Meat Labeling 101 for restaurant critics

From a restaurant review in today’s Baltimore Sun:

Good cheap eats are something I’m all for, particularly when there’s a nod to the new millennium’s sensibilities. The sausage is 100 percent beef and all natural, and the poultry is hormone- and steroid-free. The pork is premium natural White Marble Farms or some such.

wmflogo.jpgNote to restaurant critics: if you’re going to write about  today’s SOLE-food sensibilities, you need to be more than noddingly acquainted with the buzzwords.

“All natural,” according to the USDA, just means minimally processed with no artificial flavoring or colorants. It’s essentially equivalent to saying “100 percent beef.” All poultry is by law raised without hormones and steroids; see the USDA’s labeling page. And the White Marble Farms pork? It’s premium, all right, and natural according the USDA’s definition, but that’s about all it is.

Look, I’m not saying most restaurant-goers care where their meat comes from — particularly those going to a barbecue joint like this Baltimore one — but the few that do must be shaking their heads.

3 Responsesto “Meat Labeling 101 for restaurant critics”

  1. patrick says:

    The story you linked to about White Marble “Farms” is truly creepy. The creepiest part (for me) is that I think I remember seeing a full-page, full-color Cargill ad in the business section of the NYT a few months ago, talking about how they were “growing pork” that met all of these important standards. The standards they were talking about were nothing to do with humane treatment or lack of chemical inputs. They had to do with keeping costs low, achieving ideal marbling, and so on. They didn’t say “pig” anywhere in the ad. Just “pork.”

  2. Jack says:

    You can’t expect a big city restaurant critic to know…oh wait, I do expect this.

  3. HamIAm says:

    Go get ‘em Dairy Queen! I have given copies of your Chronicle piece to several restaurants who were serving White Marble pork. They all acted shocked. Clearly, the Sysco salespeople are telling tall tales, but the chefs are not digging very deep either, because it lets them off the hook for not paying the premiums that come along with animals raised humanely, not in cages.