June 1, 2017 |

Sustainable Foods: The Buzz Words

By Denise Greer


Let’s look at some of the common terms that accompany discussions on sustainable food that may have been mentioned in “Greening the Menu”. They include:

Sustainable agriculture — According to the USDA National Agricultural Library, “‘Sustainable agriculture’ was addressed by Congress in the 1990 ‘Farm Bill’ [Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990 (FACTA), Public Law 101-624, Title XVI, Subtitle A, Section 1603 (Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, 1990) NAL Call # KF1692.A31 1990]. Under that law, ‘the term sustainable agriculture means an integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long term:

  • satisfy human food and fiber needs;
  • enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
  • make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
  • sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
  • enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.’”

Certified OrganicUSDA organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. Organic products must meet the following requirements:

  • Produced without excluded methods, (e.g., genetic engineering, ionizing radiation, or sewage sludge).
  • Produced using allowed substances. (USDA provides a national list.)
  • Overseen by a USDA National Organic Program-authorized certifying agent, following all USDA organic regulations.

Local — Proximity varies depending references. The Green Restaurant Association identifies local as “Food transported 100 miles or less from farm / orchard to your plate, using the most direct transportation route”.

Hyper Local – The National Restaurant Association identified hyper local sourcing as No. 1 in its Top 10 Concept Trends on NRA’s 2017 “What’s Hot” list. NRA listed examples as restaurant gardens, onsite beer brewing and house-made items.

Natural — Natural is a widely used term in food labeling. The term’s vagueness has sparked the FDA to analyze its use. Although the FDA has not established a formal definition, the agency has outlined some meaning. “The FDA has considered the term ‘natural’ to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.”

There are several other terms to get acquainted with if you’re are considering a sustainable menu. The Green Restaurant Association provides a thorough guide to sustainable food sourcing at dinegree.com/food.

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