When Is All-Natural Really Natural?

Most of us feel better when we eat well. And we have come to learn that foods that are free from additives, preservatives, chemicals, tenderizers, etc., are generally better for us. As a result, when choosing foods for their families, one term many consumers rightfully look for on labels is '100% Natural' or 'All-Natural'.

Unfortunately, Not all 'All-Natural foods’ are really All-Natural. In fact, consumers need to be careful about what's in the products they are actually purchasing. Today, many companies (especially producers of beef, pork and chicken) have become very clever with their product labels, creating the illusion that their products are 'healthier' by printing the term 'All-Natural’ or '100% Natural' on the label. In reality, however, the product maybe anything but natural.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that most of the chicken sold in the U.S. is ‘plumped up’ with salt, water, other chemicals and even a seaweed extract called 'carrageenan.' Surprisingly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture currently allows chicken processed with these additives to still be labeled 'All-Natural' or '100% natural.'

The rationale is that water, salt, etc., are 'naturally-occurring' ingredients. True, they are not man-made chemicals. However, these ingredients are NOT naturally found in chicken. In fact, when they are added to a natural product like a raw chicken breast, the chemical makeup of that product is changed. It is no longer just chicken.

So, why do many large companies include these additives? The answer is simple: profit. Consider this. Water costs only a fraction of a cent per pound. But in many instances it comprises up to 30% or more of the weight of a raw cut of chicken, beef or pork. And the water then becomes the 'carrier' for a host of other additives: sodium, carrageenan, tenderizers, preservatives, etc.

Because meat is sold by the pound, adding water and chemicals to the product increases its weight and lowers the product cost (because the water costs a fraction of what the meat costs.) And the chemicals carried into the product by the water are used to add flavor, tenderize or otherwise make the product more palatable.

Labels show that so-called enhanced or 'plumped' chicken often has between 200 and 400 mgs of sodium per serving, almost as much as a serving of fast-food French fries. So, consumers trying to watch their sodium intake to cut their risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, need to know that it pays to stay away from this unneeded salt intake.

Sadly, the bottom line is that not all ‘All-Natural’ food is really ALL natural. And it is certainly not all the same.You can have confidence, however, that any 'All-Natural' or '100% natural' product marketed by a member company of the All-Natural Food Council of North America is totally free from chemicals and additives, and is, truly, ALL-NATURAL!