WHAT DO FOOD LABEL CLAIMS REALLY MEAN?
I was thinking last night about marketing and farming. Marketing is such a powerful vehicle because in the end it influences what I think to be truth and how I spend my money. Antibiotic free, hormone free, organic, natural… What do these claims really mean, though?
SO, WHAT DOES “ANTIBIOTIC FREE” MEAN?
The term “no antibiotics added” may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.
All farmers are required to follow strict withdrawal periods for animals given antibiotics, so what does this really mean? The milk and meat that you are consuming is antibiotic free regardless of what it says on the label.
SO, WHAT DOES “HORMONE FREE” MEAN?
The term “no hormones administered” may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals. Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. Therefore, the claim “no hormones added” cannot be used on the labels of pork or poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”
SO, WHAT DOES “ORGANIC” MEAN?
While organic and non-organic foods are produced using different farming methods, nutritionally they aren’t different.
Personally, I don’t buy organic anything unless it’s the least expensive option. And, mostly, it’s not. I have chosen not to make food purchases in this manner because I see no difference in the food.
SO, WHAT DOES “NATURAL” MEAN?
A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.
Then why does my package of split chicken breasts say “natural”? Why does my carton of soy milk say “natural”? Aren’t they by nature, natural?
The best suggestion that I can give is to educate yourself. Knowledge is power. And, if you have a question about your food, ask a farmer. Educate yourself so that you can make a more informed decision, and not one based on fear or marketing gimmicks.