So many claims are on the labels of foods these days. Do you really know what they mean and if it is worth paying more? Or if the claims are true or meaningful? Marketing people are very smart when it comes to pushing our buttons. I see this evidence in the glut of gluten free foods. Many people believe it is simply healthier to go gluten free, because it is the latest “thing.” I hate to break it to you folks, but it’s a marketing ploy to sell designer food. As a matter of fact, gluten contains a lot of nutritious stuff and you WANT it in your diet – unless of course you have Celiac disease (only 1% of the population does) or a gluten sensitivity. Cutting any nutrient out of your diet to be chic is plain stupid.
So what about all the buzz words like organic, sustainable, free-range, etc.? Are these things regulated in any way or can anyone slap it on a label? Here is a little primer on these terms as it applies to meat products. I will follow in a later post with information on other products.
The term organic has the most teeth. Organic meats have to be antibiotic-free and the animal must be fed a pesticide-free vegetarian diet . They must have free access to a pasture. The feed cannot be genetically modified. The Department of Agriculture has strict guidelines that must be followed in order to label meats organic.
If an animal is truly free-range, it may be healthier. It will usually be fed better food, and because it roams freely, it develops more muscle fiber with more omega 3 fats (good for you). The USDA does not have standards for this definition however, merely requires that the chicken has access to outdoor space. There is no language on beef or other meats at all.
Since grass-fed is also not defined or legislated, a farmer can call his animals grass-fed if it ate grass once. If the producer is honest, he might actually allow his animals to feed on grass all the time – but how do you know where your steak came from anyway? Grass-fed animals have less saturated fat and higher levels of omega 3 fatty acids, making it healthier. It is not desirable to everyone (taste-wise) since it is the marbled, high fat content most Americans want. These guys are lean machines, and a little tougher.
There is no legal definition for sustainable. It means in theory, that the animal (usually used to describe fish however) was raised with concern for its welfare, the producer used natural resources wisely and was provided a fair wage.
So, if you think these are worth paying more for without getting all the facts, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.