Hormones and antibiotics. Scary words to hear associated with your food, right? Wrong. Let me explain.
You (or for some of my readers, your mom) are at the grocery store browsing through the meat section, and you reach down to grab a whole chicken so you can make homemade chicken noodle soup in celebration of this delightful 68 degree fall weather. On your right is a chicken wrapped with a pretty label showing happy, pearly white hens frolicking in a green pasture that reassures you it’s “Organic, All- Natural,Cage Free, and Hormone & Antibiotic Free”, and on your left is the generic brand chicken in plain white packaging. The “healthy” chicken is about $3 more per pound than the generic, but hey, what’s $3 in the grand scheme of protecting your body from all those scary things? It’s $3 too much, that’s what.
Every single piece of poultry or pork that you buy in the grocery store has never received hormones. Federal regulations prohibit it! But get this: the meat isn’t hormone free. Every living thing has hormones: you, your cat, and your house plant included. Claiming that the meat is “hormone free” is a flat-out lie, but it sells a lot better than “no hormones added during production”. Companies are required to tell you the truth about the laws regarding anti-hormone production practices somewhere on their packaging, but it’s usually conveniently tucked away in a back corner in the finest print possible.
The same situation can be found regarding antibiotic usage in poultry and pork production- it’s simply not allowed. Labels that boast “antibiotic free” meat aren’t any more special than the ones that don’t. Every piece of meat that reaches the shelves has been tested to ensure that the producer abided by the law and didn’t treat the animals with antibiotics.
When you pay $3 extra for the “healthy” chicken at the store, you’re not buying any sort of special product. You’re buying the label, plain and simple. As consumers, we can’t depend on corporate companies to stop producing misleading labels, but we can get educated and learn to tell the difference. Check back next week for the break-down of organic, all natural, and cage free labels!