The alternate title for this post, given to me by my brother-in-law Lee, was “Food Marketing is Just That”, but I thought the beaver anus would get more attention.
I started thinking about this issue after my Dad bought ‘all natural’ Hillshire Farms pork and we got into a fight when I wouldn’t eat it. I tried to explain to him that ‘all natural’ isn’t a regulated term and doesn’t mean anything, but he had a hard time believing or understanding me. Dad, this post is for you (and everyone that drinks flavored water).
I’m sure you see Natural everywhere – cereal boxes, pork chops, granola bars – but in short, the label does not mean anything and can mean you are eating/drinking some pretty strange things (both petroleum and beaver anal glands are technically from the earth).
Problem 1: Unlike ‘USDA Organic’ and ‘Non-GMO Project Verified’, ‘All Natural’ is not a regulated term and has no agreed-upon definition. From the FDA website:
“From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”
Problem 2: Due to not having a strict definition, companies often mislead or lie to consumers about products being ‘all natural’. Kashi, Barbara’s, Cargill, and more have settled class action lawsuits when their products were independently tested and GMO and artificial ingredients were found.
Problem 3: Even if an ingredient is ‘natural’, i.e. it does come from the earth in some way, you still might not want to consume it. Flavored soda water is huge right now. Do me a favor and look on the back of your Hansen’s or La Croix – you’ll see ‘natural flavoring’ listed. It’s hard to tell exactly what that is, but one possibility is that Castoreum is used as the natural additive, which comes from a gland in a beaver butt. AHH! This National Geographic article, “Beaver Butts Emit Goo Used for Vanilla Flavoring” sums up my thoughts nicely and one of my favorite lines is, “Because of its close proximity to the anal glands, castoreum is often a combination of castor gland secretions, anal gland secretions, and urine.” Delicious!
In summary, don’t buy products marked ‘all natural’ and expect them to be healthy, minimally-processed, GMO- or beaver anus -free. Look for the USDA Organic logo and push back on your grocers and favorite brands to tell you what is in the food and beverages you are putting into your body.