LOCAL Houston | The City Guide August 2016 - Page 69

FOOD | ARTS | COMMUNITY | STYLE+LEISURE TRICKY, TRENDY WORDS TRICKY, TRENDY WORDS By Jodie Eisenhardt + Erin Hicks EVEN SAVVY SHOPPERS ARE CONFUSED BY LABELS AND TERMS RETAILERS USE TO MAKE YOU THINK YOU ARE EATING CLEAN. HERE’S A PRIMER FOR SOME TRENDY TERMS AND WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN. Air-Chilled The USDA requires chicken (and other poultry) to be cooled to a certain temp to ensure safety. This term means the animal passes through several chambers where cold, purified air is used to cool the meat after slaughter vs. the common method of dipping into a water bath with chlorine, which causes the chicken to absorb water and dilute the flavor while also increasing the risk of cross-contamination. Bottom line? Air-chilled = less gross/better quality. Antibiotic-Free/Hormone-Free The USDA now allows labels that read “no antibiotics administered” and “raised without antibiotics.” Hormone-free only applies to beef, as regulations have never allowed hormones to be added to poultry and pork. Bottom line? The only way to truly avoid these is to purchase certified organic meat and dairy. Grass-Fed This year, the FDA changed its definition to indicate only what the animal is fed (grass, alfalfa and hay), which contributes to healthier animals and more nutritious meat but does not deal with the use of hormones/antibiotics or confinement. Bottom line? Ask where the beef comes from and investigate further. Gluten-Free A food must limit the unavoidable presence of gluten, or any ingredient that is any type of wheat, to be labeled gluten-free by the FDA. It does not mean a food is whole grain, organic, low carb or healthy. Bottom line? Many gluten-free products are highly processed; read labels. Local This term loosely indicates that a food was produced within a certain geographical region from where it’s purchased or consumed. With no formal definition it could mean regional, state – or beyond. Bottom line? Local does not necessarily mean organic but often does indicate sustainable farming practices. Ask questions. Natural The FDA does not have a formal definition for this tricky term. Generally defined as “food that does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances.” Foods labeled natural often have lots of refined sugar. Bottom line? Read the ingredients. Non-GMO Project Verified Unlike the rest of the world, the U.S. has NO laws requiring labeling of genetically modified foods. This label indicates a rigorous and ongoing verification process to verify the absence of GMOs. Bottom line? It’s worth researching the effects of GMOs in crops like corn (and therefore high-fructose corn syrup), which is in nearly all processed foods. Organic The USDA Organic seal indicates that a food was produced without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMOs) or chemical fertilizers. Organic meat and dairy products are from animals fed organic, vegetarian feed; are provided access to the outdoors; and not treated with hormones or antibiotics. Bottom line? If the seal says “100% Organic,” it means it was made with 100% organic ingredients vs. the term “Organic,” which indicates that the food was made with at least 95% organic ingredients. Wild-Caught vs. Farm-Raised Fish from seas, rivers and other natural bodies of water vs. those raised in tanks, irrigation ditches and ponds. Which is best? Depends on which seafood and from where. Bottom line? Loaded topic. Buy American, local whenever possible and educate yourself via seafoodwatch.org. A B C D E F G H I J august 16 | L O C A L 69