Word Distinction: “Organic” and “Natural”, Part I

World War II code breakers may have something in common with today’s shoppers looking to eat healthier.

Take a stroll down a grocery aisle and be prepared to be dazed and confused. Product labels proudly announce that the goods are “all-natural” or “organic” or contain “real fruit juice.” Being a code reader would definitely help.

“All-Natural” Frito-Lays Chips

Given such proclamations, you’d think the United States had the healthiest citizenry on earth. But, more than 35 percent of Americans are obese and that rate could climb to 42 percent by 2030, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

So more people are looking to eat right to prevent the scales from tipping in the wrong direction. And marketers are aware of that trend, which is why there’s been a rise in the number of products proclaiming that the foods are “organic” or  “natural.”

So we’re going to take a bite out of this topic as part of this month’s theme to differentiate important words.

Our focus this week and next is a pretty important one, considering that the food we eat is critical to our mental and physical well-being. And if you don’t believe that, please rent the movie, “Super Size Me,” by documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock.

Naturally, this is a contentious issue. Some worry that these buzz words and phrases – including “no fat” and “whole grains” and “enriched” – give consumers false promises.

Those in the organic food industry have been particularly critical, noting that there are actual government guidelines that food producers have to meet to earn the label, “organic,” but not with “natural.”

Even proponents of organic foods wonder if that word – organic – is being used in the best interest of consumers. After all, you can get organic potato chips. As this article points out, your organic produce could be coming from China.

Two guest bloggers will offer their insight about this word distinction.

First up is Scott Murray, the president of San Diego Slow Food, who is also a longtime organic farmer.

The slow food movement is relatively new. It came about because of a growing concern over the proliferation of fast food offerings and large food-producing conglomerates. The movement was born in 1986 when a McDonald’s opened near Rome’s famed Spanish Steps.

Italy’s first McDonalds, located near the Spanish Steps

Slow food is about returning to our roots when it comes to food preparation. That means using locally grown food when possible. San Diego Slow Food started in 2001 to promote the concept here.

After hearing from Scott, then Jay Porter will be our featured interviewee. He’s the owner of The Linkery, a restaurant that was named one of the top 100 farm-to-table restaurants by Gourmet Magazine. Those restaurants use locally grown food and food from non-industrial farms for a unique dining experience.

If you go to such a restaurant in Boston, for instance, it will feature locally grown produce. If you go to one in Atlanta, it’s the same story. Advocates say the freshness and taste of locally grown food is second-to-none, because the food isn’t being transported long distances or being manufactured on large-scale farms.

It’s all about slowing down, smelling the roses and eating food that’s basically from our backyards.

Join us later this week to meet Scott Murray and next week to meet Jay Porter.

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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