My family is one of many farm families producing quality food for your family to enjoy
Product labels on meat, eggs and dairy usually include management practices used to produce that product. It’s important to know that many of these practices have no impact on the actual end product. However, it gives the perception that the product is different or superior to its non-labeled counterpart.
On a recent trip to the grocery store, I found the following labels on products in the egg, dairy and meat cases: All Natural, Farm Fresh, Organic, Cage-free, Free-range, Grass Fed, Pasteurized, Kosher, Antibiotic free, Hormone Free, Vegetarian, Vegetarian fed hens, No gluten, No Steroids added, Nothing added, No artificial growth hormones, No added growth hormone, Produced without cloning, No pesticides.
As a producer and consumer, I found myself chuckling in the grocery aisle. I was surprised at the creative labeling such as “vegetarian fed hens”. I never thought of chickens or cows or hogs as vegetarians, but I guess they are so why not slap that on the package. Another one that always puzzles me is “hormone free” on meat and milk – don’t all animal products naturally contain hormones?
Food labels can be misleading. For example, if I’m comparing eggs and one carton claims “all natural, pasteurized, antibiotic free, hormone free” and the carton next to it doesn’t contain any labels at all, should I assume the eggs in the non-labeled carton are not natural, not pasteurized and are full of antibiotics and hormones?
Are the eggs inside these two cartons different? Is one safer for me and my family to eat? To add to the confusion there is a huge price difference between the two products; the one with all the labels is $3.79 and the one with no labels is $1.49. The more expensive one must be better – right? Actually, I would pick the $1.49 eggs and feel confident that I purchased a quality product at a good value. I know that labels don’t equal quality, often times they are marketing tactics used to charge more for the same product.
The bottom line - we in agriculture produce nutritious, safe, quality products for you and your family to enjoy. Agriculture management practices will vary depending on the unique situation of each farm. Just as consumers have choices regarding which products to purchase, farmers have choices about which management practices work best for their operation.
It’s good to have choices, but remember the most expensive product with the most enticing labels isn’t always better, safer or even different than its non-labeled, less expensive counterpart.