What Food Product Labels Really Mean
What do those product labels really mean, and do they really matter?
Keywords Healthy, Organic, Sustainable, Natural, Seafood, Fish, Kosher, Grass-fed Beef, Fair Trade, Heritage, Heritage Breed, Artisanal, Angus, Probiotic, Probiotics
But when you pay a premium for foodstuffs bearing (or boasting, depending on your personal proclivities toward these newfound terms) such labels as "MSC certified," "Fair Trade," or "Biodynamic," are you really getting what you pay for? What do these terms really mean? Sure, they might make you feel good, but do they really do any good? Especially with the current state of economic affairs, even the most die-hard of "green" shoppers probably wonder if these terms are "worth it" and actually mean anything. After all, what good is paying double for organic chicken if it’s still the same breed of chicken as "regular" chicken?
Oftentimes, the best thing to do, when possible, is to cut through all the marketing and just take a few minutes and talk to the people who make your food — this, of course, is probably only possible at farmers markets, assuming they are populated by "real" farmers (that is a whole separate article in itself), and only for certain food products — namely produce, and perhaps dairy, meat, and seafood. For instance, there are many farmers who choose not to become certified organic because of the sheer cost, but may conform to the required practices anyway (or perhaps, exceed them). But, we also recognize that not everyone has the time, or the desire, to talk directly with food producers, and that’s where product labeling is supposed to step in and do everyone a service.
So we’ve assembled a list of terms that you’re likely to encounter when shopping for food. While we recognize it is possible to practically write a book on quite a few of these terms (and many have been written), we’ve tried to limit ourselves to their official definitions and the main issues to keep in mind when encountering one of these terms on product packaging, so that you can make a better informed decision when shopping for food.