Food

Label Education: Meat

decoding all those stickers that come on your package of burgers

We know looking at labels can be tough. The meat aisle is always one that is a little confusing. Some cuts of meat have like 15 stickers and certifications on them, others have basically nothing. Do all of those little badges really make a difference for what you are bringing home? We went through FDA definitions (not the most fun job, but someone's gotta do it!) to figure out what each label really means and break it down for you.

You might have to prioritize which labels are most important to you, but now you know what each one means and they are all written down in one place. When we are looking at meat in terms of how what we eat can impact our health, we personally think no nitrates/nitrites and organic or no hormones and no antibiotics top the list.


Certifications

a) American Grassfed

Requires cattle are fed with only grass and forage throughout their life which must be on an American family farm. Antibiotics and growth hormones are prohibited. Animals must have access to pasture and cannot be raised in confined animal feeding operations. No GMO feed is allowed. There are also guidelines about promoting animal health and welfare and prohibiting the use of electric prods except in emergency situations.

b) PCO Certified 100% Grass Fed

Requires that the cattle were fed only grass and forage with no grain. They must also meet USDA organic standards.

c) Certified Grass Fed by AGW ( A Greener World)

To achieve this certification, the farms must also be Animal Welfare Approved. This adds to that certification by assuring that cattle get a 100% grass as forage based diet and the pasture can adequately support that.

d) NOFA-NY Certified 100% Grass Fed

This label certifies that the cattle have been only given grass or grass based feed for their entire life, besides milk before they are weaned.They must also be given access to pasture during growing season. It also meets all requirements for organic beef include no antibiotics or hormones, no GMO feed, and no herbicides or pesticides used on the pasture for feeding.

e) Animal Welfare Approved

This certification requires that animals are raised humanely on a family farm from birth to slaughter. They must be raised on a pasture or range. The certification prohibits use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and animal by-products in feed.

f) Certified Humanely Raised and Handled

This ensures animals are treated in a certain manner. It means animals are never kept in cages, have the freedom to do what they would naturally do, and are fed quality feed without antibiotics or hormones. Also assures slaughter standards. Does not mean animals have access to outdoors and does not talk about physical alterations to animals like beak trimming.

g) Global Animal Partnership (steps 2-5+)

This is a certification that has varying levels depending on the practices of the farm.

Step 1: no cages, crates or crowding

Step 2: enriched environment

Step 3: enhanced outdoor space

Step 4: Pasture Centered

Step 5: Animal Centered, no physical alterations

Step 5+: Animal Centered, entire life on same farm

Antibiotics are prohibited at all levels (except for chickens), growth hormones are prohibited for all steps, and no animal by-products are allowed in feed.

h) Non GMO Project Verified

Non-GMO project verified requires that the product have systems in place that address testing, traceability, segregation, formulation, labeling and quality assurance. The certification assures meaningful ongoing testing of high GMO risk inputs, and that organizations are effectively working to minimize the risk of GMO contamination to the chain.

i) USDA Organic

Animals are raised in living conditions accommodating their natural behavior, fed 100% organic feed and forage, are not fed with GMO products, and are not administered antibiotics or hormones.

Label Claims

Home

9 Veggies You Can Grow Indoors

Gourmet dinners with fresh veggies and no more plastic herb packets are in your future

What's better than having an indoor plant baby? How about one that gives you food? Since we are all spending more time at home these days and making less trips to the grocery store, it's a perfect time to try your hand at some indoor veggies that you can grow in your windowsill. Plus this is a great project to do with kids if you are homeschooling them due to COVID-19 school closures. Some ideas include helping plant and water the seeds, writing down weekly observations, measuring and drawing the vegetables as they grow, and finally learning to cook with them. Here are our suggestions for 9 veggies and herbs that are easy to grow inside and are useful to have on hand.

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It seems like everyone is staying home these days. Whether it's because of a mandatory order or out of an abundance of precaution, people are staying close to home and limiting travel. Social distancing is incredibly important to stop the spread of COVID-19, but staying at home means we suddenly have a lot more time on our hands. But that doesn't mean we have to be bored! There's still plenty to keep us busy as we shelter in place or practice social distancing. We've thought of some easy, outdoor-oriented activities you can do while on a walk or while getting some fresh air with your kids.

