What do labels really mean? Organic, Natural, Cage-Free, Grass-Fed, Pasture-Raised and Local
You have probably seen these terms on food labels and in the news, but what do they really mean? And how important is buying organic and natural foods when it comes to healthy eating. Some terms are helpful and others are misleading. So, let’s look at some of these terms to see what they really mean.
The term “natural” broadly means minimally processed and free of synthetic dyes, coloring, flavorings and preservatives. These foods can still contain such ingredients as high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s). Natural is largely unregulated by the USDA for most foods except meat, poultry and egg products. Foods containing meat, poultry, or eggs must be minimally processed and free of artificial ingredients in order to be labeled “natural”. However these animals may be given antibiotics, growth hormone, and fed GMO feed.
Organic claims on food products are regulated by the USDA. Organic foods must be produced without the use of most conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, or genetic engineering. These foods are also produced using methods that promote the conservation of our natural resources.
Organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. These animals also must be raised in living conditions that encourage natural behaviors such as the ability to graze on pastures and are fed 100% organic feed. This makes it less likely that these animals will carry disease or create antibiotic –resistant strains of bacteria.
Organic crops must be grown in safe soil, have no modifications and must remain separate from conventionally grown crops. Farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers and sewage sludge –based fertilizers. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that provides and annual list called the “dirty dozen”. The list names 12 fruits and vegetables found to be highest in pesticide residues based on laboratory tests from the USDA. The dirty dozen currently includes apples, celery, tomatoes, peaches, strawberries, imported nectarines, grapes, spinach, kale, pears, cherries, and potatoes. However, 2016 FDA residue findings suggest, particularly for domestically produced foods, that pesticide applications generally demonstrate compliance with legal and established agricultural practices. The majority of samples tested contained no detectable pesticide residues while any detected residues were typically present at levels far below the tolerance levels. This testing was conducted on produce that was not labeled organic.
In the United States there are 3 levels of organic claims:
100 –percent Organic. Products that are completely organic or made of only organic ingredients qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
Products in which at least 95 percent of its ingredients are organic qualify for this claim and a USDA Organic seal.
Made with Organic ingredients. These are food products in which at least 70 percent of ingredients are certified organic. The USDA Organic seal cannot be used but “made with organic ingredients” may appear on its packaging.
Grass –fed and grass- finished or 100% grass-fed.
If an animal is grass- fed and grass-finished then their feed was composed entirely of grass, legumes, and green vegetation up until the animal was slaughtered. However, this label does not address the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides. USDA defines “grass fed” as it applies to labeling but does not regulate it in any way. So when shopping for meat, you need to make sure you are getting 100% Organic, Grass-Fed meat. Grass-fed beef is leaner and has been shown to have healthier omega-3 fatty acids.
This term simply indicates that animals were not kept in cages. They are still in an enclosed facility, but with unlimited access to food and fresh water. The facility; however; could be very small and crowded with little room to move about. This health claim does not mean that animals were free to roam in pastures or that they had access to the outdoors. Many cage-free claims are not certified, making it a misleading label.
USDA has approved this term for animals that were raised in a sheltered facility with unlimited access to food, water, and access to the outdoors. It does not indicate that the animal went outside in its lifetime, only that there was a door to the outside. The term does not specify the outdoor conditions, but pastures are permitted to be fenced and covered in netting.
Pasture – Raised
USDA has not developed a definition for this term yet; however; many farmers use it to distinguish themselves from “free range” farms. Animals are free to roam outdoors with unlimited access to food, fresh water, and indoor shelter in case of bad weather. This differs from “free range” in that pasture-raised animals spend more time outdoors than indoors. This is the most ideal label to look for when choosing chicken and eggs. Often these animals are not given growth hormone or antibiotics, but you need to ask to be 100% sure.
What is local food? Unlike organic standards, there is no specific definition. Generally local food means food that was grown close to home. This could be in your own garden, your local community, your state, or your region. People buy locally for the financial benefits, less transportation of the food and freshness of the food. Small local farmers often use organic methods, but sometimes cannot afford to become certified organic. Visit a farmers market and talk to the farmers. Find out how they produce the fruits and vegetables they sell.
In summary, it is important to look at claims on the foods that you buy to be sure you are getting what you want. Be aware of the differences in labels so that you know what you are buying, particularly if it costs you more than conventional foods.
