If you’re used to shopping some of the local markets around town, your chance of finding more fresh, local food goes way up, but what about the ‘super’ market? How do you really know what is best?
On a recent visit to a “natural foods” market near me I picked up a flyer. This isn’t one I frequent often so I decided to see what kind of deals they had. Here are some of the words and items they used;
PREMIUM Fuji Apples & Bartlett Pears
ON THE VINE Cluster Tomatoes & Fresh Tender Asparagus
NEW CROP Sweet Onions & Avocados
ALL NATURAL Chicken Leg Quarters, Ground Beef, Pork Loin Roast, Chicken Tenders
FRESH Beef Meatloaf
WILD CAUGHT Cod Filets, King Salmon Filets
VEGETARIAN FED Chicken Eggs
These are just a few of what I saw in the ad. No telling how many more of these enticing foods they have labeled throughout the store.
So what do these mean for the consumer? What do these labels tell us?
Grocery is big business, which means big marketing and advertising. While what they are advertising is true, it can also be very deceiving for those wanting to make more sustainable, healthier choices. If you’re really not worried about what goes on behind the food you buy, stop here. I commend you for eating more REAL food, as that can be a step in and of itself, but if you’re interested in what the terms mean, I am going to break it down for you here.
This is often slapped onto meats. I appreciate them letting me know it’s natural, but there’s no legal definition or requirements for this to be on a label. Being such, you could potentially have beef that’s fed grain, shot up with hormones and call it ‘all natural’ because it comes from a cow. Don’t buy into the hype. Everything we eat should be natural! If I have to make the claim that it is to tease you to buy it, that’s a problem.
As opposed to rancid? Again, thank you for keeping it fresh. We see this placed on nearly everything. I think most food manufacturers save it for when they really have nothing to pull from. According to the USDA, fresh is merely used to signify that it was never frozen. Doesn’t mean it’s better, but it does sound good to my wallet.
Free Range/Free Roaming/Cage Free
Ah. The vision of your chicken roaming freely on the range. That’s got to be better for me and the environment, right?
Industry standards only require a very small, exercisable space for these animals to roam. These are chickens kept with a fence that restricts their movements to very little. They have access to this small space, but are not necessarily encouraged to use it. (insert chicken personal trainer joke) Often times this can be as bad as some of the hen houses we have all seen. The benefit to free range however, is that these hens are not de-beaked, being that they have access to more space, and do not feel the need to cannibalize one another when crammed.
This started off with chickens, went to beef and now we see it with FISH! Really?
But what about those animals that aren’t strictly herbivores AND/OR what kind of vegetables are we feeding them? Grains would fall into a vegetarian feed program, but no animal on the planet (that I know of) subsides on 100% grain and is healthy because of it.
Chickens are supposed to eat bugs and insects as a large majority of their diets and cows grass, which is why we now have to specify GRASS FED beef. So if it’s vegetarian fed, you’re still not being told the whole story.
It appears to be the sustainable choice. “Wild-caught” casts a wide net and can mean that your fish were caught using highly destructive (read: downright demonic) fishing methods such as dynamiting reefs, high-seas bottom-trawling, and drift nets. Apparently this is NOT sustainable. But the term wild-caught can also encompass more desirable lower-impact techniques, such as hand-lines, divers, or the use of pots or traps. (HP) Chose the later for more sustainable practices.
Sounds so lovely, but fish do not live on a farm, until now. Most of these fish are fed, yes, grains, and left in their own filthy tanks until the day the are killed for “harvest”. This not only affects the fish but also us when we consume it. Most farmed fish is high in fatty acids that are in disproportionate ratios as to what would be found in wild caught fish. These fatty acids when eaten can throw off our very own chemistry in turn setting us up for inflammation and disease. All of this because we’ve been told fish is good for us. Choose wild-caught when available or forgo.
All things are not created equal. Just because your oreo is organic doesn’t mean it is either good for you or comes from a socially conscious and environmentally sustainable business. Stick with organic in the produce section, meat and dairy section and you’ll save a pretty penny.
Just because food never reached 104degress doesn’t make it superior. In theory it sounds nice but the reality is many things that we now consume raw aren’t meant to be eaten that way and end up putting a heavy burden on the digestive tract. There are studies that even show cooking certain foods can making them even more bio-available by the body.
WORDS THAT HAVE MEANING
I know that if something carries this label, it carries a bit more weight.
While there are some tricky things here (grass finished vs. 100% grass fed), going this route is always the better option. The animals are treated sustainably rendering their composition more balanced and healthy for us to consume. If you want to know more about the potential effects on the body, go here.
If you’re in Dallas and looking for a local source of grass fed/grass finished beef contact me for options.
Whether its eggs, chicken or pork, this signifies that the animal was allowed to pasture (the true free range). Extra feed is only used if necessary and as a supplement to their insect and bug diet. Again, this is more sustainable and actually renders a smaller animal because they are not being force fed and are allowed to naturally exercise. Look for pastured at places such as Whole Foods and other natural foods market. If you’re in Dallas Urban Acres carries some great selections as well as Natural Grocer.
Back on the ‘good’ list. Is all organic best? maybe. Local and organic could be even better. For produce and meats it’s a great place to start.
Today I purchased organic strawberries over local ones, being that they are one of the ‘dirty dozen’. Typically I go local organic, then organic, then local (for more on food choice sign up for my free list to the right of this page —>) but free of pesticides means something to me and strawberries carry a heavy load if they aren’t organic. Be careful with organic meats. It simply means they were fed organic grain… which we know isn’t ideal, but it’s better than commercially raised.
Exercise caution. A CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) can be local to your area and market but doesn’t mean it’s good option for your health or the environment. Make sure you know where you food comes from locally and get in touch with your farmer at local markets.
There are definitely other terms commonly used to reel us in. The bottom line is to know where your food comes from and how it got to you. It’s not meant to be 100% perfect all the time. Simply start where you can, and purchase consciously, healthily. At the end of the day we are the ones funding the non-sustainable farming practices which in turn feed our health.
Still confused? Sign up for my FREE shopping guide to the right of this page —->