Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

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Many people take multivitamins, calcium or fish oil to help ensure that they get the essential vitamins they need. That said, the majority of people aren't aware that there are some other supplements and foods out there that may even more beneficial to the body.

Here are seven healthful natural supplements and the foods they come in that you might want to consider adding to your daily routine.

1. Choline

Choline promotes health in the nervous system and helps to prevent fatty liver. It increases dopamine production, which provides a host of benefits including an overall decrease in appetite. Choline is found in eggs, chicken and fish.

CDP-choline supplements are an effective way to make sure your body is getting enough choline. Those who have diabetes or struggle with depression should consult a doctor before taking choline supplements.

2. Refined Coconut Oil

Refined coconut oil has a wide range of benefits. It helps maintain a healthy level of cholesterol, fights heart disease and lowers blood pressure. It wards off some of the deadliest diseases, including cancer and diabetes. It strengthens bones and even promotes weight loss.

Coconut oil is especially effective in promoting healthy skin and hair. It is sometimes used as a massage oil and moisturizer. It prevents flaking and can help ward off wrinkles and saggy skin. It is very popular in India because it gives hair a shiny, healthy quality.

3. Blueberries

Blueberries are a great source of fiber and health-promoting compounds. They contain a lot of anthocyanin, which provides a lot of cognitive benefits which are particularly useful for the elderly.

The best thing about blueberries is that they are a naturally-occurring vitamin carrier. You can eat them on their own or drink them in juice form. Consuming less than a cup each day is enough to gain beneficial effects.

4. Iodine

Iodine is a mineral found in fish that helps the body synthesize hormones. Iodine helps maintain a healthy thyroid and reduces general aches and pains in the body. Iodine also improves cognition and balances hormones.

An Iodine deficiency is a bad thing. Low Iodine levels can cause an under-active thyroid, which means that the entire body's metabolism is running sluggish.

Too much iodine can be bad for you, so be sure to follow the recommended daily dose if you are taking it in supplement form.

5. Berberine

Berberine originates from plants and is used in Chinese medicine. It is effective in supplementing diabetes treatments because it promotes blood sugar response. It also helps maintain a healthy cholesterol level. 

Berberine is a fantastic supplement for those who are overweight and are dealing with common side effects of obesity and it can be a terrific first step to getting in shape. Be careful when first taking it, as too much berberine can cause an upset stomach. It is generally best to start at a low dose and slowly add more as your body adjusts. Berberine doesn’t appear naturally in a lot of foods that people typically eat, but can be found in the European Barberry, the Oregon Grape, and multiple types of roots.

6. Garlic

Garlic is absolutely overloaded with health benefits. It can help maintain blood pressure and cholesterol levels while promoting blood flow and supporting the immune system. Some studies have shown that garlic assists in weight loss by transforming white fat into brown fat.

A study conducted by the University of Maryland Medical Center has shown evidence that garlic fights health disease, the common cold and cancer. It may also help men who have an enlarged prostate.

At least 4 garlic cloves should be taken every day to get the minimum expected benefit. Make sure not to microwave it as that can damage allicin, which is believed to be the compound that makes garlic so healthy in the first place.

Some people prefer to take aged garlic, because it has a less potent scent.

7. Vitamin B

Vitamin B is a nutrient that is essential for the nervous system. It is found in green vegetables, whole grains, milk and meat.

Studies have shown that taking vitamin B for six months or longer will reduce the risk of having a stroke. It also helps to prevent Alzheimer’s and other age-related brain effects. Vitamin B keeps bones strong, reduces the risk of cataracts, boosts energy and can help fight depression as it aids in the formation of serotonin.

Photo by Wiki Commons

David Glenn has lived his entire life in the beautiful state of Utah. He was fortunate enough to be successful in the residential construction market and was able to retire. He has been a contributor to Vivint and SmartHome USA. Follow David on Twitter at @DavidGlenn97, and read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Create an herbal pillow to encourage restful sleep and sweet dreams; your own do-it-yourself natural sleep aid! This practice dates back centuries and is a lovely way to enjoy the time-honored sleep and dream inducing power of herbs. They also make charming gifts!

 Dream Pillows

I repurposed vintage lady's hankies to make these pillows (2 hankies per pillow) 

An herbal pillow is easily made from fabric cut into small squares or rectangles. Once finished, it is tucked inside or under your bed pillow so that you can enjoy the dreamy/sleepy fragrance.

