Cutting Through Customer Confusion

The average grocery store carries 48,750 items. If you’re a consumer out to buy fresh, wholesome food from a trusted source, there’s a good chance you can get overwhelmed with the different terms and jargon that companies use to market their foods.


We’re going to help you with that.


Below, you’ll find a list of definitions and terms that we hope will help you cut through the confusion.


Yep, shopping smart at the grocery store is a good thing.


But nothing gets you closer to the healthiest, freshest food around than a farmers market.

There are more farmers markets operating in Georgia now than ever before – about 90 are up and running, which is more than a 600 percent increase since 2004, when there were only 12. At farmers markets, you can cut out the middleman and talk directly with the farmer who grew your food.


That relationship is a meaningful way of supporting your community and localizing the economy.


Find the farmers market most convenient for you here.


And you can find a comprehensive list of CSAs here. CSAs (it stands for Community Supported Agriculture) are a delivery of fresh, local produce and meats. This means you will get the freshest, tastiest seasonal vegetables available delivered to a location near you.


They can come in all shapes and sizes.


For the first time ever, we asked farmers to be more transparent about their growing practices and disclose, among other things, whether they used synthetic insecticides, pesticides, fungicides, and other potentially toxic chemicals. You’ll find that type of information in our online Local Food Guide.

If You Really Want to Shop Smart, Go to a Farmers Market


Here are 5 Tips for your First Trip


  1. Get there early. Check the farmers market website to see what time the market opens. Good farmers have very devoted fans, and may sell out of food.
  2. Ask questions. Get to know your farmer and don’t hesitate to ask about his or her farming methods, tips for cooking, or chemicals they may or may not use.
  3. Look for certified organic or certified sustainable farmers. Certification means the farmers use natural methods to avoid chemicals that could harm your health and the environment.
  4. Bring your own reusable bags. Most farmers markets don’t have grocery bags. Don’t forget the chilled bags for your meats.
  5. Check out what’s in season. Consult with a harvest calendar to see what’s in season, and then plan your menu accordingly (oh look, here’s one!). But don’t be afraid to try new things. Farmers are helping keep heirloom varieties around, most of which aren’t sold at a typical grocery store anymore, so they may look weird at first glance. Don’t be scared of purple carrots!

Debunking Definitions

When you do go to the grocery store, here’s a list of definitions and terms that we hope will help you shop smart.

  • “Natural” for non-meat products (FDA ): In 1989, the FDA issued a definition for “natural,” stating that it meant “nothing artificial or synthetic has been included in or added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in the food.”
  • “Natural” for meat products (USDA ): Can’t contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient. In addition, the product could only be minimally processed (FSIS, 2006). Under this ruling, the definition of minimally processed included: a) traditional processes used to make food edible or to preserve it or make it safe for human consumption, or b) physical processes that do not fundamentally alter the raw product and/or that only separate a whole, intact food into component parts, e.g., grinding meat, separating eggs into albumen and yolk, and pressing fruits to produce juices.
  • “Naturally Raised” (USDA): “Naturally raised” on livestock and meat derived from livestock would mean that “(1) no growth promotants (hormones) were administered to the animals; (2) no antibiotics (other than ionophores used to prevent parasitism) were administered to the animal; and (3) no animal by-products were fed to the animals.”
  • Free-Range Eggs: There are no legal standards in “free-range” egg production. Typically, free-range hens are uncaged inside barns or warehouses and have some degree of outdoor access, but there are no requirements for the amount, duration or quality of outdoor access. There are no restrictions regarding what the birds can be fed. Beak cutting and forced molting through starvation are permitted. There is no third-party auditing.
  • Free-Range Chicken: The USDA allows for any chicken raised with access to the outdoors to be labeled “free-range”. Nowhere does it state that the chickens have to actually go outdoors; ACCESS is the only legal binding verbiage of that rule. They may still be raised in the same overpopulated poultry house type production and be labeled “free-range”. Certified organic chickens may also be raised like this.
  • Cage-Free: As the term implies, hens laying eggs labeled as “cage-free” are uncaged inside barns or warehouses, but they generally do not have access to the outdoors. They can engage in many of their natural behaviors such as walking, nesting and spreading their wings. There is no third-party auditing.