In recent years food terms such as organic, hormone-free, grass fed, local and naturally raised have become increasingly popular. But have you wondered what they all mean and if it’s worth it to spend the extra money when shopping at your local grocery store or favorite restaurant? The Food Network’s Danny Boome (Recipe Rehab) and farmer Katie Pratt joined me recently to dish on what exactly these terms mean and their importance.
Candace Rose: What should we know when choosing our meats and produce at the grocery store?
Danny Boome: There’s many words that you’re looking for right now- there’s organic, local, hormone-free, grass fed, naturally raised. But when you’re coming to selecting, what does it mean? And that’s what we’re here to talk to you today about. We’ve teamed up with The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance and their website FoodDialogues.com. We’re all about now trying to connect the farmer, the chef, and the consumer. And we want to basically all get together and talk about what these words mean, and explain some myths and the do’s and the don’ts.
When we talk about organic everybody thinks it’s a rich yuppie food, right? Is it? Is it better for me? Is it healthier? Not really or is it? What does organic mean Katie?”
Katie Pratt: “Well, organic is probably the term most people are familiar with, and really it’s a term to describe how something was raised. There’s a very strict set of guidelines that have been laid out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to certify a farmer as organic. It’s not a commentary on how healthful a food is, but it’s just talking about how it’s raised. The same goes for hormone-free and grass fed as well.”
Candace Rose: How does knowing how your food is grown and raised help you make better choices?
Danny Boome: “When you say ‘healthy choices’, food has a nutritional value, and it’s how you cook the food that makes the healthy point. So if you’re eating frozen pizza all the time, that’s not going to be good to you. But if you’re having a seasonal local balanced meal of vegetables and meat and dairy, then you’re eating a balanced meal, so that’s going to be healthy for you. But how you cook it is a totally different thing.
I always suggest boil, braise and bake. They’re the healthiest ways of cooking instead of frying everything. The other thing is that relationship that we want to do. I like the word ‘local’. I like seeing the word local in a menu because I know that I can visit the farmer, I can go see what they’re doing, I have a connection with my state or even my zip code about where my food’s come from. It doesn’t matter if I’m in New York and buying a bagel from my local deli or I’m going to Illinois and buying milk from Kate’s mom and dad, I know where the foods come from. That’s what FoodDialogue’s about. We want you the consumer to understand where your food comes from.
Chicken does not just turn up in cellophane, milk does not just turn up in a carton, and chopped salad doesn’t come in a plastic bowl, it comes from somewhere. We all should really have this food culture in America. We all know watching Food Network or watching The Chew or watching Recipe Rehab, we all know that there’s a food media, but what we as a food culture don’t really have a connection and that’s what we’re trying to promote today.”
Candace Rose: Do either of you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us today?
Katie Pratt: “Well, all of these types of terms plus other terms as well can be found at FoodDialogues.com, which is the website for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. On there you can find just loads of information about farming, about agriculture, about all types of agriculture, as well as engage in conversations with farmers. You can ask a question and you’re going to get an answer from a farmer. We as farmers want to know if people have concerns about their food or if they have questions because it helps us do a better job on our farms.”