Most instructions for creating herbal pillows involve sewing a single pillow case to be filled with an herbal blend. This works well, however, once the herbs lose their scent the pillow can’t easily be refreshed.

Another option is to make an inner muslin bag to fill with herbs. One side is loosely basted closed so that it can easily be opened, refilled with fresh herbs, and re-basted shut as needed. If you have the sewing skills, consider sewing a zipper or velcro strips on one side. A more refined, outer pillow case is then created (similar to a bed pillow) to encase the inner muslin, herb-filled bag.

Fabric Ideas

Consider repurposing vintage pillowcases, lady’s hankies, scarves, leftover fabric, retired clothing, etc. Natural fabrics such as cotton or silk work well; the herbal scents need to breathe through. Consider purchasing organic muslin or other organic fabrics.  My favorite source is Organic Cotton Plus.

How to Sew Inner Muslin Bag

Cut a double layer of fabric into the size/shape you desire.  Pin the right sides of the fabric together and then sew along the edges of three sides.Turn right side out and fill well until stuffed with your preferred herbal blend; cotton batting can also be added. Baste the last edge closed.

How to Sew Outer Pillow Case

You need to basically repeat what you did in the step above. However, you will be leaving one side open, like a bed pillow. You need to hem the fabric edges of the side that will be left open so it is finished off. This should be done before you sew the other three sides together. The finished dimensions of this outer pillow case should be the same as the inner muslin bag or just slightly larger.

Bowl of Herbs

The herbal information below was taken from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Dreamy Herbs

Catnip: Relaxing, helps bring deep sleep.

Chamomile: Calming, relaxing, and said to keep bad dreams away.

Cloves: Brings warmth and an exotic feeling to dreams, add only 2-4 per pillow.

Hops: Relaxing and brings peacefulness.

Lavender: Soothing, relaxing and eases headaches.

Lemon Verbena: Uplifting, used to add “lightness” to dream blends.

Mugwort: Greatly enhances lucid dreaming and helps with remembering of dreams.

Peppermint or Spearmint: Enhances clarity and vividness in dreams.

Rose petals: Brings warmth and love, may be used to evoke romantic dreams.

Rosemary: Traditionally used to bring deep sleep and keep away bad dreams.

Sleepy Herbs

Catnip: Relaxing, helps bring deep sleep.

Chamomile: Calming, relaxing, and said to keep bad dreams away.

Hops: Relaxing and brings peacefulness.

Lavender: Soothing, relaxing and eases headaches.

Lemon Balm: Relieves stress, anxious and nervous feelings, insomnia, stress, and headaches.

Rose petals: Brings warmth and love.

Rosemary: Traditionally used to bring deep sleep and keep away bad dreams.

Sweet Marjoram: Calms restlessness and nervousness.

Herbs for Pillows

Judy DeLorenzo is a holistic health practitioner, garden foodie, and daycare founder. She completed a 3-year course in Transformational Energy Healing, studied homeopathy, earned a certificate from eCornell in Whole Foods, Plant-Based Nutrition, and is currently studying herbalism. Her approach as a holistic health practitioner is to carefully look at the complete picture and suggest solutions that promote the person’s innate ability to self-heal and maintain vibrant health. You can learn more about Judy DeLorenzo and her healing practice at Biofield Healing and find Judy's blog at A Life Well Planted. Her child care center is called Room To Grow in Litchfield, CT. Read all of her Mother Earth News posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Skin Care 

Our bodies drink through our skin, as well as from the food and water we eat. I heard this at a presentation on skin care and suddenly felt very thirsty, craving to hydrate my skin. I wanted to feed my body real food and water, inside and out. Being a farmer and a homesteader, I already feed the inside of my body real food. Now I wanted to feed the outside of my body real food, too. I love to make things from scratch, so I set out to find a delicious skin care recipe to create. 

I’m a hard sell on skin products. I have sensitive skin that is best left alone. I don't like commercial skincare products or perfumes or preservatives or just about anything on the market. With a bit of resignation, I usually just skip the skin care. But suddenly I craved hydration like a dried out prune. Anticipating the dry air that would fill my house from winter’s wood stove heat, I became determined to have lovely well-nourished skin.

