I was walking through the produce section of the grocery store the other day and a lady looked at me and asked where the locally grown produce was located. I replied with “I usually look for the areas of organic vs. conventionally grown”. Her question got me thinking because the locally grown conventional produce could actually have just as much pesticide residue as regular conventional produce, wherever it is grown.
I started considering the new “food vocabulary” we now have to know as we walk into a grocery store. It’s an ever-changing environment when it comes to food. So what does it all mean? Let’s look at some of the words we frequently use these days to describe our food.
At least the term “organic” has strict guidelines. Technically, “organic” on a label certifies that the food was processed in accordance with US Department of Agriculture regulations that promote sustainability and MINIMIZE exposure to pesticide and other synthetic materials. Notice the word ‘minimize’. Believe me, this gets crazy. I decided to follow the link above to view the “allowed synthetic substances”. The list alone had me feeling like I was being sucked down into quicksand – and yet, all these regulations are certainly better than no regulations by far! I’m so glad someone takes the time to make those lists!
The term “natural”, when seen on meats and egg products means MINIMALLY processed (that word again). If you’re interested, here’s more explanation on what that could include – and bottom line – that word “natural” means next to nothing. The FDA doesn’t technically define the word, however the agency says it won’t object to the claim “natural” as long as there are no artificial or synthetic ingredients in a particular product. The truth is that the word “natural” has become a billion dollar marketing ploy, with 60% of Americans purchasing a food more readily if that word is on the label.
“Local” may be defined as products from a person’s own state, or sometimes from bordering states as well. A different definition could be anything brought into a store within 24 hours of harvest. Wow, now that’s a big difference! To get it to the store within 24 hours, it better be close – and that sounds fresh to me!
“Artisan” products of all types have historically been defined as ‘handcrafted, made in small batches’. This term was used to denote premium quality, explaining higher prices. In today’s world, it’s a term fast food chains are now claiming. I just cannot imagine “artisan” and “Domino’s” in the same sentence. Can you?
“Seasonal” is a term that’s heard often as well. One definition refers to the window of time in which a given food is freshest, ripest and most abundant in a particular region. In other words, ‘grown near me now’. That has a good ring to it.
And one more – the term “fresh”! Another mind boggler!! “Fresh” could mean the following – ‘just picked or gathered produce, live or unprocessed’, or even ‘dishes made the day they are sold’ – I read this in Consumer Reports. HMMM?? Really, that could mean just about anything.
I hope you’re laughing along with me – or at least a bit confused too. I don’t think I’m alone in all this. One thing, I’m grateful we’re defining and considering words like “organic” and “seasonal” instead of “processed”, “artificially flavored” and “trans fat” today. Hopefully those terms are on their way out! We’ve come a long way.
I can tell you though, the next food related definitions I would really like to understand are the words MINIMIZED and MINIMALLY!! What are your favorites?