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Radio Kitchen #930 - What The Label Means 3-15-11
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As complicated a subject as food is, food law is even more so. Countries around the world are very careful about how people label their food, and great bodies of regulation exist to make sure that there is no misrepresentation. The U.S. is no different. We may not be as concerned with geographical integrity as much as the French and Italians are, but we do worry a lot about words like organic and anti-biotic free. Here are some terms and what they may or may not mean.
Natural: almost meaningless, although it implies no artificial ingredients, added color and minimal processing.
Sustainable: actually semi-organic, sorta kinda. No real legal definition, although it usually implies minimal use of insecticides and fertilizers.
Organic: farms seeking organic status are strictly regulated and must be certified over a number of years. Organic does not mean high quality, necessarily, nor is it a guarantee of health.
Free range: specifically in reference to chicken. Does not mean the chicken can run wild all over God's half acre. They simply have access to the outdoors, and there is no size requirement for that open space.
Hormone free: meaningless for pork or poultry who cannot be raised with hormones. Allowed for beef if the farmer can provide documentation.
No antibiotics: see "hormone free".