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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