It took me a couple months to research recipes, collect ingredients, and make time to create my own homemade skin cleanser and cream. I selected Rosemary Gladstar's Cleansing Miracle Grains and Rosemary's Perfect Face Cream, from her book Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. These recipes are made from real ingredients.

Miracle Grains. For the grains, I used lavender from my herb garden, as well as oatmeal, almonds, and poppy seeds from my kitchen cabinets. And white cosmetic clay and roses. If you grow flowers without spraying, you can harvest and dry whole rose buds to use.

Grind all the ingredients of the Miracle Grains, ideally in a small coffee grinder. Store the gritty Grains in a jar. For application, mix a tablespoon of dry grains in a little jar with distilled water and/or rose water until it is a paste. It lasts for a few days. You can use tap water, but it will not keep long, it will mold, so make this by the teaspoon for only one or two applications.

"Face Mayo." Rosemary's Perfect Face Cream is an emulsified blend of waters like rose water, distilled water and aloe with oils like coconut, almond, lanolin and a touch of beeswax. You can personalize your blends. I call the skin cream “Face Mayo” because it is made just like mayonnaise. I found it easy because I am used to making mayonnaise.

Here are some tips: you are blending waters and oils, which don’t usually blend well. Keep them about equal in quantity and temperature, at room temperature. You want them to blend, so one should not dominate. Put waters in a blender or food processor. Drizzle the oil into the waters slowly while blending until they are completely emulsified and look like mayonnaise.

Balancing waters and oils makes sense to me, as the goal is to hydrate your skin with waters and moisturize with oils. I keep a small jar in the bathroom and store the rest in the refrigerator. I do not label the refrigerated jar “Face Mayo”, for fear that my son will smear some on a sandwich.

I am excited about this new venture, because I am finally taking care of my skin. As a farmer, I am hard on my skin. I like to feel the soil, so I am not protecting my hands as often as I likely should, and my feet are barely slipped into garden clogs. My skin could use some TLC after all that hard work.

The first time I used the grains and moisturizer, my skin was instantly softer and balanced and made me want to start doing promotional videos for Rosemary. I look forward to washing my face in the evening. That makes me chuckle, as I’m really not the kind. It is like a little spa time every evening when I heat up my skin with a warm wash cloth, rub the gentle mask of grains over my skin and wipe it off with the wet wash cloth. Then massage in just a dab of the face mayo. I slather it on after showering and on my feet as often as possible. Life is good, skin is good.  

Winter at its best is a time of homey, cozy indulgences like this one. The real test will be giving my skin this loving, beneficial hydration when I start playing in the soil again in March. All of these skin-care programs..."May they serve to enhance your inner harmony and may you become enchanted with your own unique, radiant beauty.” Rosemary Gladstar, Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health

The Recipes

Cleansing Miracle Grains

Rosemary's Perfect Face Cream

Read a blog post I wrote about seeing presentations by Rosemary Gladstar at MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR and another one of her wonderful recipes: Make Echinacea Tincture

Ilene White Freedman operates House in the Woods organic CSA farm with her husband, Phil, in Frederick, Maryland. The Freedmans are one of six 2013 MOTHER EARTH NEWS Homesteaders of the Year. Ilene blogs about making things from scratch, putting up the harvest, gardening and farm life on the farm's Facebook Page. For more about House in the Woods Farm, go to the House in the Woods website, and read all of Ilene's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common, chronic disorder that causes inflammation in the linings of the joints. This causes pain, swelling, tenderness, and weakness in the joints. People with rheumatoid arthritis also commonly experience fatigue.

So how can you treat these painful and debilitating symptoms? Try these rheumatoid arthritis natural treatment options.

Top Rheumatoid Arthritis Natural Treatment Strategies

If you want to treat your rheumatoid arthritis naturally, you’ll want to focus on physical activity, mindfulness, and effective supplements.

1. Move More

While you might not feel like it due to pain, fatigue, and stiffness, increasing your physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your symptoms. Exercise can help to improve your quality of life, level of functioning, muscle mass, fitness, energy levels, and mood, for example.[1]

Moving more throughout the day is essential. You might find that using a pedometer or Fitbit to help you track your activity levels and motivate yourself to be more active is helpful.One recent study found that a pedometer-based physical-activity intervention led to increases in physical activity and decreases in fatigue that benefited people with rheumatoid arthritis.[2]

Certain types of exercise can be particularly beneficial for people with rheumatoid arthritis. Try these two gentle, enjoyable activities:

Tai chi can help you sleep better, increase your mood, boost your muscle strength, reduce stress, and benefit your cardiovascular and bone health, too.[3] It can improve physical symptoms (by improving your range of motion and functional capacity while decreasing disease-related disability[3]) and mental symptoms as well (reducing anxiety and depression, improving self-esteem, and providing social support, for example[4]). Sign up for a local Tai chi class to give this gentle, effective mind-body exercise a try.

