What do food labels actually mean? -Quartz
Do Good Foods is a startup that produces “low carbon” chicken. but what does that mean exactly? The company says its chickens eat food from grocery store surpluses. Do Good Foods Claims each chicken product will prevent four pounds of food waste from being sent to landfill, helping to reduce carbon emissions. On its website, the company claims to be the “first American brand of chicken with”verified carbon reduction benefits.'”
It is not clear, however, How? ‘Or’ What the process is verified. Carbon reduction is not a label that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a role in defining. Do Good Foods did not respond to a request for information on how the verification process works.
Reducing carbon emissions is just one of many food label terms, which total at least 450, customers can come across at the grocery store. In 2021, the three most popular labeling claims on fresh foods in the United States, defined as poultry, seafood and produce, were natural, free of antibiotics and free of artificial additives, according to Euromonitor, a research company. ‘data analysis. Companies often offer their own labeling such as Cocoa Life by Mondelez, a global sustainability program aimed at improve the lives of cocoa farmersor Starbucks CAFE Practices, a program source ethically grown coffee.
The intentions may be good, but the the effects may be less. In 2021, the Animal Legal Defense Fund sued Hormel Foodswhich produces Spam as well as Applegate deli meats, for allegedly misleading customers with its “natural” label.
The proliferation of labels can make it difficult for customers to decipher what’s meaningful and what isn’t, and many are just marketing, with no real oversight from industry or the federal government.
Here is a brief overview of some of the most common food labels and what they mean.
What this means: The According to the United States Department of Agriculture a food labeled as natural contains no artificial ingredients or added colors and is only “minimally processed”, which means that processing the food does not fundamentally change the product. But a natural food product is not necessarily healthier, organically grown, and may legally contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Regulation: USDA must approve labels (pdf) bearing natural claims.
What you will see it on: The label can be found on products ranging from peanut butter to cereal.
What this means: Meat, produce, poultry, eggs and dairy products labeled as organic mean they come from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Produce must be grown without certain pesticides and herbicides, among other requirements.
Regulation: The The USDA says this product can be called organic if it has been grown in soil that has not contained prohibited substances, including most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, applied for three years before harvest. For meat, regulations require animals to be raised in living conditions suited to their “natural behaviors,” such as the ability to graze on pasture, fed 100% organic feed and free of antibiotics and hormones.
What you will see it on: most commonly purchased organic foods are fruits, vegetables, cereals, dairy products and meat.
What this means: Gluten is a protein that gives bread and other grain products their shape and texture. The label gives people, especially those with celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten consumption, a way to avoid foods that can cause severe symptoms, which are largely gastrointestinal. Some 3 million Americans have celiac disease.
Regulation: USDA states that foods labeled gluten-free must contain less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
What you will see it on: It’s most common and most significant on breads, cakes, cereals, pastas, and other wheat-based foods, but it can also be found on everything from ice cream to cosmetics.
What this means: Non-cage hens are not kept in cages; they are raised in enclosed facilities such as a barn or chicken coop. The facility could be very small and crowded with little room to move around. This does not mean that the animals are free to roam the pastures or that they have access to the outdoors.
Regulation: Eggs marketed as cage-free must be source verified by USDA through semi-annual site visits to verify that laying hens are housed in appropriate production systems.
What you will see it on: Eggs.
What this means: Unlike non-cage husbandry, “free range” refers to animals allowed to move vertically and horizontally in indoor homes, have access to fresh food and water, and continuous access to the outdoors during their spawning cycle. The outdoor space can be fenced or covered with a netting-like material.
Regulation: Yes, the process is USDA verified.
What you will see it on: Eggs, chicken, beef.
What this means: The goal fair trade products is to provide safer working conditions, better environmental protection and more sustainable livelihoods – and can be applied in various industries from from food to clothes. In the coffee industry, for example, certification guarantees a minimum price to coffee growers, which is most of the time higher than the market price, Kim Elena Ionescu, director of sustainable development at the Specialty Coffee Association, says NPR. Fair Trade works almost exclusively with cooperatives of small farmers. Businesses can also use the profits from fair trade products to invest in things like health insurance or to provide bicycles to employees.
What you will see it on: Primarily on coffee, chocolate, bananas, and tea, but it’s popping up everywhere in the grocery store and beyond.
What this means: GMO, which stands for genetically modified organism, refers to crops that have been genetically modified in the laboratory. Non-GMO means that the food does not contain any ingredients from these GMO crops.
Regulation: No, USDA does not certify foods to be bio-engineered or non-bio-engineered.
What you will see it on: It’s most commonly found on corn-based products like tortilla chips, but it pops up all over the grocery store.