Food Label Jargon

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Our 14-year-old son had a major food reaction last week. We attribute it to fish. Usually this would require a two-week recovery. This time it took two days.

Reagan has a vestibular migrainal condition triggered by our mold exposure. Food choices have become an integral part of his daily life. His vertigo has improved dramatically. The ringing in his left ear is 90% better. Unless, of course, he eats the wrong kind of fish.

I usually special order our fish. In this case, cod was purchased from a local market.

It's not easy to sift through the seafood options. Is farm caught better than wild caught? Atlantic or Pacific Ocean? Is all fish contaminated?

What about poultry? Or beef? Does it really matter?

The Early Show recently aired a segment titled, "Food Label Jargon Demystified." The reporter included a discussion of seafood.

From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts:

Despite being much fattier, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish.

Due to the feedlot conditions of aquafarming, farm-raised fish are doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides than their wild kin. Farmed salmon, in addition, are given a salmon-colored dye in their feed, without which, their flesh would be an unappetizing grey color.

Aquafarming also raises a number of environmental concerns, the most important of which may be its negative impact on wild salmon. It has now been established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95 percent of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them.

The only downside to wild caught salmon is the price, often times up to $10 more expensive than farm-raised per pound.

We have had great success with the wild caught salmon offered by Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics. It's expensive, for sure. But the benefits of healthy seafood selection can be well worth the investment.

What about poultry and beef?

The reporter addresses both.

Poultry/EggsFree range or free roaming, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, means producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

What is organic chicken?
Organic chicken is chicken that has only been fed organic grains, which means that no pesticides or chemicals were used on the farm to grow the grain in the last three years. The chicken must also never have been given antibiotics, drugs, or hormones to accelerate growth, though they will be given medicine should they fall ill. Also, the chicken must be given free range with access to outdoors and be treated properly.

Grass-Fed Beef:
The definition of grass-fed beef generally means beef from cattle that have eaten only grass or forage throughout their lives. However, some producers do call their beef grass-fed but then actually finish the animals on grain for the last 90 to 160 days before slaughter.

Grass-Finished Beef:
A more specific definition is grass-finished beef. Finishing is just another word for the time that cattle are normally fattened for the last few months before processing. Typically, feed lots finish cattle for 90 to 160 days on grain, usually corn, whereas grass-finished cattle are fattened on grass only, until the day that they are processed.

Grass-finishing compared to grain-finishing:
When considering the definition of grass-fed beef, most beef animals have probably eaten grass at some point in their lives, but the important thing is that they're "finished," or fattened, on grass, rather than grain, for the 90 to 160 days before slaughter.

During those few months of grain finishing, the levels of important nutrients like conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega 3 decrease dramatically in the beef animal's tissues. It is in the finishing process that those levels and ratios drastically decline because of the grain feeding, and that is why it's so important to make sure that the beef you eat is not only grass-fed, but grass-finished.

We avoid all red meat at this point. We do much better digestively. And while legumes, vegetables, and soaked grains make up the majority of our diet, I do order our chicken online as well, from sites such as U.S. Wellness Meats.

The reporter also includes an excellent discussion of produce and pesticides.

To read the complete article, click here.