Do You Know What Is In Your Food? Part 4 of 6

Part 4 continues our walk through the grocery store to provide you with advice and recommendations concerning the ingredients the food products offered in those departments. Part 4 will focus on the meat department.

Parts 3 through 6 aim to help you critically read food labels and ingredient lists so that you may select the product that best fits your needs. Nutrition tips and names of some recommended food brands will also be provided.

Especially for those people that have sensitive GI tracts, food allergies, the hope is that this will provide guidance on which brands may best suit you.


Part 4 – Meat

When selecting meat, other than determining the type or cut of meat, the most important quality to consider is how it has been raised. As reviewed in Part 1 under “farming practices,” whether animals are raised using organic methods may be the first quality to consider.

Organic food products do not use GMO products (genetically modified organisms). For example, cows that produce organic milk are not fed GMO corn or alfalfa. This omits the potential that glyphosates (known carcinogen pesticide) are present in the food product. It also means the animals are not treated with antibiotics or hormones.

Another quality to consider is how the animal being raised was treated. When selecting meat, chicken, pork, eggs, pet food or dairy products, look for the Certified Humane Raised and Handled label. This label means that the food comes from farms where Humane Farm Animal Care’s precise, objective standards for the humane treatment of farm animals are implemented.

There are two other labels that you may come across when selecting beef, chicken, turkey or pork: grass-fed or grass finished. Simply put, grass-finished beef comes from cattle that ate nothing but grass and forage for their entire lives. Grass-fed, on the other hand, may be used to label meat from cattle that were started on a grass diet but have either received supplemental grain feed or are finished on a fully grain-based diet.

For those that have sensitive GI tracts or if you prefer a higher quality meat product, selecting organic and certified humane raised and handled meat products may be a good choice. Buying grass-fed beef can be one way to limit your ingestion of pesticides.

Recommended beef brands:

Applegate; Vance Creek Angus – 100% grass fed; Northstar Bison – 100% grass fed; Beyond Burger – a plant based beef.

Recommended chicken and turkey brands:

Larry Schultz Organic Farm – turkey, chicken and eggs; Gerber Amish farms – chicken, and turkey – not sold as organic yet they implement certified humane practices; Plainville – organic sliced turkey; Ferndale Market.



When selecting pork there are few things to remember. Few pigs are pasture-raised nowadays. They may be because of challenges in keeping these smart animals confined, or may be for other reasons. In any event, most pigs are factory farmed, and fed GMO corn and soy meal.

In addition, manufacturers add nitrates and nitrites to foods such as cured sandwich meats, bacon, salami or sausages to give them color and to prolong their shelf life. These additives can cause the body to form nitrosamines, which can increase your risk of developing cancer.

And yet, there are farms that raise pigs humanely and do not use antibiotics or growth hormones when raising pigs. In addition, they do not prepare their meats with sodium nitrates/nitrites. Be sure to read the labels to see what you are getting when purchasing pork.

Recommended pork brands:

Beeler’s; Garret Valley Farms; Applegate; and Niman Ranch.



When selecting fish, here are a few tips that will help you make good choices:

Buy Right

  • Fish should smell fresh and mild, not fishy, sour, or ammonia-like.
  • A fish’s eyes should be clear and shiny.
  • Whole fish should have firm flesh and red gills with no odor.
  • Fish fillets should display no discoloration, darkening, or drying around the edges.
  • Wild caught fish is best.



For the best tasting farm-raised salmon, you want to purchase it from places that farm the fish without overcrowded feed pens. This means they will get raised on natural feed, no antibiotics or fillers. The following is a list of countries that produce salmon this way: USA, Canada, Norway and Scotland. Check your labels to see where your salmon comes from (avoid Asia and Chili).



For the best shrimp, you want it to be wild caught which comes from healthy raising conditions. Look for product of USA or the Gulf of Mexico. Avoid shrimp from Asia (China).



For the best tuna, always select wild caught. Ahi and Blue tuna have high levels of mercury in them; avoid these, especially if you are pregnant. For canned tuna, select a skipjack tuna, if possible. As a smaller tuna species, its flesh tends to accumulate less mercury.

Recommended canned tuna brands:

Safe Catch; Field Day Skypjack; Natural Sea – wild tuna yellowfin; Wild Planet.


Other highly recommended wild caught seafood for their nutritive value: wild perch; walleye fillet; wild lobster (especially from Canada); sardines; and king crab cakes.


Next Up: Part 5: Sweet Foods and Condiments

Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: She will look forward to meeting you!