Yoga is associated with improvements in general health perception, walking ability, pain levels, energy levels, and mood. It can lead to better physical and mental health, improved fitness and function, and higher quality of life in people with rheumatoid arthritis without any associated adverse events.[5]

2. Try Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to a state of being where you are intentionally aware of the present moment. This involves paying close attention to the thoughts, sensations, and emotions you are experiencing in any given moment without judgment. People with rheumatoid arthritis who went through an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program experienced reduction in things like pain scores, tenderness in the joints, and morning stiffness compared to controls who didn’t do the program.[6]

You may consider doing a formal mindfulness-based stress reduction program (search for one in your area or ask your doctor about this type of program), but if that doesn’t feel right for you, there are many ways you can practice mindfulness in your daily life. Read our blog, 5 Fun Mindful Exercises to Improve Health and Well Being, for more information on mindfulness and how to simply and enjoyably cultivate mindfulness.

3. Get Some Supplement Support

There are many all-natural supplements that can help to treat your rheumatoid arthritis. Try these four to get started:

Fish oil contains the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which help to fight inflammation, making it helpful for rheumatoid arthritis treatment. People with rheumatoid arthritis who supplemented with 2.1 g EPA and 1.4 g DHA daily experienced significant reductions in disease activity after nine months.[7] A review study found that people who supplemented with more than 2.7 g of omega 3s per day reduced their need for NSAIDs (over the counter pain relievers) significantly.[8]

Borage seed oil is rich in something called gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which has anti-inflammatory and immune system-modulating qualities. Borage seed oil supplementation (1.8 g of GLA daily for nine months) led to significant reductions in disease activity in one study.[7]

Turmeric is a spice with strong anti-inflammatory capabilities, which can help relieve inflammation in the joints and the pain and tenderness associated with it.[9] Learn more about taking turmeric supplements here.

Boswellia, also known as frankincense, can be an effective rheumatoid arthritis natural treatment. It is also a natural anti-inflammatory herb, which is in large part why it can be effective.[10,11] Typical dosage ranges from 300 to 400 mg three times per day.

Getting started

You don’t have to let rheumatoid arthritis symptoms control your life. Get started finding relief today by increasing your activity levels, practicing mindfulness, and supplementing with natural options like fish oil, borage seed oil, turmeric, or boswellia. By combining these three strategies, you’ll be well on your way to feeling better, both physically and mentally.


[1] Int J Clin Rheumtol. 2012 Oct 1;7(5):489-503.
[2] ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting. 2015 Sept 29. Abstract #3243.
[3] Curr Rheumatol Rep. 2012 Dec;14(6):598-603.
[4] J Clin Nurs. 2013 Nov;22(21-22):3053-61.
[5] J Rheumatol. 2015 Jul;42(7):1194-202.
[6] Ann Rheum Dis. 2015 Feb;74(2):472-4.
[7] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:857456.
[8] Arch Med Res. 2012 Jul;43(5):356-62.
[9] Biofactors. 2013 Jan-Feb;39(1):69-77.
[10] Planta Med. 2006 Oct;72(12):1100-16.
[11] Clin Pharmacokinet. 2011 Jun;50(6):349-69.

Natural Health Advisory Institute Contributing Editor Chelsea Clark is a writer with a passion for science, human biology, and natural health. She holds a bachelor’s degree in molecular and cellular biology with an emphasis in neuroscience from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash. Her research on the relationship between chronic headache pain and daily stress levels has been presented at various regional, national, and international conferences. Chelsea’s interest in natural health has been fueled by her own personal experience with chronic medical issues. Her many profound experiences with natural health practitioners and remedies have motivated Chelsea to contribute to the world of natural health as a researcher and writer for Natural Health Advisory Institute. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



For the past few days, I’ve been hearing alarming news on the radio about the Zika virus spreading into the United States.

