Shopping for food isn’t as easy as it used to be. In the “old days” (five years ago), you bought whatever looked good, and hopefully enjoyed eating it. Now, the news is abuzz with stories about which foods are healthy, which ones are eco-friendly, and which growing practices provide humane conditions for workers and animals. There’s a lot of info to digest and it’s always being updated. Below are five terms to help you understand the new food landscape.
Means that food is generally free of synthetics, contains no hormones or antibiotics, contains no genetically modified ingredients, and was grown without pesticides. The term does not take into account environmental practices, labor practices, the humane treatment of animals or high nutrition content.
Pasture-raised animals spend most of their time outside, eating a natural diet of plants and insects. These animals can have a positive effect on the environment by fertilizing the ground with manure. The meat or eggs of pasture animals tends to be nutritious, tasty and free of disease.
GMO stands for “genetically modified organism,” or “genetically engineered.” GMO means that a food like corn, soy, or rice has had foreign genes from either a plant or an animal inserted into its genetic code. The health effects of genetic modification are largely untested, yet manufacturers who use GMO ingredients are not obligated to label the food as GMO.
The FT symbol means that a product meets the following criteria: producers receive a fair price for their products, and sell directly to importers, avoiding middlemen; environmentally sustainable farming methods are used; and workers labor under safe conditions.
The Food and Drug Administration has no legal definition for the word “natural,” although products that claim to be “natural” may not contain added color, artificial flavor or synthetic substances. Foods that carry the “natural” label are not necessarily GMO-free, unprocessed, or healthy.