Life’s busy. Hungry for Truth has you covered with quick and easy Mason jar meals perfect for students, working moms and farmers taking a break in the field. Prep on Sundays to grab and go throughout the week or layer in leftovers as you go. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your favorite flavors. Here are three options for breakfast, lunch and dinner to help get you started.
You may notice we couldn’t help but include a dash of dairy in all three recipes. Not only does it taste amazing, it’s also a homegrown part of a balanced diet. Did you know South Dakota is home to approximately 117,000 dairy cows that eat 31,000 tons of soybean meal each year? That’s right! Protein-rich soy delivers important nutrients that fuel healthy cows to produce the nutritious dairy foods we enjoy around the table and on the go.
Make your Mason jar meals using the recipes below and watch the video for step-by-step instructions. Looking for other easy to prep meals? Try these Cuban Sliders!
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
Whether you work in a tractor or at a desk, everyone needs a quick, easy meal to ward off midday hunger. This easy Cuban slider fits the bill. Make a big batch on Sunday evening, and you’ll have delicious, hearty ham sandwiches to fill your lunchbox for the whole week.
Not only does ham provide high-quality protein, it also is one of the most sustainable meats available. Sustainability means doing what’s right for the environment and continuously improving the land. Pork farmers have done just that by reducing their carbon footprint by 35 percent in the last 50 years. Feeding pigs a nutrient-rich diet of sustainably-grown soybean meal allows farmers to raise delicious meat while leaving the land better than they found it.
Now, it’s sandwich time! Follow along with this video to see step-by-step instructions for this quick lunchtime hit. Need a dinner recipe? Try these Pork Chops With Rosemary Apple Butter.
Being environmentally friendly is an important part of today’s family farms. Thanks to advancements in technology, adoption of conservation tillage and other factors, more than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown sustainably. Most South Dakota families may not realize how much farmers focus on making improvements to care for the land and water, while growing healthy food, because it happens behind the scenes.
Think you know the truth about farms and sustainability? Test your knowledge below with five common myths and the truth behind them.
Myth: Farmers are becoming less sustainable.
Au contraire, farmers are becoming more sustainable. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance estimates soybean farmers today are growing nearly 50 percent more soybeans now than just 30 years ago with a third of the water and energy and just under half the land. They’ve also cut greenhouse gas production and soil loss by nearly half.
Myth: Only small, organic farms are sustainable.
When it comes to sustainability, size really doesn’t matter. It’s all about making smart choices for the land and water. For example, the tillage that some organic and conventional farmers do to avoid using pesticides and create a good seedbed can disrupt soil health. Reducing tillage is something family farms of all sizes and practices can do to be more environmentally-friendly.
Myth: GMOs are not sustainable.
GMO seeds allow farmers to grow safe crops that are more resistant to certain pests, diseases and environmental conditions than plants grown from traditional seeds. Because GMO crops are better at defending themselves, farmers can use fewer pesticides. The American Council on Science and Health estimates GMO soybeans have helped reduce pesticide use by 37 percent.
Myth: Pesticides are not sustainable.
Pesticides are used by many farmers, organic and conventional alike. When used responsibly, they help protect crops from devastating pests. South Dakota soybean farmers must be educated and certified to mix and apply pesticides. They also use technology and equipment to ensure they’re using just the right amount to get the job done.
Myth: Sustainability is about choosing the environment over people.
Sustainability is all about making the right environmental choices now so families continue to enjoy safe and healthy food in the future. It’s choosing the environment and people. For South Dakota farmers, families are the key reason to protect the land and water for the future.
So how did your knowledge stack up against the facts? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Continue learning how South Dakota farmers go green by reading this story about a farmer near Colton.
Did you know October is Pork Month? We’re celebrating by making our favorite pork dishes, including Rosemary Apple Butter Pork Chops. Plus, local pig farmer and registered dietitian Charlotte Rommereim gives us the scoop on how she raises pigs, the truth about hormones in pork and the many nutritional benefits of the other white meat.
Tell us about your family farm.
My husband Steve and I are the fifth generation on our farm near Alcester. Our farm has been in my family since my great-great grandfather, Gustav Nilson, emigrated from Sweden in 1874. Our family farm has raised pigs for more than 100 years. We also grow corn and soybeans. My husband operates the farm, and I work as a registered dietitian.
How do you keep your pigs comfortable and safe?
Our farm operation uses many types of housing to keep our pigs safe and comfortable. Steve and I choose to raise our pigs indoors in a barn where we can control the environment and protect them from the weather. Our pigs have food and water available at all times, and we visit them daily to monitor them.
What do you feed your pigs to keep them healthy?
Swine nutritionists formulate our pigs’ diets to make sure they have the optimal nutrients for each stage of their growth. This includes eating some of the soybeans we grow on our farm. As a dietitian, I compare it to how our children’s diets change as they grow to adulthood. Pigs require different feed formulations for each stage of growth.
Do you ever use hormones to help them grow?
The truth is hormones are never allowed in raising pigs or poultry. The federal government prohibits it and actually states this on the meat packaging labeled “hormone-free” in the grocery. We never give our pigs hormones because it is against the law.