The virus is spread by mosquitoes, like West Nile and malaria. From what is known so far, the virus does not spread from person to person like a cold, but by a mosquito biting an infected person and then on to another person who contracts the virus. 

I hate putting chemicals on my skin, so I use an essential oil spray that has proven to be very effective.  In the past couple years in the garden, none of us have been bitten even though my neighbor has a large pool of standing water. Even at a riverside campground in Louisiana, there were no mosquito bites.

Herbal Mosquito Repellent Spray


• 14 ounces Witch Hazel
• 10 ml (2 tsp) Citronella Essential Oil
• 10 ml (2 tsp) Eucalyptus Essential Oil
• 10 ml (2 tsp) Lemongrass Essential Oil


Mix ingredients together, shake well and pour into spray bottles(s). To store more than a month or two, it is best to keep the spray in a glass bottle or you can halve the recipe.

You’ll give the bottle a shake each time you spray. If it’s hot and you’re perspiring, re-apply every couple of hours.

Where to Find Ingredients and Equipment

The essential oils can be found in most health food stores, usually in the 10-ml bottles.  (Even Amazon has these oils; just make sure you buy pure, undiluted oils.) If you want to find the oils in larger quantity, there are sources online at New Directions Aromatics, Rainbow Meadow, Bulk Apothecary, and many others.

Never buy essential oils from a pyramid marketing company or from a catalog that lists all the oils at the same price.

Witch hazel can be found in most any drug store, usually in the first aid section, next to the peroxide.

Plastic spray bottles can be found in the personal care section, often near the travel size containers. Pretty glass bottles like ours are available in several catalogs, such as Pinetree Seeds and even on Amazon.

Zika Virus Update

Wanting to learn more about Zika, I Googled and found this quite scary information:

The Zika virus is likely to spread across nearly all of the Americas, the World Health Organization has warned. The infection, which causes symptoms including mild fever, conjunctivitis and headache, has already been found in 21 countries in the Caribbean, North and South America. It has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains and some countries have advised women not to get pregnant. No treatment or vaccine is available. New cases of the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects, have been confirmed in the UK.

Sources: CNN · BBC · Time

Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


I always tell my Dancing for Birth students to worry less about dancing correctly and more about trusting their bodies, as I want them to do in birth, with one exception — squats.

After I demonstrated a true birth squat in class one evening, a student asked, “Why doesn’t everyone else know this?” I was stopped by her question. It reminded me that many childbirth professionals and educators are still teaching and having mommas squat incorrectly.

Correct, Parallel Birth Squat as drawn by Vincent Van Gogh

Women in correct, parallel squat, as drawn by Vincent Van Gogh 

My first response to her question was that many birth professionals have seen a lovely film called The Squat Position in Delivery. This film shows women birthing peacefully in deep squat positions at a Brazilian facility. The film is made by doctor and filmmaker Claudius Paciornik. While Paciornik was researching the gynecologic health of native Brazilian women in the ‘70s, he observed that “to rest they squat, and in this position they give birth.” Birth professionals love this film have have been honoring the squat since the film’s release.

Soon after completing my doula training and seeing this very film, however, I heard that North American women have a higher incidence of tearing in the squat position. With the help of Evidence-Based Birth, I was able to track down some of the research for this statement. But this fact continued to bother me and I wanted to find the connection. Eventually it came to me. Squatting correctly is not only an ideal birth position, but in many countries it is also a comfortable position for sitting on street corners to chat, snack, work and as Paciornik noted, to rest.

For those who have travelled outside of the U.S. and western Europe, you may recall seeing men, women and children sitting in what I will call a parallel squat. Regardless of how deep or shallow the squat is, the individual’s feet are more or less parallel to each other. Most westerners find a parallel squat very uncomfortable. Instead, we find ourselves squatting with heels pointed in and toes pointed out. Like the squat represented in the film, this is in fact the wrong way to squat for birth.

Go ahead, try both squats. How does it feel? Notice that the the heel-in squats pushes the knees out and squeezes the glutes together. And like a clothespin, this position narrows the pelvic opening; the opposite of what we want in birth. Then notice that the parallel squat keeps the pelvis square and open. This is what we want.

Let’s take this a step further, in both squat positions, put your palms against the outside of your knees and push your hands towards your knees while pushing your knees towards your hands. Do this again, this time keeping your pelvis above your knees and lift your tailbone to the sky.

