Just like last post, I do not mean to endorse or oppose any of the brands shown here. I took my camera to a local grocery store, and took photos of labels that I know people have questions about, regardless of the brands.
We saw this label in the last post talking about vegetarian-fed animals. These eggs are also labeled “humane,” so let’s talk about that for a second.
The USDA has no regulations on the use of the word “humane.” There are no oversight or recommendations for this label. Period. Anyone can slap this label on anything they want.
I am happy to see that this kind of labeling has shifted from “hormone free” and “antibiotic free” to “no added hormones or antibiotics.”
All living things have hormones. We mostly talk about them in women, and they are very important in controlling our reproductive cycles. But men have them, too. The most common hormones we talk about are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. But did you know that vitamin D is a hormone, too? So is insulin. Oh, and plants have hormones. Lots of them. Some plants have higher concentrations of hormones than animals do.
Hormones are not allowed to be used in poultry or pigs. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) does not allow a “no added hormones” label to be put on poultry or pork unless it is followed by a statement that says no hormones are allowed according to federal regulations. (The pork in the photo above does have that label, in teeny-tiny print.) A “no added hormones” label can be put on other food products (like beef), as long as the farmer can provide documentation to the USDA that no hormones were given to the animals at any time.
Hormones have gotten a bad rap in food, because some producers use them to enhance an animal’s growth (hormones like estrogen or testosterone) or lactation (recombinant bovine somatotropin, rBST). We’ll get more into this later, but in a super-tiny nutshell, if you test milk from cows that were treated with rBST to increase their milk production and milk from cows that were not treated with rBST, there is no difference in the hormone content in the milk. The scientific tests we have can’t tell the difference between a cow’s natural BST and rBST. The same goes for the hormones that help promote growth in cattle – no differences in the hormone levels in the meat.
The FDA does lots of testing on our food to be sure there are no antibiotics in the food that gets to the grocery store. There are withdrawal dates associated with every type of medication that can be given to a food animal – these dates tell the farmer how long he has to wait between giving the drug and sending the animal for slaughter. The label “no antibiotics added” can be used only if the farmer has documentation to support that there were no antibiotics given to the animals at any time, even in a feed supplement.
The label “natural” can be used if there are no artificial ingredients or added colors, and the final food product is “minimally processed.” According to the FSIS, minimal processing can not “fundamentally alter the product,” and there must be a statement of what the company means by natural.
So for the grapefruit juice, “not from concentrate” fits the requirement for why it is natural.
This package of chicken says (again in teeny-tiny print) that there are no artificial ingredients and it has been minimally processed.
I think a lot of the food labels we have been talking about the last few days started from a good place, but have turned into a big marketing ploy. For example, the pork that is labeled “no added hormones… EVER!” Well, that’s because farmers can not use hormones when they are raising pigs… ever. So while the statement is true, how many people know that this is standard practice, and not something special that this company does?
Do you look for labels like no added antibiotics, no added hormones, and all natural when you shop? Do you pay extra for foods with these labels?