I’m not surprised the marketing mavens interested in pushing as much bilge water and the like at the least possible cost for the highest possible price would slap the word “Natural” on their products:
Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal shelter and advocacy organization today criticized the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) “natural” label as misleading and meaningless. The organization submitted comments to the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA opposing the “natural” label on products from animals raised on industrialized factory farms or “derived from animals whose lives have been otherwise altered and manipulated in blatantly unnatural ways.”
People want to trust the producers of their food stuff and are easily assuaged by soft, fluffy and friendly words like “Natural”, “Wholesome” and “Enriched”. The producers know this and exploit it to maximize profits.
A nationwide Zogby International poll of 1,013 likely voters, conducted from January 5 through January 9, 2007, found that 73 percent consider it “inappropriate” to label meat, milk or eggs from animals kept confined indoors, crowded in cages, and standing on metal or concrete floors as “natural.” In addition, the poll showed that consumers prefer to purchase foods labeled as “natural” over those without such a label.
Well, “Fie!” to the likely voters. The large food factories think such ways of treating animals so as to maximizes profits is quite natural. It must be, after all, consumers keep buying without complaint or apparent concern. All’s well in the all natural market economy. So naturally, they put “natural” on the packaging. Thing is, they’re not to be faulted. They’re doing what large businesses do. They are doing what the market (that just might include you) demands.
Words like “natural” are highly subjective nominalizations. It means to consumers what they want it to mean. Many consumers may not care if their food was “derived from animals whose lives have been otherwise altered and manipulated in blatantly unnatural ways.” Maybe all they want to know is that it’s carbon based and, like the famous Powdermilk Biscuits, good for them mostly. So the word “natural” on the package will give the consumer a warm fuzzy about buying the product. And unless the word “enriched” is followed by the word “uranium”, that one is likely to make them feel like the food producer really cares about them.
What’s a consumer to do? More laws that end up being gutted or ignored? I think the better approach is to express yourself by where you put your dollars. Read beyond the label and make more informed choices about the food you buy. Read Nina Planck’s book, “Real Food”, as a start. It’s not hard and actually not much more expensive. Certainly not when you factor in the long term issues of better health and attitude. Demanding and seeking better quality food is less expensive in the long run. But it’s a choice you have to make and a responsibility you have to take.