Eco-Lables: History, Health and Consumer Clarity


About a month ago, I had the opportunity to present at the Farm to Table conference. I took the opportunity to speak about the topic I wrote my thesis on in 2012; Eco-label. You know, all of those labels that tell you if a product is natural, organic, cage free, or only made from happy cows that listen to Mozart, receive massages and read at a 3rd grade level. Essentially, these labels are a wonderful tool to choose environmentally preferable products but are also great ways for food companies to confuse consumers and lead them into paying more money for products that don't have much additional benefit. 

People seemed to like the presentation. They had fantastic questions and didn't boo me off stage, so all in all, I'd say it went very well. 

I had plans on putting up the presentation on my blog about a month ago but life gets in the way so I'm only getting to it now. Either way, please click the link below to check out my slides and some information on the labels that you probably encounter most often. 

Check it out!

Hopefully, this information doesn't stress you out but instead empowers you to make the right decisions for you next time you purchase food.

If you remember nothing else, just hold on to these little nuggets: 

  • Your free range eggs came from chickens that probably didn't see the outdoors.*
  • Unless you're talking about meat, NATURAL MEANS NOTHING.**
  • Some labels are very expensive and cost prohibitive for farmers. Your farmers may be going above and beyond the label but can't pay for it. Talk to your farmers and learn about their practices before you assume that they aren't meeting your standards just because their products don't have a label that you like. 

* All free range chickens need is "access to the outdoors". There is no rule on if they need to go outside or not.
**As in it's uncertifiable/uncertified. It may mean that a company used fewer inputs or higher quality ingredients in a product, or it just may mean that they put a leaf on the bag and charged $2.00 more. It's a wild world.