Activities for Adults

  • Do an outdoor guided meditation. These are difficult times and anxiety might be higher than normal. Meditation is proven to help lower stress and anxiety, as is going outdoors. Why not combine the two? There are a lot of free guided meditation online or on Youtube. We recommend going on a short walk, then finding somewhere to sit and meditate. Walking meditations are also a great way to stretch your legs while practicing mindfulness.
  • This is a great time to try a new hobby! Why not take up gardening? Gardening can help lower stress and anxiety, burn calories, and help you get outside more. Plus, you can also grow your own food! A meal just tastes better when the produce comes from your own backyard, right? Before you pick up your trowel, check out our guides on soil, composting, and growing veggies indoors (in case you're an apartment dweller).
  • Take a sketchbook with you on your next walk and sketch five things that make you happy. This could be a beautiful flower, a cute dog, or even just the sunny sky! This is a great way to keep you present during your walk and a way to focus on the positive.

Activities for Kids

  • Take a walk around your neighborhood or visit an open space or park for a hike and bring a pouch to collect natural objects such as flowers, rocks, leaves, sticks, and pinecones. It's a great way to have kids notice what's around them and to appreciate the beauty in what may seem like everyday objects. Then when you get home, have the kids organize the objects into alphabet letters or numbers and glue them to form nature collages. If you have older kids, use these objects to illustrate a scene from a favorite book or to make nature art.
  • We're definitely on board with getting outside for a bit of exercise, but kids sometimes it takes a bit of work to keep kids interested. Another idea for a hike or walk outside is to give your kids a camera (or your phone) and have them take pictures of things that they think are interesting or beautiful. Could be a flower, unusual shaped tree, colorful mailbox, or anything else they see. When you get home, print the pictures and have the kids make a collage. If you have older kids, have them write a story with the collage as an inspiration.
  • Another way to keep an outdoor walk interesting for kids is to bring a notebook and have them draw a map of your walk as you go. Make sure to note landmarks, unique natural features, or streets in your neighborhood. For older kids, this activity can become more challenging by having them note distance, elevation, and cardinal directions.



It seems like everyone is staying home these days. Whether it's because of a mandatory order or out of an abundance of precaution, people are staying close to home and limiting travel. Social distancing is incredibly important to stop the spread of COVID-19, but staying at home means we suddenly have a lot more time on our hands. That's why we compiled a list of our favorite environment-related tv shows and books! Half of the recommendations for kids, so everyone in the household can continue to learn about the environment!

Books

Adults



The Overstory by Richard Powers: Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, this novel follows nine characters from drastically different walks of life and highlights their own unique relationship with trees. The Overstory tells a tale of activism, environmentalism, and resilience.


Horizon by Barry Lopez: Travel the globe with Lopez as he observes the natural world around him. With a quiet disposition and keen eye he listens to stories of researchers and locals, piecing together an understanding of human's complex connections to nature.


The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac: Figueres and Rivett-Carnac, who led negotiations for the United Nations during the 2015 Paris Agreement, discusses two scenarios: a world that meets the Paris climate targets, and a world that does not. The Future We Choose discusses how we can all tackle the climate crisis with determination and optimism.

Kids


Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers, illustrator of the bestseller The Day the Crayons Quit. This is a beautifully illustrated and heart warming book that serves as a tour through the Earth. With curiosity inducing pages on the land, sea, sky, our bodies, and animals, this book is a great jumping off point for even more in depth learning and exploration. The book's central message of being kind and taking care of the Earth is one that we full heartedly endorse, especially during uncertain times.


The Amazing Life Cycle of Butterflies by Kay Barnham. From caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, this book teaches kids scientific facts about butterflies through engaging and bold illustrations. Even parents might learn a thing or two about butterflies. There are also notes for parents and teachers at the end with activity and art suggestions to encourage further exploration and learning.



The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston. This is a great book for teenagers about Owen Thorskard, a budding dragonslayer who lives in rural Canada. Dragons in this world are attracted to carbon emissions, so the book does encourage readers to question our fossil-fuel based society. But most importantly, for young readers, it's an exciting story about Owen and his friend Siobhan and their quest to save the world.


TV Shows

Adults



Planet Earth II: An unprecedented look at our natural world with stunning visuals. This series gives us a look into the animal kingdom from the viewpoint of the animals themselves. It's basically earth eye-candy and features an array of gorgeous shots from 40 different countries. Visit islands, deserts, and even city streets to see how animals survive and thrive on an ever-changing planet.


Nature: This PBS docu-series covers a wide array of environmental topics, from white giraffes in Kenya to humpback whales in Northern California. Many episodes are available for free on your local PBS station.