You will find that when you do this exercise with a parallel squat, keeping the pelvis above the knees, that your pelvis will feel much more open. And it is. In Dancing for Birth classes we actually measure the difference, and it is considerable.

So, therein lies the mystery. most western women work and rest in chairs and sofa’s, often in a reclining position. So not only is the squat position not a normal part of their lives, when they do squat, it is typically heels in. Traditionally, non-western women have rested in a squat position and when they do, it is a parallel squat. They are practicing a correct birth squat in their everyday lives.

Woman washing in parallel squat by Michael Coghlan

Woman washing in parallel squat, by Michael Coghlan

So, yes, squatting in birth will open your pelvis and make much more room for baby to descend and enter the world. But, in this case, there is a right and a wrong way. Keep those feet parallel and your pelvis above your hips for a correct squat and a safer, more comfortable birth.

Lisa Marie Morgan is a birth doula, Dancing for Birth™ Intructor and Trainer, mom, wife and lover of life living in Portland. Read more from Lisa Marie here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.


In mid-January, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) effectively ceased regulating ruminant meat and dairy products sold under “Grass Fed” and “Naturally Raised” labels, claiming that its Agricultural Marking Service (AMS) lacked the authority to define the phrases. Many sustainable agriculture advocates bemoaned the regulatory loss. One of the more influential voices, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director, Fred Hoefner, warned that USDA’s move would “take us into a Wild West situation, where anything goes and both farmers and consumers lose.” Sustainable graziers and restoration agriculturists must reject fatalisms and hyperbole, and, instead, quickly standardize a new Grass-Fed label definition that takes animal welfare, environmental impact and human nutrition into account.

Sustainable Food and Agriculture activists compare the Grass Fed decision to the equally controversial abandonment of “Country of Origin Labeling” (COOL) requirements for meat products back in December. While both affect local meat producers and consumers, the two USDA decisions differ in their relationship to the U.S. Congress. Congress legislated, and President Obama signed the redaction of COOL requirements as a part of the omnibus budget bills. For Grass Fed and Naturally Raised decision, the USDA realized that it lacked the authorization to define those phrases, like it has for other labels, such as USDA Organic. This distinction matters because with legal precedent in The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, a motivated Congress could empower the USDA to define those labels. Sustainable and nutritious food advocates must motivate that Congress in every way possible.    

The USDA-Verified label was far from perfect. Unlike the American Grassfed Association’s labeling procedure, the USDA Verified Grass-fed label did not regulate antibiotic and hormone application, did not specify confinement restrictions, and did not guarantee regular access to pasture. And, unlike the Animal Welfare Approved Label, the USDA did not require a particular health plan for livestock benefit. Nor did the USDA label require safe working conditions, soil and water conservation, or wildlife habitat conservation, like the Food Alliance Grassfed Certification. Each of these independent labels have unique benefits, which, if standardized into a federally enforced “Grass Fed” label via congressional authorization, would further sustainability and nutrition goals.

The next USDA Grass Fed label should represent the agency’s nutritional mission with respect to essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acid nutritional “baselines” would ensure ruminants’ access to fresh pasture forage, while supporting consumer cardiovascular and neurological health. One MOTHER EARTH NEWS pilot study demonstrated that grass-fed beef rib-eyes, on average, contained almost nine times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids and slightly less than three-quarter the Omega-6 fatty acids (providing a more healthful Omega-6 : Omega-3 ratio of 2:1). Meanwhile, intensively grazed perennial pastures stimulate carbon sequestration and rural economic development.

Until the USDA implements updated product labels, “Know Thy Farmer” is more important than ever for products sold with “Grass Fed” and “Naturally Raised” labels. Health- and sustainability minded consumers should vote for changes with their fork, dollar, and, above all, their votes, all the while offering thanks to those who raise animals on pasture using sustainable and humane practices.

Search out your local pasture producers at the farmers market or on Eat Wild, and let them know you’ll pay the premium. Then, get on the phone with your representatives and senators, or drop them an email. Labeling and label-reform has been successful before, and it will be again. Consider the “Grass Fed” and “Naturally Raised” labels—and the COOL/GMO labeling debates, for that matter—minor setbacks in a larger sustainable food revolution. When these labels are reinstated, they should be comprehensive, vetted and policed.

Josh Brewer is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS who covers Renewable Energy, Green Homes, Omega Fatty Acids Nutrition, and Nature and Environment.

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