How does pork fit into a healthy diet?
Protein is a very important nutrient and many are trying to include more of it in their diets. Pork provides high quality, nutritious protein at a reasonable price that fits into a healthy dietary pattern. As a dietitian, I recommend Pork’s Slim 7, which is a list of lean pork cuts. This includes my favorite, the pork tenderloin, which is leaner than a skinless chicken breast. Pork is also an excellent source of thiamine, selenium, niacin, phosphorus and vitamin B6.
Time to sizzle up some delicious and hormone-free pork chops for dinner. Just watch this video to learn how. Looking for another pork option? We also have a pork tenderloin recipe that’s sure to please.
For many in Sioux Falls, the average Saturday starts with a cup of coffee and a walk down to the local farmers market around 8 a.m. For local farmer Dale Hebda of Hebda Farms, preparing his stand at the market starts at 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning.
“We start with picking produce and packing it up for Saturday morning,” Dale said. “We usually finish Friday by packing our cooler with our baked goods at 11 p.m.”
Long hours are just part of the job at Hebda Farms, a produce farm in Mission Hills that started off as a 4-H project for Dale’s oldest son, Steven.
“He began with two or three acres that supplied our stand at the little farmers market in Yankton,” he said. “He bought the seed, paid for the water and paid me rent. He really took care of his finances and ran an excellent business.”
In addition to Steven’s efforts and purple ribbons accrued at the county fair, the community also provided the support Hebda Farms needed.
“Our community really came together and rallied around him to support his local business at our farmers market,” Dale said. “With Steven’s proven success and our seven younger children coming into 4-H down the road, we needed to expand our business.”
As luck would have it, a property came up for sale just as the Hebda family considered expansion. They purchased the land and went from two to three acres to 45 acres and have been growing ever since. In addition to adding products and produce to their line, they also began growing soybeans, corn and alfalfa on an annual rotation.
“We rotate crops yearly for weed control, as some weeds are more prevalent in some crops than others,” he said. “Some of the harvested crops are sold, and some are kept to feed the cattle we raise for our family.”
Introducing new products and produce is a regular occurrence for the Hebdas. Dale said they test them for about two to three years to see if they’re viable, then decide if they’ll continue growing them in future seasons. Hebda Farms also now has a commercial kitchen for pickling and canning their 36 varieties of jellies and creating delicious baked goods from scratch.
“We have about six to seven varieties of pies,” said Dale. “Our Latino workers have contributed their family recipes, so we now sell flan and other traditional Mexican foods.”
Even though there are challenges in owning a small businesses and farming, Dale enjoys growing food and connecting with South Dakota families.
“It is a fun time. At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily get satisfaction from the revenue,” he said. “I’m happy when I see happy customers leaving our farm or stand with healthy and fresh food for their families.”
You can visit Dale and the Hebda crew on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Lewis and Clark Lake in Yankton, Saturday mornings in Sioux Falls and by appointment at their farm in Mission Hills.
Farmers markets are a great place to meet with the people who grow your food. If you can’t make it out to a farmers market, ask a question in the comments, or check out our blogs below to learn more about connecting with local farmers:
GMOs continue to be a hotly debated topic, especially when it comes to the safety of the food we feed our families. While you may be undecided about GMOs, the scientific and medical communities have deemed them to be just as safe as non-GMO crops after more than 20 years of research and review. Even Bill Nye the Science Guy, who once questioned their environmental impact, has changed his position and is an advocate.
Many South Dakota farmers choose to plant GMO crops because of their advantages in the field, but the fact is GMOs benefit our lives in some pretty cool ways. Let’s examine a few of the facts.
GMOs Save Lives Through Medicine
The same technology used to create GMO crops in the 1990s started in the medical community in the 1970s. Scientists used genetic engineering to make biopharmaceutical drugs from bacteria. In fact, the very first GMO approved for use in 1982 was insulin, which is currently used by 1.25 million Americans today to manage type 1 diabetes. To date, genetic engineering has led to the development of more than 100 drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis, hemophilia and seizures.
GMOs Benefit Consumers
The fact is genetic modification has been happening in nature for centuries. The sweet potato is just one example of a new food created by its genes mixing with bacteria in the soil. It wasn’t until recently that scientists developed a way to precisely edit gene sequences to create apples that resist browning, soybeans with improved nutritional content and rice with increased beta carotene to help combat vitamin A deficiency. While South Dakota children get plenty of vitamin A, Golden Rice has the potential to save the lives of 1.15 million children annually around the world who suffer from the lack of this essential nutrient.
GMOs Help Protect Our Environment
GMO technology helps farmers improve on-farm practices to be more environmentally sustainable. According to a study by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, the use of biotechnology in soybeans, corn and cotton has decreased soil erosion by 93 percent, herbicide runoff by 70 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 326 million lbs. across the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Protecting the environment is important to everyone in South Dakota. We all need to work together to preserve it for the next generations.
