's ice cream contain carrageenan, so might other flavors of these brands. 

There are medical articles that show respiratory issues being linked to carrageenan. Finally, this information is being made known mainstream and it's being removed from many items that once contained it. Here again, we can dictate better foods by spending our money on foods that meet our nutrition goals and leaving the others on the shelf.

Deciphering Food Labels - Step 2. Avoid rBST Growth Hormones

Deciphering Food Labels Series - These posts will point out some of the most important things to look for when shopping for REAL food in varying food categories. Ideally, you want to stay on the outskirts of the grocery store and shopping mostly for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, eggs and dairy..all without additives and preservatives. In fact, I enjoy purchasing from local farms where I can get to know the farmer. Ideally grow some fresh produce on your own. Reminder: Everyone must consider the benefit, or disadvantage, of eating from each of the food groups for themselves. 

Step 2. Avoid rBST Growth Hormones

rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin) also known as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) is administered to dairy cattle to increase the production of milk. There are many different arguments for why this is and why this is not an ideal practice.  I want to touch on a couple those points and give a bit of input from my own point of view.

Point 1. After a brief internet search I found one argument which supports the safety of the hormone use. The article stated that since we don't have the same receptors as the cattle, ingesting this hormone would not affect us. I presume they are saying that this won't affect our hormones that produce lactation. OK, so perhaps it's true, but it doesn't change the fact that we would, in fact, be ingesting a substance that is foreign to our bodies. Exactly as they stated, the piece doesn't fit into the puzzle. More specifically, this means that our bodies would not have any idea of what to do with the hormone...or flat out cannot do anything with - therefore the hormone is seen as a toxin that our bodies try to get rid of. Then the next question is, "So how well is your body handling detox?" (That is actually a discussion for another article post.) Well, you can lessen the stress that detoxing takes on your body, by not consuming anything that you know to be toxic in the first place.

Point 2. These growth hormones cause increased milk production so this goes against the cows' natural tendencies. These hormones put more demands on their bodies, thus more stress and likewise this process results in animals that aren't as healthy as they could be. Who would knowingly choose milk from an unhealthy cow? The goal for sourcing real food is to stay inline with real, natural processes and to not go against nature as God created it to be. 

A list of products that usually contain milk:
  • Butter/Ghee
  • Milk/Cream
  • Ice cream
  • Cheese
  • Pudding
  • Yogurt/Whey
  • Any product with milk/cheese/cream as an ingredient


So how can you avoid rBSTs?  Buy products from company's that state they are rBST and hormone free. Choosing organic milk and organic meat products can help you avoid most rBST foods. As an alternative, choosing dairy alternatives such as nut milks and coconut milks (ideally made at home by you to avoid other additives and in order to make the better choices) can also help you to avoid hormones.

Some specialty food stores might manufacture their own line of these dairy products in order to provide dairy options that avoid rBST Growth Hormones. Specifically, Whole Foods Market sells dairy products with no rBSTs under their 365 Brand name.  I have also found the Sprouts has a brand that avoids rBSTs also. 

Let's make a statement with the our food choices by purchasing those that meet our real food goals. It appears that as we become more aware and our demand for better food choices increases the food industry has made shifts to accommodate our needs. So the more you purchase non-rBST foods the more the food industry will listen and respond. Let's make sure that we fight against hormones in our food supply.

Organic Milk Companies: Organic Valley, Stonyfield Organic, Horizon Organic

Key search terms to learn more: rBST, rBGH, Hormone-Free Milk, Monsanto, organic milk, hormones in our food supply

Links to other sources: RealMilk.com

Deciphering Food Labels - Step 1. What are the ingredients?

Deciphering Food Labels Series - These posts will point out some of the most important things to look for when shopping for REAL food in varying food categories. Ideally, you want to stay on the outskirts of the grocery store and shopping mostly for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats, eggs and dairy..all without additives and preservatives. In fact, I enjoy purchasing from local farms where I can get to know the farmer. Ideally grow some fresh produce on your own. Reminder: Everyone must consider the benefit, or disadvantage, of eating from each of the food groups for themselves. 


Step 1. What are the ingredients? Usually will not incur a cost increase, it's just a matter of making a better choice using your current grocery budget. 

Let's take a look at these cottage cheese labels. The one on the left is Daisy Brand that's readily available in most grocery stores. The ingredients are 'Cultured Skim Milk', 'Cream' and 'Salt'...only three ingredients!


Whereas the one on the right has many added ingredients, most of which CANNOT be found in even a real cook's kitchen.

So why the unnecessary additives? Well, most of the time, these are added to make up for what is missing...and what is usually missing are real food ingredients.

I want to share my real foods journey with you

Deciphering Food Labels...will be available soon. But for now, I want to focus on helping you boost your nutrition through a real foods diet. "Deciphering Food Labels" could be a possible topic for us to discuss.

Check out my blog for more details

Let's experience better health together!

Check out new recipes, here.

Deciphering Food Labels

For the next few articles, we will be focusing on how to search for real food. 
Stay tuned to the front page for these items.

Meanwhile, you can view various information via the blog pages.