Over the past couple of years I have not been bashful about my opinions of restaurants and food manufacturers that choose to use people’s misguided ideas of a social conscience and healthy eating when it comes to their packaging and ad campaigns. Somehow that list seems to be getting longer and longer. I guess it is sad but the positive side of this is that maybe it will aid in my diet over the long run with fewer fast food places and products to tempt me because I avoid them to make a statement.
I just want to scream each time I see a socially conscience claim on a food item. I have seen gluten-free claims on everything from beef jerky to barbeque sauce. Here is a news flash. If your beef jerky has gluten in it, you should have a greater problem with the manufacturer than the food group. While cattle do ingest gluten (and with very few problems or side effects) their meat does not have gluten in it. So claims of beef jerky being gluten free is a marketing ploy, at best.
While we are on the line of ludicrous claims, let’s explore the claim of antibiotic free meat. I know if we spend any time on social media or watch the daytime talk shows we are bombarded by claims of antibiotic resistance caused by overuse of antibiotics by farmers and ranchers. There are two issues to address here.
First and foremost, all meat is antibiotic free. If it was not it would not be in the meat case. The meat in the grocery store is heavily inspected and tested. Because most producers are very conscientious and they follow the prescribed dosage and withdrawal period and therefore nearly every animal harvested is antibiotic free. Testing and monitoring procedures capture the bulk of any others at the time of harvest and all meat in the freezers at your local grocery store are antibiotic free whether they are marked that way or not.
As far as the overuse, I do not believe we overuse antibiotics or that the way we currently use them has anything to do with antibiotic resistance. I also know that the research backs me up on this. That is why it is so maddening that the use of antibiotics in livestock has come under such strict scrutiny and the new restrictions on our ability to use them.
Don’t get me wrong, I am open to having the discussion about the use of antibiotics and I am even open to exploring how we might use less. I believe that is a discussion that some consumers want and in the spirit of the customer is right; we need to have those discussions. However, if we do open a dialogue I want it to include science and fact instead of hearsay and emotion.
The FDA’s new restriction on antibiotics in feed is based solely on emotion and opinion. They readily admit that and I find that really disappointing. I expected a government entity to make decisions from a scientific viewpoint. OK, so given the recent government directives on the Waters of the USA and endangered species I probably should not have expected them to make decisions based on facts and science. I guess I expected more out of the FDA.
The foods that claim to be gmo free are even on shakier ground. Most, of the grains, vegetables and fruits we eat are gmo free. Well, gmo free in the sense of being free of the genetically engineered crops like corn and soybeans. I would make the point that all crops, fruits and vegetables are gmo crops to a certain extent. We have always modified the crops we grow, whether that is through selective breeding or something more technologically advanced. But in any case to make the claim that your product is gmo free earns a forehead slap. All food is safe to eat, gmo free or otherwise.
And to round this discussion out, let’s throw in the claim of hormone free. No living organism is free of hormones, it just can’t happen. If you want to see something interesting check out the comparison of estrogen in animal products versus grains and vegetables sometime, it is a hoot. What the manufacturers should claim is that their product is free of added hormones. However, once again it is a hollow claim that has no scientific proof behind it.
When I see foods that claim all three; gluten free, antibiotic free, gmo free and hormone free I really go into orbit. While it is beyond frustrating, it is a call to those of us in the agricultural community to lead the charge in educating consumers. In the meantime, I will try to make myself content and take out my frustrations by gnawing on some gluten free beef jerky.