I’m not sure about you, but I don’t like being manipulated. More and more I feel like the labeling on so many of our food products is simple manipulation. Companies are of course required to be “truthful” in their advertising, but there seems to be no law against “telling a truth that is structured in such a way as to lead the reader to believe something else.”
If you are relying on labels to keep you informed about your product purchases, ensure you are also educating yourself on common deceptions. Don’t be afraid to stop and ask yourself why a particular label is on some products. Allow Google/Siri, etc. to be your friend while shopping. Even if you research one ingredient or product label meaning while making your selections you are going to be steadily increasing your buyer awareness. Here are just some of my own personal label frustrations:
- Gluten free on meat – ummmm, gluten is generally derived from grains/flour, is it not? Why does that ham have a gluten free label? It has a gluten free label because it’s counterparts that DON’T have that label have gluten in them. This means companies have been mixing up various cuts of meat, with various other ingredients, pressing them into a uniform shape and slapping a ham label on it. Key tip: your ham should not be a uniform shape. Look for picnic style, bone in or a short list of ingredients. If the picnic style is too big for your family you can easily cut it into smaller portion sizes and freeze the extras. Or you can cook it all and use some for a meal, put some into a soup, use it in sandwiches, etc.
- Grain fed labels on eggs – ummmmm, if you haven’t been feeding your chickens grain, so you’re trying to advertise that these eggs are different because the chickens have been grain fed, what in the heck are all those other chickens being fed? Grain is a chicken staple food in the farm raised chicken world! While we’re at it, if that carton isn’t labeled with anything then you can know those eggs are coming from caged chickens in a bulk industrial setting (like the kind in the horror shows). A label that brags about it’s coops means the chickens have a little more space perhaps then those un-labelled counterparts, but they still live inside in a barn. If they are labelled free run that means they go outside the barn into a fenced area. What that fenced area looks like and how many other chickens are occupying the space is the great uncertainty. Free run means they can go outside their coop into unfenced outside space. Really, whether they are free run or free range, it’s the quality of that outside space that is unknown and will make the difference in the animals quality of life. Research your favorite brand or buy from a local farmer.
- Sugar free – yeah, so helpful, thanks (are you hearing my sarcasm)? Instead you’ve filled it up with fructose, glucose, maltodextrin or some other chemical shit storm. You may try to find that product in an unsweetened version or look for natural sweeteners like organic stevia, honey or maple syrup.
- Flavor or Taste – why do you have to tell me that something has a natural taste or has natural flavor? If you are adding it in, it’s not natural. End of rant.
- 48 Hour Antiperspirants – I want you to take some blankets, towels or other bulky items. Jam them in your homes heating vents for 48 hours. Same deal with our body when we’re caulking our pores with a 48 hour antiperspirant (any antiperspirant, it’s the 48 hour ones that are really cheesing me off). Not only are they not good for us, how many people actually only use every 48 hours? Deodorant/underarm routines tend to be just that, routines that we do on a daily basis.
So those are some of my examples. It can be confusing and we may not feel like we have the time to do a lot of research, but it didn’t take me long to Google one mystery ingredient in pre-shredded cheese to learn they use wood chips in there to prevent clumping. Or, to keep it simple, stick to labels that have a super short list of food you can read. What sort of labels have you started to avoid?