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Naturally unnatural — or should that be unnaturally natural?


Like any mom, I want to feed my children the best I can.

Sometimes those efforts go awry, such as — not that this has EVER happened to me! — when your four-year-old sees one of those little bags of Fritos and begs for it and, well, you’re on a two-hour drive home and it’ll really make him happy.

But so long as those moments are not the norm, I figure it’s all good.

That’s not to say I only buy organic, despite the fact that in a perfect world, I would. But I have bought “all natural” chicken before when the price differential hasn’t been onerous, so this post on Drinking from the Carton caught my eye.

Marianne had been perusing the blog at Nutrition Data and came upon this little tidbit:

raw-chickens.jpgYou might be surprised, as I was, to learn that chickens labeled “all-natural” can legally be pumped full of things like salt, seaweed extracts, broth and other things … none of which are naturally occuring in chickens! Even more shocking, birds fed certain antibiotics can still be labeled “Raised without Antibiotics.”

Suffice it to say that both Marianne and I also were surprised.

Fortunately, Marianne did some research, heading over to the Truthful Labeling Coalition, which backs up those allegations.

I further snooped around on the USDA site — and I’ll tell you, it wasn’t easy to find the information! — and found that meat or poultry labeled as “natural” can be “minimally processed.” Here, I’ll let you read the whole item for yourself:

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural. The label must explain the use of the term natural (such as – no added colorings or artificial ingredients; minimally processed.)

So what does any of that even mean?

It may not even be that those antibiotics and other stuff pumped into chickens are bad for you in and of themselves. But what about the person who medically needs to watch her sodium intake? You kind of need to know if a chicken’s been shot up with a bunch of salt, no?

I mean, organic food is just flat out too expensive to buy, though the labeling requirements (download as a PDF) appear to be far stricter and transparent.

What’s a mom to do?

Associated Press photo / Vincent Yu

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This entry was posted on Thursday, May 1st, 2008 at 5:24 pm by Amy Vernon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: chicken, food label, food labeling, food labels, labeling, natural, organic, poultry




About this blog
You make it, they eat it, right?

As most parents soon discover, feeding a family is rarely that easy, whether its nursing a fussy newborn or trying to get a hot meal into a squirming toddler (or attempting both at the same time.) And that's not even the days when work runs late, the main course burns, or your adventurous little sushi eater announces from now on she will only eat food that is pink.

As parents ourselves, we've been there, done that, even learned a few tricks along the way. And we're pretty sure so have you. Maybe together we can make eating together as a family -- gulp! -- fun again.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!


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About the authors
Hema Easley Hema Easley has been a reporter for The Journal News since July 2002, first covering municipal government and then nonprofit agencies, women's issues and the South Asian and Muslim community in the Lower Hudson Valley. In her previous job, Hema was a correspondent for the Associated Press in South Asia. She lives with her husband and two sons in Orange County.
KatieKatie Ryan O'Connor, a Journal News editor and 35-year-old mother of three, never quite appreciated the work that went into feeding kids until she had to do it herself as a mother. If she had a food-and-kids philosophy it would be something like this: try your best to offer as much healthy food as possible, but sometimes fruits just have to be counted as vegetables and there are far worse things than chicken and spaghetti. Again.
TraceyTracey Princiotta, a 37-year-old mother of one, loves to cook, bake and eat, and is relieved that her son appears to be equally willing to chow down -- even if it's baby food and formula right now. Despite her husband's intense aversion to vegetables, she has high hopes of nurturing a true chowhound who will try everything at least once. And if all else fails, she's not above sneaking veggies into other foods.
Marcela Rojas Marcela Rojas has been a municipal reporter with The Journal News since January 2003. She is a native of Putnam County and grew up eating Peruvian food. She didn't realize until she was 13 that rice did not come with everyone's meal. After several years of living in Los Angeles -- where she grew a fondness for Thai food -- she returned to Putnam County where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Zyla (rhymes with Lilah) just turned 1 in March and, so far (her mother is pleased to note), loves to eat everything.
Swapna Venugopal Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, a Journal News reporter, started her career as a journalist in 1999 after graduating with a master's degree from New York University. Before joining the paper in 2006, Swapna worked as a municipal reporter for the Home News Tribune in New Jersey, and took a baby sabbatical to care for her two children, now ages 7 and 5. She has currently outsourced feeding her children and husband to her mother, who is visiting from India. Her friend and colleague Katie O'Connor, informs Swapna that she wouldn't mind being fed Indian food by her mother, too.
Randi Weiner Randi Weiner has been a reporter with The Journal News since 1989, having covered police, government and schools in Westchester and in Rockland. An Ohio native and 1976 graduate of Bowling Green State University, she worked for daily newspapers in Ohio and Michigan before moving east. She has tended bar and danced in a beledi troup and sat on the boards of two community theaters. She plays mandolin with the Shamrogues, Connecticuts largest Irish band. Randi lives in Connecticut with her husband and has three children.

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