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) 2019. Interpreting Pesticide Residues in Food. Issue Paper 66. CAST. Ames, Iowa. www.cast-science.org
In October of 2017 DEEP officials detected an unusual die-off of White Tail deer in central Connecticut. DEEP submitted carcasses to the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) to establish possible causes of death. Necropsies were performed and tissues from the deer were analyzed by pathologists at the UConn laboratory. Anatomic changes observed in these tissues alerted pathologists to a disease never before recognized in Connecticut, “Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease of deer” (EHD). Samples were referred to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study at the University of Georgia where the presence of EHD virus (EHDV) was established.
EHDV causes a hemorrhagic disease in deer that is transmitted by midges, insects of the Culicoides spp. These insects also transmit the virus causing Bluetongue disease in domestic ruminants (goats, sheep and cattle). Bluetongue has not been found in Connecticut. There is a sustained expansion of these diseases in the United States linked to the geographical expansion of the transmitting vectors, in this case to northern latitudes.
DEEP and CVMDL have joined efforts over the years on discovering, detecting and reporting diseases affecting wildlife that, given environmental and ecological conditions, may spill over into livestock and human populations in the state of Connecticut.
This particular common effort, detecting EHDV in Connecticut, has initiated further studies at CVMDL to identify which species of Culicoides are responsible for transmission of the virus here in Connecticut. The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) in New Haven is supporting this effort by providing CVMDL with Culicoides insects trapped across the State of Connecticut.
CVMDL, part of the Department of Pathobiology in UConn CAHNR, is on the frontlines of research and testing to keep humans and animals safe. For more information visit http://cvmdl.uconn.edu or call 860-486-3738.
POSITION ANNOUNCEMENT: UCPEA 4 LABORATORY TECHNICIAN II
The Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Connecticut invites applications for a permanent, 12-month position as an UCP 4 Laboratory Technician II. Reporting to the Laboratory Manager, this position provides technical support for the Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory and serves as a primary resource to the University community, the general public and a wide variety of internal and external constituents.
The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) at the University of Connecticut contributes to a sustainable future through scientific discovery, innovation, and community engagement. CAHNR’s accomplishments result in safe, sustainable and secure plant and animal production systems, healthier individuals and communities, greater protection and conservation of our environment and natural resources, balanced growth of the economy, and resilient local and global communities. We epitomize the role of a land-grant university, which is to develop knowledge and disseminate it through the three academic functions of teaching, research, and outreach. In so doing, we improve the lives of citizens of our state, region and country.
DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The successful candidate will be expected to prepare and analyze soil and plant tissue samples, and report results to farmers, contractors, researchers, professors, commercial growers, landscapers, lawn care companies, and homeowners. Specific duties include: participate in meetings to plan and evaluate lab procedures; identify procedures for intended results and make modifications to incorporate suggestions for improvement; assist in editing and updating lab manuals, and keep current on new procedures and laboratory software; prepare reagents, solutions and other lab supplies or apparatus needed to complete laboratory procedures; assist, and instruct student workers with their duties and with technical problems related to laboratory procedures and equipment; Maintain up-to-date inventory of supplies; set up and maintains laboratory; instruct others in proper and safe use of equipment; answer phone and provide information to customers about interpretation of results or refer customers to Home and Garden Education Center; order lab supplies, chemicals and office supplies using UConn’s KFS, purchase orders and Pro-Card; and schedule outside repairs of lab and office equipment as well as perform routine maintenance and minor repair of lab equipment and related apparatus to ensure proper working order. Maintain the Laboratory’s Facebook page and perform outreach at Hartford Flower Show annually. The person selected will work in close cooperation with the Home and Garden Education Center.
B.S. degree in chemistry, geology, biological sciences or other lab oriented scientific discipline and 1-3 years of experience, or equivalent education and experience. Demonstrated knowledge of concepts, practices and standard laboratory procedures used in a soil testing laboratory, including digital handling of laboratory data. Knowledge of standard laboratory safety procedures. Excellent verbal and written communication skills, including the ability to explain laboratory procedures and to edit laboratory manuals. Experience using Microsoft Word and Excel, and social media platforms, e.g. Facebook. Demonstrated ability to work independently.
B.S. degree in chemistry, geology, biological sciences or other lab oriented scientific discipline. Ability to program in Microsoft Access; Experience analyzing water or soil extracts using an Inductively Coupled Plasma (ICP), discrete
analyzer, or other related analytical instrument; Knowledge about how fertilizer recommendations are developed; Plant science background; Knowledge of analytical chemistry.
