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Take a trip into the local grocery store and it is no wonder consumers are confused with what to eat these days.  We know to steer clear of the trans-fats, refined sugars, and artificial sweeteners but what do we make of the “all natural” label??   Everyday consumers are confronted with confusing labels advertising “all natural” products next to a similar item at a high price labeled “certified organic”.  What is the difference (besides price) and why should we choose on over the other??

The word “natural” means, “produced or existing in nature; not artificial”, by that definition, anything derived from plants, animals or elements found on planet Earth could earn the “all natural” label.  It is essential to understanding that it is the unnatural processing of these naturally occurring substances that makes them harmful.  When a natural substance is chemically or structurally altered into a form that no longer appears anywhere in nature, it’s no longer natural – regardless, of what the food manufacturers claim. This is the difference between natural vs organic.

The organic market place has enjoyed substantial growth over the past decade proving it is not a passing trend or a niche market.  As this growth continues, larger corporations are looking to take a share in the $25 billion dollar a year market.  Unfortunately, larger corporations are often more concerned with answering to share holders and their bottom line than consumer health.  As this trend continues we see more so called “natural” products advertised in the market place, the majority of which are simply “greenwashed” conventional products.  In 2008, the Organic Consumers Association exposed a large number of leading conventional as well as “natural” brands of shampoos, lotions, cosmetics and household cleaning products which contained the carcinogen 1,4-Dioxane.  In fact, a food labeled “all natural” can contain: pesticides, herbicides, toxic heavy metals, trace amounts of PCBs, toxic fluoride, hidden MSG, high-temperature cooking byproducts, synthetic chemical vitamins and other non-natural substances.These quasi-natural products are not only detrimental to your health, they are also then being sold at premium organic prices!!

“Certified organic” products are both nutritionally and environmentally superior products when compared to “all natural products”.  The production of organic foods is done without the use of conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics and growth hormones. Instead, they use renewable resources and focus on soil and water conservation to help preserve the environment for future generations.

Optimally, choosing organic products from small local food producers is best.  In Bozeman we are lucky to be surrounded by local farmers who believe in sustainable practices.  Locally owned, small farmers have a vested interest in the community and citizens in it.  By supporting these farmers you not only ensure the health of your body, but also the health of the community you live in.  To ensure you are choosing the best for you and your family choose local, organic farmers and steer clear of the “greenwashed” conventional big companies.

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