Monday, August 09, 2010

Label Confusion

I've been reading a lot this Summer.
I've read Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food" and "Food Rules". Both are excellent.

Earlier this year I read “Lunch Lessons: Changing the Way We Feed Our Children” by Ann Cooper & Lisa M. Holmes . Then I read The Gospel of Food: Everything you Think You Know About Food Is Wrong” by Garry Glassner.

Then I picked up Fast Food Nation and Chew on This by Eric Schlosser after seeing the movie Food Inc. (these books are being donated to a friend’s classroom he teaches health to 9th graders and is glad to add them to his class library)

Now I'm almost finished with Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck(highly recommend). I've skimmed though What to Eat by Marion Nestle. I've drooled through Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carrol and The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters and Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

It has been quite a foodie adventure. I've learned a lot. I've even lost a few pounds. Some of the things I've read are life changing. I'll save them for another post.

I was talking to my mom over coffee the other day. We do that a lot. She walks her dog to my house for coffee almost every morning. That morning the discussion was about labeling and meat.
You know you go into a grocery store, a regular grocery and you know that most of the meat you can buy there will be the same meat that is raised for the fast food industry. It is true.
So Mom asked how can you tell by looking at the labels even at Whole Foods if the meat is factory meat or old fashioned farm raised.

Well here is what Nina Planck has to say about that. Hope it helps you figure out what to eat.
The following is taken from Real Food What to Eat and Why pages 117 - 119.

means the food was produced without synthetic fertilizer, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, genetically engineered ingredients, and irradiation. Organic does Not mean animals were grass-fed or pastured. Organic beef, pork and poultry eat organic grain, but most commercial versions are not raised on grass, or their access to pasture is minimal.

Conversely, Grass-fed and Pastured don't mean animals were raised to organic standards, But the grass farmer who uses antibiotics, hormones, pesticides or genetically engineered foods is rare. Grass-fed means animials were raised on grass and hay. How much varies widely the term is not legally defined.

Grass Finished beef was raised on grass and fattened with grain.

Pastured applies to pork, poultry and eggs. when animals are raised on pasture. Pastured chickens eat corn, insects and sour milk as well as grass. (my note: and other leftovers and vegetation.)
On eggs or poultry the label Vegetarian feed is misleading. It means chickens were not fed other ground-up chickens(in the feed) and that's good. But chickens are not natural vegetarians. What it does mean is the birds never went outside; if they had, they might have eaten a grub or two. Free-range poultry and eggs says nothing about grass. It means the birds aren't in cages, but they may be in barns or on bare dirt. Grass is the key source of beta-carotene, CLA and omega-3 fats in pastured poultry and eggs.

The label Natural says nothing about the animal's diet. It means the product contains no artificial flavor or color, chemical preservative or any other artificial ingredient.

According to the USDA "all fresh meat" qualifies as "natural"

So that chicken I've been buying from Whole Foods is barn raised, fed a vegetarian diet, but no hormones or antibiotics were added to the feed.
The eggs I buy from the Zimmerman's are pastured. The chickens get to eat bugs and grass and scratch in the dirt like happy chickens.

It is discouraging to me that we have so little control over our food. That we have to research in order to know just what we are putting into our bodies. It is so easy Not to question that it is scary.



Boy, isn't that the truth! People have to get smarter.

Deborah said...

I have ovarian cancer, so my husband and I have researched a lot about food. We now eat grain-fed beef and vegetables and fruits from the farm. It means you might not get everything all the time, but you will get better food when it is in season.
Thanks for spreading the word!