This is a full-time position with a competitive salary and a complete benefits package including health insurance, vacation time and retirement benefits. The successful candidate’s appointment will be at the Storrs Depot campus. The Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab is located at 6 Sherman Place, Storrs, CT
Position available March 15, 2020. Applicants should submit a letter of application, resume, and a list of contact information for three (3) professional references to UConn Jobs at http://www.jobs.uconn.edu/. Unofficial transcripts will be required at time of interview.
This job posting is scheduled to be removed at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on January 15, 2020.
The University of Connecticut is committed to building and supporting a multicultural and diverse community of students, faculty and staff. The diversity of students, faculty and staff continues to increase, as does the number of honors students, valedictorians and salutatorians who consistently make UConn their top choice. More than 100 research centers and institutes serve the University’s teaching, research, diversity, and outreach missions, leading to UConn’s ranking as one of the nation’s top research universities. UConn’s faculty and staff are the critical link to fostering and expanding our vibrant, multicultural and diverse University community. As an Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity employer, UConn encourages applications from women, veterans, people with disabilities and members of traditionally underrepresented populations.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, time with family and friends is important to many of us. In honor of this past National Take a Hike Day (it was November 17th), try getting in your quality time with some fresh air this weekend! Take advantage of a local trail or path to get the blood flowing after a big meal. Your friends and family with thank you for burning off the extra calories!
This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.
While the April 2019 Final Rule established by the EPA was a large leap into the protection of U.S. citizens from asbestos, it has not completely annihilated the threat. The Final Rule, put simply, was created to protect the public from uses of asbestos that are “no longer on the market and are not covered under any other laws or regulations.” It added a few more asbestos banned products to the list as well as prohibited some other new uses of asbestos.
In light of these relatively new changes that have occurred over the past few decades, farmers and agricultural workers may be wondering what these changes have to do with them; even more concerning could be the lack of knowledge throughout the public sphere of the nature of asbestos, what it does, and why there have been seven different regulations created or amended around the mineral since 1973.
Here are some questions and answers to consider:
What Does Asbestos Have to Do With Agriculture?
Individuals must first have a foundation of knowledge on what asbestos actually is. In essence, asbestos is a fibrous mineral that occurs in soil and rock. When mined and used properly, it acts as what is known to be the “miracle mineral” because of its resistance to heat and electricity, and its sound proofing abilities. It has been mined all over the world and was widely used in the late 20th century in many commercial and consumer products, including makeup and construction materials.
Agricultural materials and machinery that may be impacted include:
Brakes, brake pads, brake linings
Gaskets, valves, seals, clutches, engine parts
Other mechanical components that are submitted to high heat and friction
This means that almost all agricultural workers could be exposed to asbestos, such as:
Sheep, goat and cattle, vegetable, and market farmers
Agricultural equipment mechanics and operators
How Asbestos Impacts the Lives of Workers
While asbestos may be a “miracle mineral,” it is not so miraculous to a person’s health. Asbestos fibers can become airborne easily. This occurs when submitted to high heat and friction, cracks in the foundational aspects of buildings, and with any type of wear to asbestos based products. Once released, the risk of inhalation from workers is high, exposing the lungs and other internal organs.
As the mineral enters the respiratory system, it clings to the lining of the victim’s lungs, and embeds itself. Once embedded, it cannot be removed because the particles are invisible to the naked eye and the immune system cannot break them down. Over time (sometimes decades), the lungs will become inflamed and begin to scar. Once that occurs, the individual could contract a rare form of lung cancer that is only known among those exposed to asbestos, called mesothelioma. Like many types of cancers, there are various forms but all have a poor prognosis, making treatment extremely difficult.
Because of these health hazards, agricultural workers should be extremely cautious with their products, machinery and buildings. Be weary of cracks in the walls and linings of barns, when replacing brakes and when handling insulation of any kind.
Handling Asbestos Based Products
Workers should not handle the removal of asbestos on their own. In fact, not only does the U.S. government have various rules and regulations on how to handle asbestos, but many states have even stricter guidelines to prevent unneeded exposure. Be aware of the procedures set in place to handle asbestos, because otherwise, workers and loved ones could become easily exposed, putting their health at risk.
General guidelines to follow when handling asbestos:
Receive an asbestos inspection. Before any renovation projects take place, hire an inspector to determine if asbestos is present. Without the inspection, workers may not know whether they are exposed to the fibers.
Locate an asbestos abatement contractor. Because of the strict laws both nationally and state-wide, it may be wise to hire a contractor that has been educated on them. They will know how to handle the asbestos, where to store it, how to extract it and dispose of it.
