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Don’t Be Duped – Food Marketing Buzz 101

Walk down any grocery aisle in any State and you will see them… the buzzwords.  You know the ones, because they are impossible to miss – they are plastered on any food, beverage, snacks, or any other consumable packaged item. In many cases they are not alone, combined with other word friends, to create an impactful message. So (you may ask), what’s wrong with a little creative writing? Here is the issue: many of us are becoming more and more conscious about what we are actually putting into our bodies. When these creative content terms are used, it makes it increasingly more difficult to decipher what really is, or is not, ‘healthy’.

In short, it is marketing jargon at its finest!  And it is resulting in foods being purchased with the idea that it is a healthier, cleaner option – when in reality, it is not. Buzzwords – or these word tools – are meant to highlight the good while distracting you from the dietary sabotagers. But why? So that you will purchase the product.

For people that have to closely monitor what they ingest, these tactics could literally be the kiss of death. For me, my ultimate goal is to eat in a way that minimizes the amount of toxin intake; whether the toxins are chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, or anything not natural, so that I can maximize the amount of nutrition intake.

Oh, how often misused words generate misleading thoughts!”
~  Herbert Spencer

Who Cares?!

I do, and you should, too! The #1 problem I see with this phenomenon is that there are very few regulations regarding the use of words, creative or not, which is becoming grossly taken advantage of within the food industry.

The best way to not fall victim to these trending sales strategies is to:

  • Educate Yourself
  • Give a Damn About What You Eat
  • Recognize That Ingredients Matter
  • Speak Out About What You Know – Caring is Sharing

Knowledge is Power = Better Health for You & Your Family

It has taken years for me to understand all of this Clean Living stuff and I understand that it can be a daunting task, at first. I was completely overwhelmed when I started this journey towards a healthier lifestyle. What I found is that you just have to learn as you go, and apply your thought to your shopping or ordering. There are tools that can make this task easier. Here are the facts and definitions that I have compiled to help you navigate around these buzzwords, and get to the heart of the matter.

The Clean Foodie On-Going & Growing Buzzwords List:

Antibiotic-free pork, meat, and dairy
All pork, meat, and dairy sold in the US is antibiotic free, although antibiotics are allowed to be administered to pigs and livestock. However, all traces of the antibiotic must leave the body before it can be slaughtered for food production. That being said, I prefer animal products that were never administered antibiotics for many reasons and for the same reasons I avoid antibiotic usage for myself. There are several holistic alternatives that can be used. Vaccines are given to keep pigs healthy.

Cage Free
Poultry raised without confinement to a cage. However, this does not address whether or not they were raised free to roam in pastures, restricted to indoor crowded conditions or had access to the outside.

Fair Trade Certified

Protects against the potential injustices of conventional trade regarding working conditions and fair trade and pay for farmers and workers.

Farm to Table
A defined criterion does not exist but generally speaking, “Farm-to-Table” means that the food on the table came directly from a specific farm, without going through a store or distributor. It is a social movement which promotes serving local food at restaurants and food service entities, with food sourced directly from its origin.

Fat-Free, Low Fat, Low Calorie
These terms have nothing to do with the cleanliness of the food or ingredients.

Free Range (Free Roaming)
Birds have some access to the outdoors. The USDA requires only 5 minutes a day outside to be considered Free Range. Free Range is regulated by the USDA for poultry ONLY, not for beef or eggs. Claims on eggs and beef are not regulated at all and there are no third party verifications.

Is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats. It gives the dough its elasticity which helps it rise and provides a chewy texture, such as in bread, cake or cookies. Gluten causes health problems for those with gluten-related disorders like celiac disease.

Gluten Free
Has nothing to do with how clean a product is. It is simply a strict diet that excludes gluten or a food that does not contain Gluten. Gluten-free does not mean healthy or clean in and of itself. Often this label is found on foods that are naturally gluten-free. 

GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) – When a plant or animal’s DNA has been changed by genetic engineering, resulting in a food that is not created by nature. The predominant purpose for genetically engineered food is to either create its own insecticide from within or to resist man-made weedkiller. There is growing evidence that GMO food is disruptive to humans, but long-term research is lacking. Avoid when possible.

Grown without genetically modified organisms, or a product that does not contain GMO ingredients. Must be labeled NON-GMO Verified Project or Organic to be legit.

