A useful and inspiring guide to eating healthy, natural foods… by Katie Panamarenko
The words “fair trade” and “free range” are often paired with “organic,” though they are not one and the same. Kenny from Media In Motion tests my patience daily when he asks me if menu items obviously not relevant to “free range” or “fair trade” (like the bagels and salads) at Higher Grounds are indeed such. I have had genuine questions come from other customers as well on these same buzzwords. To clear up any confusion (though I don’t think Kenny is confused – just sarcastic), I’m taking a closer look at those terms this week.
I’ll begin with “free range,” just for Kenny! Free range is defined by the USDA as “producers being able to demonstrate that the animal has been allowed access to the outside” (www.usda.gov). Not very encouraging to me as a moral practice frankly, but it is better than nothing! The ideal is to find a farmer who can prove the proper production of his food or do some research on your favorite brands. You can find local farms at www.localharvest.org.
The reason a true free-ranging animal is so important, beyond the obvious moral motives, are health factors. Animals living in a cage or stall for life sustain wear and tear to their adrenaline, hormones, nerves and quality of life – thus reducing the quality of the food product. These strains on the animals transfer through the meat, eggs, by-products and offspring. This could spur unnatural irregularities in the body such as hyper-active hormones and increased stress levels, leading to higher risks of cancer and other unwanted ailments.
Now for “fair trade,” one of my favorite modern movements. According to www.greenerlivingguide.com, “fair trade includes sustainable, environmentally-sound agricultural practices and focuses specifically on fair labor practices and fair prices for farmer’s crops across national borders.” It works in the primary favor of producers in poorer areas, who could be exploited because of the scarcity of employment opportunities. This regulation ensures that workers get an equal exchange of money relative to the product’s worth. It demands no slave or child labor and safe working conditions. Look for the certification stamp on popular products such as cocoa, coffee, handicrafts, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton and wine.
There is no way to be absolutely sure, even when an item is stamped “Certified Fair Trade,” (as with “Certified Free Range”) that every brand that advertises this way actually employs these practices. Again, the only way to be sure is to research the brands that you use and have a bit of collective consciousness when you shop.