Grit Blogs > The One-Acre Farm

Labels, Information and Knowledge

Jim BakerHello, again, my huge fan base of readers. (I am aware of four for sure.) The dinosaur that is me is once more going to go where I have gone before with others, just not here quite yet.

I recently watched a documentary on foods, particularly processed foods, and the young woman in the one clip said she wouldn't buy anything at the grocery store where the label listed more than five ingredients. Two percent milk from my grocery store lists three. That sugar-coated frosted cornflakes cereal we all love and grew up with, 17 ingredients. A small can of peas from the store, four, a small can of pinto beans, five. Pick up any box, bag, can, jar, bottle or sleeve of any product in any grocery store in this country and you will be hard pressed to find things with five ingredients or less.

Then we get into the huge plethora of 'all natural,' 'organic,' low fat, low sodium, healthy, etc., etc., etc. I was reading a label on a 'breakfast biscuit' thing. First ingredient – 'whole grain wheat flour.' Second ingredient – 'enriched flour,' and it then lists all the added vitamins, minerals, preservatives, salt, soy, oats, sugar, etc., etc., they have added to make it 'enriched.' All told, roughly 30 more things were added to the 'enrichment process.' And one of those happens to be whole grain rye flour.

Which makes this old man ask two questions, how do they cut all those grains in half for making flour when they don't use the 'whole grain'? And then that begs the question – why? Then one more question – what do they do with the part they don't make into flour? Flour, wheat flour, unadorned, is, from what I have learned throughout my life, made from wheat. The wheat grain – in its whole, whether it is in one piece or not – when it goes into the mill is what wheat flour is made out of. The same holds true for rye flour I would have to believe.

I find it hard to believe that at some potato flour facility someplace they are cutting potatoes in half so half can be used for making flour and the other half for making potato chips or something else entirely. I think they would find it more cost effective and advantageous to just use the whole potato, wouldn't you agree?

Organic or non organic. When the term first hit the shelves, I had to smile to myself, because as dense as I am, my high-school science class clearly defined 'organic' as having the carbon atom. Inorganic did not. Think of the very first Star Trek movie and humans were referred to as 'carbon based life forms.' Then looking into 'organic' farming, certain chemical based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers are approved by the USDA and the FDA for use in an 'organic' farm operation.

All natural; all natural this and that and everything else. I look at all this as so many marketing words. And yes, I do apologize to everyone in these industries at the end of this head-scratching think-a-long. Consider gasoline, concrete, asphalt, steel, even plastic, it is all derived from a natural product. The chemicals we use every day, even when made in a manufacturing plant someplace started off as a 'natural' product.

Consider paper, that scratch pad you write on – once it was a tree. Gasoline began as crude oil, which was plant matter or living dinosaurs once upon a time The same holds true for coal. So theoretically, gasoline is an 'all natural' product.

Not long ago some candy bar maker was hit by the Feds when it started pushing its candy bar as having 'reduced calories.' It also became smaller by about 15 percent. Nothing else had changed except the size of the bar. Yet by doing that, they were able to label it as having 'reduced calories' over the old bar.

Now for the apology. I know there are serious, conscientious farmers out there, growing beef, pork, chickens and vegetables. Yet I also know there are operations out there that those people have no control over once their particular product gets off the field, farm or ranch. I heard a cattle rancher recently talking about antibiotics and steroids and all that. He doesn't add steroids, and the only time he uses antibiotics is to treat a sick or injured cow. Yet once his cattle are picked up, taken to a commercial feed operation (as most are), he immediately loses all control on what that animal is feed, injected with, or even how they are housed or treated.

This little ditty is not about what is right, wrong, good or bad. It is simply one man's observation about reading labels, reading between the lines in marketing, and understanding there is no such thing as 1/2 or 1/4 grain wheat flour. At least not that I have ever heard of!

Comments and counterpoints are all welcome, just please take this in the manner in which it was written. If I have offended or upset anyone, I sincerely apologize.


ingredients list on a food label | Fotolia/Diane Webb

Photo: Fotolia/Diane Webb