By Laura Lynn Klein

A question I often get about purchasing organic and natural food is: “How do I determine if the produce or meat I am buying is good for me and truly natural if it is not certified organic?”

Something I often tell OrganicAuthority.com readers and my clients is, “get to know the source of your food no matter where it comes from.” In a perfect world we would all love to have our food certified organic and all of our home cleaners and personal products free of synthetic chemicals and full of certified organic ingredients. This however is a tall order.

Thus, my advice is always get to know the source of where the food and the products you buy comes from. Ask the produce manager or the local farmer from whom you are buying the produce where vegetables come from and how it is grown. Simple questions to ask: Are pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers used to grow the produce? Many times if you are speaking direct to the farmer like at the local farmers market they will tell you yes or no. If they say yes you know you should move on. However if they say, “ No we don’t use any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides to grow our fruits and vegetables,” most likely they are telling you the truth. If you are suspect about the validity of the answer, do a little more diligence and research the source.

It is expensive for a farmer to get the organic certification and many times the small local farmers that are truly natural and organic can not afford the certification. This is the reason why it is important to get to know the source of your food. You may not be buying “certified organic,” but you are buying local, natural organically grown food grown in the true sense of what Mother Nature intended.

It is also important to get to know the source of your “certified organic” meat and dairy. I always ask the butcher or the rancher how the animals are raised and what they are fed over their life time, even if the meat is “certified organic.” Why? Because unfortunately there are varying degrees of “certified organic” when it comes to meat and dairy.

For example, when I buy beef I want beef that has been grass fed from birth to market and not finished on grains. Why? Because a cow that has been grass fed from birth to market and pastured, the way Mother Nature intended, is going to be a healthier cow. Cows that eat grains can get sick and develop a painful disorder called “subacute acidosis.” Cattle with this condition kick at their bellies, stop eating their feed, and finally eat dirt. I don’t about you but I don’t want to eat a cow that’s been sick. This is why I always choose to eat grass fed, pastured ruminants such as cows, goats, bison and sheep.

In April the Organic Consumers Association launched a boycott of two leading organic dairy brands and distributors, Horizon and Aurora. Why? Because all of Aurora’s and much of horizon’s “organic” milk is coming from factory farm feedlots, where cows have been transferred from conventional farms and have little to no access to pasture.

Recently the OCA expanded the boycott to five grocery chains selling bogus organic milk from Aurora Organic:

  • Costco’s “Kirkland Signature”
  • Publix’s “High Meadows”
  • Safeway’s “O” Organics brand
  • Wild Oats’ organic milk
  • Giant’s “Nature’s Promise.”
  • In addition OCA is calling for a boycott of Horizon’s sister soy brands–Silk soymilk and White Wave tofu–which have begun turning away from U.S. organic farmers and instead importing cheap organic soybeans from China and Brazil, where labor rights and environmental standards are routinely violated.

It is up to you as an informed consumer to do your due diligence and decide who you wish to support. Remember, the most potent weapon you have as an American consumer is the dollar bill.