Our Planet: While this series is packed with gorgeous shots of rarely-seen animal species, Our Planet also looks at the impact climate change is having throughout the world. Each episode is a somber reminder of how human behavior has far-reaching consequences.Kids

Kids



Tumble Leaf- Fig is a curious fox that goes on adventures to learn about how things work in the world and how to solve problems. Parents will love the applied science and your kids will love the colorful and cute animation. The pace of the show isn't too fast so there's plenty of time for kids to absorb what they are learning, but the show is so fun and quirky that they won't even realize that they are learning! The friendships that Fig has with his friends are also very endearing and teach some valuable lessons. This is definitely a must see show for preschoolers and younger elementary school kids.


Ask the Storybots- These five funny creatures answer a kid's question in each episode, such as "How Do Flowers Grow?" or Why Do We Have to Recycle? Facts are cleverly explained, along with explorations on letters, numbers, and colors. The creators consult subject experts and educators when creating each episode, but songs, animated characters, and guest celebrities make each show super engaging. If you don't know it already, this will be a hit with your preschool and elementary school aged kids.



WildKratts- Real-life brothers and zoologists Chris and Martin Kratt introduce kids to wild animals and teach them about animal behavior and habitats. Each episode focuses on a different wild animal that the Kratt brothers are going to go help. The show keeps it exciting by taking an inquisitive approach and with entertaining storylines. The Kratt brothers also show their love and respect for the natural world and science and inspire kids to do the same. This is a great show for elementary school aged kids.



Continent 7: Antarctica- This is a six-episode series that follows scientists as they live and work on Antarctica. From flying planes in extreme cold weather to climate change, this series will definitely keep older kids interested while also being educational. With beautiful imagery and drama that emerges from being in such a harsh environment, it's a great show to learn about how science is done and about an important ecosystem. Adults will also learn a lot and enjoy this as well!

Life

DIY Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizer

Stay protected with our easy, three ingredient sanitizer!

Making your own hand sanitizer is easier than you think! This DIY version is perfect for when you're feeling crafty or if (in a worse case scenario) you can't find hand sanitizer in stores. This three ingredient hand sanitizer will keep you protected from germs while you're on-the-go without any unnecessary or harmful ingredients. All you need is: rubbing alcohol, aloe vera gel, and essential oils (if you want some fragrance). Make sure to only use rubbing alcohol that's 90% alcohol or higher. According to the CDC, hand sanitizer has to be at least 60% alcohol to be effective. Our rubbing alcohol will be diluted a bit by the aloe vera, which is why a high alcohol percentage is needed!



⁠⁠We recommend using a spray bottle with this hand sanitizer. A squeeze bottle will work too but it'll be a little more runny.


Related Because Health Articles:

6 Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizers

8 Non-Toxic Hand Soaps

popular

What You Need To Know About COVID-19

A straightforward guide to the novel virus

Imager header source: CDC

COVID-19 has jumped from an obscure, local outbreak to a global pandemic in a matter of months. Its novel status and fast transmission rate have left many feeling anxious and worried about what the future holds. We break down everything you know about COVID-19 so far and the best ways to protect yourself.

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a novel coronavirus that was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019. There are many different coronaviruses, including the common cold, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) (2). The virus has since spread worldwide and, as of March 24, 2020, has infected over 400,000 people. Estimates put the mortality rate between 1-3%, which is much higher than the mortality rate for the flu.

Symptoms

Since this is a new virus, we don't have a complete picture of all of the signs and symptoms of this disease. The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include a dry cough, fever, and fatigue; symptoms start appearing on an average of 5-6 days after infection (range is 1-14 days) (1). For most people COVID-19 is a mild illness and they can recover at home without any special treatment. About 1 in 6 COVID-19 cases become serious and require hospitalization (2). Older people and people with underlying health conditions are especially at risk of developing a serious case of COVID-19.

COVID-19 is thought to spread quickly from people who are in close contact with each other (within 6 feet) (3). The WHO states "the disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales. These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets" (1). COVID-19 has also been shown to survive on surfaces. One study found that COVID-19 was able to survive on stainless steel, cardboard, and copper for at least 72 hours (5).

How to Stay Safe

If you're in the high-risk category, you should stay home as much as possible and avoid large crowds or gatherings. Everyone else should practice good hygiene techniques and implement social distancing.