Animals that have been fed grasses most of its life. The USDA has dropped its definition of Grass Fed and the label is not tightly regulated. These animals are typically grain finished.

100% Grass Fed
When animals are fed grass or hay for their entire life. The claim is not regulated. These animals are typically pasture raised. However, since these terms are not regulated it’s best if one can validate these claims and not assume.

Greenwashing – Misleading claims about the environmental or “Green” benefits of a food or product marketed by an organization which makes the company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it actually is.


Livestock breeds that have adapted to their environment through a lengthy existence in a single area. It does not necessarily mean they were humanely raised or raised outdoors. No third party verification exists.

HFAC (Humane Farm Animal Care)
Is a Non-Profit third party certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production. Their goal is to improve the lives of farm animals by driving consumer demand for kinder and more responsible farm animal practices.

Hormone Free Pork
Farmers are not allowed to give pigs any hormones in the US.

Humanely Raised
A term made up by food companies to induce you into thinking this product was raised with more care…Dupe alert! A regulated or formal definition does not exist.

Labels found on meat and poultry products that were prepared to satisfy the requirements of Jewish law. To qualify as Kosher, the animals must be slaughtered without being pre-stunned.

Monterey Bay Seafood Watch
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean, now and for future generations. Their recommendations indicate which seafood items are Best Choices or Good Alternatives, and which ones you should Avoid.

The USDA guidelines for “Natural” ONLY pertain to meat and poultry. The meat or poultry products cannot contain preservatives or artificial ingredients such as colors or flavors and must be minimally processed. This does not mean they are organic, humanely raised or raised without antibiotics. There are no standards in existence when the term “Natural” is used on any other products.

Naturally Raised
A USDA verified claim pertaining to meat from animals that means raised without growth hormones, antibiotics, or fed animal by-products.

Made With Organic Ingredients

70%-90% organic ingredients w remainder non-GMO ingredients.

Organic USDA
Foods produced without antibiotics, hormones, genetic engineering, sewage sludge, radiation, synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. Requires certification by a third party, government-accredited organizations.

100% organic
USDA green and white label.

95% organic ingredients and produced via organic methods, the remaining 5% must be Non-GMO. Allowed to use the above USDA label.

Organic used in ingredient label
For products w less than 70% organic ingredients.

Eating only what we could hunt or gather in caveman days– meats, dairy, fish, nuts, greens, veggies, and seeds. Processed foods, grains, sugars and legumes are not allowed.

Pasture Raised
Raised free to roam in the pasture. An enforceable definition does not exist and the term is unregulated.

Pesticide Free
A third party label used by farmers who do not use any synthetic herbicides, insecticides, or fungicides on their crops. The label is not regulated by the USDA. This does not mean that GMO plants and seeds, as well as synthetic fertilizers, were not used.

Pesticide Residue Free
A third party approved label that means pesticide residue was not found on the produce that is ready for sale or consumption but does not mean pesticides were not used during the growing process.


Synthetic, genetically engineered hormones that are administered to dairy cows to increase their milk production.

Again has nothing to do with the cleanliness of the ingredients and also sugar substitutes or alternatives could have been used in its place which is for the most part, not a healthy choice. For more information about sugar and it’s many names and forms, here’s the link to our blog on the subject:

A general term that pertains to preserving an ecological balance for future generations by avoiding depletion of natural resources. A third party certification or enforceable definition does not exist.

Smart Catch
A sustainable seafood program created by chefs for chefs, which includes fished and farmed seafood.

Third Party Certified
Verification by an independent company that confirms or denies claims made or labels displayed by producers such as Organic by the USDA.

A vegetarian taking it 1 step further. Avoiding foods produced using animals or animal products in any way, including honey.

100% Vegetarian Diet
Animals that have consumed feed void of animal byproducts. In the case of chickens, unless labeled organic, assume they are consuming GMO corn and soy. Since chickens are omnivore’s, “100% Vegetarian Diet” generally means they are not pasture raised and are indoors or confined to a cage.

Wild Caught
Caught in the wild or it’s natural habitat rather than bred from captive stock.

To get additional information on the most common buzzword offenders, check out: 32 Health Halo Foods To Stop Eating Immediately.


Eat This –

Readers Digest –

ABC News –

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