I think one of the most interesting things about any food we buy is the label it carries. Does the company assure that the enclosed item is “all natural” or “organic” or “free-range”? These terms aren’t backed with the regulation and specificity we’d wish them to be, but I think that’s another post on its own. It seems a possibility to decide a food’s value based on these claims. Another possibility would be to turn the package over and read the ingredients list to decide the contents’ healthiness, for the environment or for ourselves. To me, the answer to this dietary question can be found in your head rather than on a wrapper. When you pick up an apple in the super market, the little sticker will probably tell you the brand, where it was farmed, and maybe even that it’s organic. Personally, I know I’d rather see California on that label than China, and the word organic is a positive one too. But do I even know if it is apple season? What if I went to a farmers market and asked the growers exactly what went into their apples? What if I picked the fruit from my own backyard? Without even going into the ambiguous and misleading nature of many food labels, it is certain that we know more about the farmers market or home-grown apple. The label and ingredient list are much less of the food’s story than we think. Can they tell us how the food was harvested? Its carbon footprint? Can they tell us what the food was covered in while it was alive or sprayed with after it died? There are of course times when we want to see how much fat or protein is in something because we are trying to be healthy. However, I feel that often we look at a food’s package to decide its content and a few words with different connotations make the decision for us. Or maybe, studies performed by experts make the decision for us. I am just suggesting that there is more to it. Past the food’s content is its experience before it gets to us; past the studies done in labs is our personal relationship with the food. We can’t decide what goes into a food or what its ingredients do in our body, but we can decide what product, what company, and what philosophy we want to support.
Obviously, any time you go to the market for food, you check a food’s label; I will, so will my vegetarian friends. There are certain ingredients we like to stay away from and certain labels that we don’t trust. But I think we can start by just opening our eyes to a different way of looking at our food’s worth. Maybe planting a few seeds in our backyard or visiting a local farmers market can put us a little closer to knowing what goes into our food. In the end, I think that’s what it really comes down to: knowing. Labels often don’t tell me everything I want to know.