Organic: The term organic refers to an ecological method of agricultural production that respects the natural environment and avoids artificial additives. Organic farms focus on enhancing the vitality of the soil, preserving biodiversity, promoting animal welfare and preserving the ecological integrity of our environment. No synthetic fertilizers, synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms are permitted in organics. Organic food is regulated in Canada under the Canadian Organic Regulation and must meet all requirements as set out in the Canadian Organic Standard.
Organic Certification: Food which is labeled “Organic” must be certified as organic. This is the consumer’s guarantee that the food meets all requirements as set out in the Canadian Organic Standard. An organic farm or processor must apply to a CFIA Accredited Certification Body, and be able to show complete traceability of their products and be inspected by an independent third party.
Canadian Organic Regulation: This is the legislation that has been passed by the government of Canada which states that in order for a food product to be deemed organic, it must meet the requirements as set out in the Canadian Organic Standard and the Permitted Substances List.
Canadian Organic Standard: This standard contains a set of criteria for all methods and practices for producing and handling crops, livestock and processed products.
Canada Organic Regime: This regime is a partnership between the federal government as represented by the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) and the organic industry. This body oversees organics in Canada. The Regime helps protect consumers from misleading labeling, reduce confusion about the definition of organic and facilitate development of organic markets.
Permitted Substances List: This list identifies and supplies details on allowable substances that can be used in organic farming and production of organic products.
Unregulated Food Labels:
Free-Range: This generally means the animals are uncaged, typically with access to the outdoors, although the time period spent outside can vary widely. Free-Run is another term for cageless housing but does not necessarily mean the animals are housed outside.
Grain-Fed: Grain-fed means that animals are fed grain which is the conventional standard in animal production and allows animals to gain weight faster than if they were fed grass.
Grass-Fed: Refers to livestock that have been raised on pasture and not confined to a feedlot/grain-fed system. Grass-fed animals take longer to mature and the meat is often more flavorable. Recent research has also shown that grass-fed animals are higher in Omega-3s.
Grass-Finished: This means that animals are not only raised on grass but spend their final weight-gain stage on grass. This means that no grain was fed to the animal at any stage in their life.
Local: This term refers to purchasing products that have been grown or processed within one’s geographic region (e.g. a province, or a predetermined distance). This generally decreases the energy required for transporting goods and supports the local economy. However, local products are not necessarily grown or raised in an organic or ecological production system as the term only refers to the proximity from production to the sale.
Natural: Natural generally refers to a product being grown or raised in a more environmentally sensitive way (without harsh or synthetic chemicals for example). However, the term is not regulated and has come to be used for a wide variety of products that vary greatly in their ecological integrity.