Though asbestos is common among many products, it has dwindled in usage. Many companies today are either cutting back on its inclusion in their products, or they have completely eliminated it. No matter the concern, if an agricultural worker has been exposed to asbestos, they should see a physician immediately to address proper treatment and future actions.
The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and UConn Extension have been collaborating thanks to a U.S.D.A. Federally Recognized Tribes Extension Program to enhance agricultural production, food security, and health of tribal community members.
The UConn College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources is engaged in a strategic visioning process. You also may have received the invitation below from Dean Chaubey. As one who knows about the College, we would love to have your input into the strategic direction the College will take over the next 5-10 years. Listening Sessions are scheduled in different parts of the state during the week of November 18. Please read some more about the process and information about how to attend. Here is thelink for more informationand this is thelink to sign up.
We need your assistance. The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) is undertaking a strategic visioning process that we believe will ensure that CAHNR will continue to be successful for many years. While maintaining its roots at the core of the state’s land grant institution, the college has grown to include a diverse set of academic disciplines. The unique combination of disciplines within CAHNR provides opportunities for innovation that can help address today’s emerging issues.
Our goal, with your input, will be to identify key knowledge areas that enable the college to have the greatest potential success for the next decade. The project will allow us to have a dialogue on the future implications of trends and issues affecting our society, state, industries and communities, and to reflect on the state of the college and then come to consensus on focus areas of teaching, research, and extension. Ultimately, the project will drive our work to be as successful in 2030 as we are today.
The process will involve capturing input from internal and external stakeholders, gathering and evaluating data/feedback, and creating a vision for the future. This will be a data and stakeholder driven effort because we believe you know most about what is needed from CAHNR to impact important issues within and beyond the state. We created a process that we believe will produce a dynamic, forward-thinking, and focused description of a future that will position CAHNR to be among the most preeminent institutions of its kind in the nation.
To successfully achieve our goal, CAHNR leadership has identified a core team of individuals to spearhead this effort. These individuals bring their knowledge, experience, vision, and commitment to this endeavor while reaching out to learn as much as they can from others. The strategic visioning team is co-chaired by Ashley Helton (Associate Professor, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment) and Justin Nash (Professor and Head, Department of Allied Health Sciences) and includes a cross-section of units in the college. The strategic visioning team is spending the next several months listening to stakeholders of the college, studying peer institutions, and consulting with funding agencies. As this will require time, energy, and commitment, our goal is to listen and learn from as many stakeholders as possible while maximizing the use of everyone’s time.
As part of the information gathering process, we will be reaching out to you and other individuals to ask you a brief set of questions. As one of our leadership team members reaches out to you in the next few weeks, I sincerely hope that you will l be available to provide your input. We value and appreciate you volunteering your time to help us envision a future that will make CAHNR a regional and national leader in our mission areas. A brief fact sheet about the college is attached. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach me (email:Indrajeet.firstname.lastname@example.org) or Committee Co-Chairs (email@example.com@uconn.edu). Thank you again for your time and help.
Dean, UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources
This article will review the health and cooking properties of oils available in markets.
With so many cooking oils to choose from, it can be confusing which ones are heart-healthy and which ones are not. Cooking oils include plant, animal or synthetic fats used in frying, baking and other types of cooking. Oils are also used as ingredients in commercially prepared foods, and condiments, such as salad dressings and dips. Although cooking oils are typically liquid, some that contain saturated fat such as coconut oil, palm oil and palm kernel oil are solid at room temperature.
Health and Nutrition
The Food and Drug Administration recommends that 30% or less of calories from the foods you eat daily should be from fat and fewer than 7% from saturated fat. Saturated fat is found in animal and dairy products as well as the tropical oils (coconut, palm and palm kernel oil). The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and World Heart Foundation have recommended that saturated fats be replaced with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Olive and canola oils are good sources of monounsaturated fats while soybean and sunflower oils are rich in polyunsaturated fat. Oils high in unsaturated fats may help to lower ”bad” Low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and may raise “good” High density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
Omega- 3 and Omega- 6 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 and Omega-6 are essential fatty acids – we cannot make them on our own and must get them from the foods we eat. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids that differ from each other in their chemical structure. In modern diets, there are few sources of Omega -3 fatty acids, mainly the fat of cold water fish such as salmon and sardines. Vegetarian sources such as walnuts and flaxseeds contain a precursor of Omega-3 that the body must convert to a useable form. Keep in mind that Omega-3 fats from marine sources, such as fish and shellfish have much more powerful health benefits than Omega-3 fats from plant sources. By contrast, there are abundant sources of Omega-6 fatty acids in our diets. They are found in seeds and nuts and the oils extracted from them. Refined vegetable oils, such as soy oil, are used in most of the snack foods, cookies, crackers and sweets in the American diet as well as in fast food. Most Americans get far too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3 so it is recommended to eat more foods containing Omega-3 fatty acids.
