Food labeling is something I love to talk to people about. I love that we live in a society that gives us so many options when it comes to the food we choose to buy for our families, but some of these labels are entirely misleading. It has simply out of hand. Marketers are taking advantage of uninformed consumers and getting more money for a label that doesn’t exactly mean what it implies.
So, what can you do about it? Get informed. Be an educated consumer and don’t let food marketers take advantage of you and your hard-earned dollars!
Here are 5 commonly misleading labels you should be aware of before paying extra:
- NATURAL- This label isn’t bad, but it doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it might. In order to be approved for this label, the food must be minimally processed after harvest. In other words, any production methods can be used to grow the food (hormones, pesticides, genetic engineering, etc.). As long as it isn’t heavily processed afterwards, you can label it as natural.
- NO ADDED HORMONES- If you see this label on a chicken or pork product, it is 100% meaningless. There is currently no hormone use in hog or chicken production at all; therefore, any chicken or pork you can buy is sans added hormones.
- CAGE FREE/FREE RANGE- Again, these labels aren’t bad, but they might not necessarily indicate what they imply. To qualify as “cage free,” chickens can roam freely in a building or room. This does free them from a cage, but exposes them to other chickens who often peck and cause injury to one another. As for “free range,” those same chickens would have unlimited access to the outdoors. You might be surprised to find that, regardless of their access to the outdoors, most chickens would opt to stay inside due to fear of predators.
- NON-GMO- This label is so widely overused. There are currently only 8 crops that are commercially available with GM varieties: corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, alfalfa, squash, papaya, and sugar beets. If you are buying any other vegetable, this label is not relevant.
- PASTURE RAISED- The USDA definition for this label is as follows: “Due to the number of variables involved in pasture-raised agricultural systems, the USDA has not developed a federal definition for pasture-raised products.” I think that one speaks for itself.
If there are any other labels you often look for and are curious about, visit the USDA’s website to see their definition of each label: http://fnic.nal.usda.gov/food-labeling
It’s always good to “know before you buy!”