Washing your hands frequently throughout the day is one of the best ways to stay protected against COVID-19. Normal soap is just as effective in protecting against COVID-19 as antibacterial soap. Make sure you're scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds every time you wash them and to follow this helpful graph from the WHO:

Source: WHO

Use hand sanitizer if you're out and don't have access to a sink. Make sure the hand sanitizer contains at least 60% alcohol; a higher alcohol content is better at killing germs. The CDC states: "when using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount) and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry" (6).

It's important to use whatever soap or sanitizer is available while you're out and about, but we also like to have some non-toxic options at home. Our non-toxic hand soap roundup, non-toxic hand sanitizer roundup, DIY hand sanitizer guide, and non-toxic hand cream roundup will help keep you protected without the use of harmful ingredients .

Along with person-to-person contact, many counties are also experiencing community spread. Community spread means some people who have gotten COVID-19 aren't sure where or how they were exposed to the virus. At this stage of the outbreak, it's really important to limit the spread of transmission. By doing what we can to limit the spread of COVID-19, we'll be able to "flatten the curve"... AKA avoid overwhelming our healthcare systems and ensure that the sickest patients will be able to receive the care they need.


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Many cities and states are currently under a shelter in place order. Please follow all rules and regulations put in place by your local government or public health official. Shelter in place usually means you can't leave your house except for necessary travel like getting groceries or medicine or for brief outdoor exercise. Unessential businesses must close or have their employees work from home.

Even if you're not under a shelter in place order, you must practice social distancing. Since this virus is spread through close contact (within 6 feet), putting distance between you and others in your community can stop transmission. You can try social distancing by avoiding supermarkets during peak hours or watching a movie at home instead of going to the theater.

Are Children More At Risk?

While there have been cases in children and infants, reports from China are showing most COVID-19 cases occur in adults. (4) Data is limited, but there seem to be fewer severe cases in children. Most children that tested positive for COVID-19 have only had mild symptoms.

What To Do If You're Sick

If you're feeling mildly sick and you're worried you may have COVID-19, stay home and contact your healthcare provider to ask about next steps. If you're experiencing serious symptoms like shortness of breath, you might want to head to your local ER. Wearing a face mask can help protect others around you and stop the spread of your illness. You don't need to stockpile masks, groceries, or medication if you're healthy though; this will limit supplies available to healthcare workers and those who are ill.


While the outbreak of a new virus is scary, knowledge is power. It's important to stay informed and follow all recommendations from your local healthcare officials. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19 and help protect the health of our community.

COVID-19 Resources

CDC: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary

WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-2019) situation reports

WHO: Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)

Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE)


References:
  1. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
  2. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/children-faq.html
  5. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973?query=featured_home
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html
Roundups

Non-Toxic Hand Cream

Keep your hands and your health protected this winter!

We're right in the middle of cold and flu season, which means we'll try anything to avoid getting sick. The most effective way to stop the spread of viruses is to wash your hands, which is why we're constantly washing our hands this time of year! All of that soap and hot water can leave your hands dry and cracked, so we rounded up our favorite non-toxic hand creams. These creams will keep your hands moisturized and protect them from the elements.



a) Andalou Naturals Clementine Hand Cream
b) ATTITUDE Sensitive Skin Hypoallergenic Hand Cream
c) Honest Company All Purpose Balm
d) Grown Alchemist Intensive Hand Cream
e) Burt's Bees Hand Salve
f) Olio E Osso Hand Cream
g) Badger Hardworking Hands Healing Balm


We rely on EWG's consumer databases, the Think Dirty App, GoodGuide, and Made Safe in addition to consumer reviews and widespread availability of products at major retailers to generate these recommendations. Learn more on our methodology page.


*Because Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program so that when you click through our Amazon links, a percentage of the proceeds from your purchases will go to Because Health. We encourage you to shop locally, but if you do buy online buying through our links will help us continue the critical environmental health education work we do. Our participation does not influence our product recommendations. To read more about how we recommend products, go to our methodology page.

Roundups

6 Non-Toxic Hand Sanitizers

Tough on germs, without unnecessary yucky chemicals

Whether it's flu season or you're changing a poopy diaper on the go, hand sanitizer can be a life saver. But a lot of commercial hand sanitizers can contain fragrances and some pretty gross chemicals. To make sure you're getting the best possible product, we reviewed a ton of options and made sure they're easy to find at stores. There are options for gels, sprays, and wipes and lots of yummy smells like lavender or coconut and lemon, or just simply fragrance free if you want something simple. Try out several and stash them in places where you might need them, like the car, a favorite purse, backpack, or laptop bag. All of our non-toxic hand sanitizer recommendations are safer for you but super tough on germs!

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