Unlike other dietary fats, trans fats are not essential and they do not promote good health. Consumption of trans fats increases one’s risk of heart disease by raising levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and lowering levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. Trans fats are artificially created by the process of hydrogenation that turns liquid oils into solid fats. Trans fat formed naturally is found in small amounts in some animal products, such as meat and dairy products. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration, took action to significantly reduce the use of partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats formed artificially during food processing are often found in commercial baked goods, crackers, and fried foods, as well as shortening and some margarines. When the label of ingredients says “partially hydrogenated”, it’s probably likely to contain trans fats. The Nutrition Facts label lists trans fats per serving.
Cooking with Oil
Heating oil changes its characteristics so it is important to know the smoke point – the point at which an oil begins to break down structurally, producing unhealthful by-products such as free radicals. Oils that are healthy at room temperature can become unhealthy when heated above certain temperatures. When choosing a cooking oil, it is important to match the oil’s heat tolerance with the cooking method. Generally, the more refined the oil, the higher it’s smoke point.
High Smoke Point (Best for searing, browning and deep frying)
Has a distinctive nutty flavor; don’t use if allergic to nuts
Has a sweet aroma
Bold, strong flavor; don’t use if allergic to nuts
High in saturated fat; not recommended.
Look for high oleic versions – higher in mono-unsaturated fat.
Very clean flavored and palatable
Good for frying and stir-frying
The more refined the olive oil the better its all-purpose cooking use. “Light” refers to color.
Medium – High Smoke Point (Best suited for baking, oven cooking or stir frying)
Contains good levels of Omega-3;good all-purpose oil
High in Omega-6
Bold flavor, don’t use if allergic to nuts
Extra virgin olive
Good all –purpose oil
Great for stir frying, don’t use if allergic to nuts
Medium Smoke Point (Best suited for light sautéing, sauces and low-heat baking)
High in Omega-6, high mono-unsaturated versions coming.
Good source of Omega-3. Keep refrigerated
Rich nutty flavor, keep refrigerated
High in Omega-6
Good source of Omega- 3
High in saturated fat; use in moderation.
No – Heat Oils (Best used for dressings, dips or marinades)
Excellent source of alpha-linoleic acid, a form of Omega -3
Rich in Omega-6. Keep refrigerated.
Different oils stay fresh for different amounts of time, but you must store them all carefully. They should be tightly covered and stored in the dark away from heat. The less access to air, the fresher they will stay. Refrigeration benefits most oils. If unopened, peanut oil, corn oil, and other vegetable oils will keep for at least a year. Once opened, they are good for 4-6 months. Olive oil will keep for about 6 months in a cool, dark pantry but up to a year in the refrigerator. Walnut oil and sesame oil are delicate and inclined to turn rancid. Keep in the refrigerator and they will stay fresh for 2-4 months. It is best to purchase smaller bottles of oil if not used extensively.
Proper Disposal of Used Cooking Oil
Proper disposal of used cooking oil is an important waste-management concern. A single gallon of oil can contaminate as much as 1 million gallons of water. Oils can congeal in pipes causing major blockages. Cooking oil should never be dumped in the kitchen sink or in the toilet bowl. The proper way to dispose of oil is to put it in a sealed, non-recyclable container and discard it with regular garbage.
If you’re an average Connecticut resident, you probably didn’t eat seafood more than once in the last week.
But you might, if you knew more about how to prepare different types of fish, shellfish and seaweed, and where to buy local seafood. You’d also be inclined to have seafood more often if you knew more about its safety.
Those are some of the key findings of the Connecticut Seafood Survey, a 2½-year project to better understand current eating habits and how best to make of all types of seafood – but especially the shellfish, seaweed and fish from local waters – a more frequent part of state residents’ diets. Half the residents surveyed said they eat seafood just once a week – which is out of sync with the Food & Drug Administration’s recommendations. The FDA says adults should eat two or more servings per week to get all the nutritional benefits their bodies need.