GMOs Keep Produce on Our Shelves
Without GMO technology, we probably wouldn’t have papayas anymore. In 1992, papaya ringspot virus was discovered in the Puna district of Hawaii where 95 percent of the state’s papayas grew. Three years later, the crop was in a state of crisis and would’ve been wiped out on the island if scientists hadn’t bred disease resistance into the papayas. Yellow summer squash and zucchini are other foods that would be difficult to find in produce sections today if they hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand diseases. Scientists are also developing orange trees that resist citrus greening, plum trees that resist plum pox virus and potatoes that resist potato blight to keep these foods stocked on produce shelves.
Regardless of your thoughts on GMOs, what you feed your family is ultimately your choice. The most important part of a healthy diet is eating a blend of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins while limiting sugars and fats. Living a healthy lifestyle benefits everyone, and that is something we can all agree on.
Have a GMO-related question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Here are some resources you can use to learn more.
It’s been more than 20 years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food companies to add the Nutrition Facts label on all packaging consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Our knowledge changes over time of how food, nutrition and our diets impact our health. As a result, the Nutrition Facts label is showing its age.
In May 2016, the FDA rolled out a fresh new look with information better aligned with what we know today to help us make more informed choices about what we eat. Most food and beverage processors are required to adopt the new label by July 26, 2018, while smaller companies have until 2019 to comply.
Charlotte Rommereim is a registered dietitian nutritionist and farmer from Alcester, South Dakota, who appreciates the simplicity of the new label. When her patients have questions about the nutritional benefits of foods, she instructs them to look for the facts in basic black and white.
“I encourage people to get beyond the marketing on the front of the package to read the Nutrition Facts label for information they can use,” says Charlotte. “All food products use the same label so it’s easy to compare one product with another.”
You might start seeing the new label on foods in grocery stores sooner than you think, so here are six changes you should note:
1. More Realistic Serving Sizes. Have you ever looked at a serving size on a nutrition label and thought to yourself, “Who only eats THAT much?” New serving sizes will be more aligned with what we typically eat. They will be clearer and listed at the top of the label. Packages that contain more than a single serving will be required to list dual columns showing per serving and per package nutrition content. The type will also be larger and bolder for information at a glance.
2. BIG and BOLD Calories. It will be more difficult to ignore the calorie count on those fudge brownies since calories will now be the biggest, boldest information on the label. There’s room for it because …
3. No More Calories From Fats. No, that doesn’t mean the food you’re eating no longer has fat calories. It means research shows the type of fat consumed is more important to living a healthy lifestyle than the amount.
4. Added Sugars Required. The only sugars that occur naturally in foods are lactose (milk) and fructose (fruit). All others are considered “added sugars” that can be incorporated during processing or packaging. New labels require added sugars to be listed in grams and percentage of daily value so you can keep track. Research show it’s difficult to meet nutritional needs and stay within calorie limits if you get more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars. Think of it as the difference between eating an apple vs. applesauce. The applesauce has the added sugar, and now you will know exactly how much.
5. Updated List of Nutrients. Say goodbye to vitamins A and C as deficiencies of these nutrients are rare today in the U.S. Say hello to vitamin D and potassium, which we sometimes lack in our diets. Calcium and iron are still required. Daily values have been updated to align with new data and now include a percentage instead of just milligrams.
6. Footnote Facelift. The footnote language is updated to provide more context and better explain how the product fits within a recommended diet.
Even though the updates might seem small, they have potential to have a big impact. For example, with the new label, you can determine how much sugar in the product occurs naturally and how much is added. That’s the transparency people crave.
“Just as consumers like farmers to be transparent about food production, they also want to read a food label and feel like they understand it,” Charlotte explains. “Consumers have concerns about healthy eating patterns and appreciate a label giving them the facts about the foods they choose.”
Charlotte encourages anyone who has questions about nutrition or the Nutrition Facts label to ask a local dietitian. Another great resource she uses is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. You can learn more about what food labels really mean and how to tell fact from fiction with these blogs:
Whether you’re manning the grill at a family cookout or making dinner in your kitchen, the only thing worse than overcooking meat is serving meat that’s so undercooked it looks like it could walk off your plate. Meat thermometers are a simple technology you can use to balance flavor and food safety.
Farmers also use technology to make sure the meat you purchase in the grocery store gets off to a safe and healthy start. Today’s pig, poultry, cattle and dairy barns are temperature controlled to protect animals from the elements and predators. Many also have automated systems to provide fresh water and a nutritious blend of feed made from soybean meal throughout the day. This gives farmers more time to monitor the health of their animals through personal visits and with cameras they can control via applications on their computers and phones.
You don’t have to be high tech to use a meat thermometer. Here are some tips for selecting and using thermometers to make this your safest grilling season yet.
Choose Your Thermometer
- Ovenproof thermometers often include a digital readout that keeps you from opening the oven door throughout the cooking process.
- Microwave-friendly thermometers are made just for use in microwave ovens.
- Digital and dial instant-read thermometers provide a quick, convenient gauge of temperature when inserted into cooking meat.
- Pop-up thermometers like those often found in poultry can be purchased for use in other meats.
Whatever style you choose, be sure it’s a meat thermometer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Don’t try to repurpose a thermometer designed for candy making or other cooking applications.
Once you have your meat thermometer, be sure to prepare your meat according to the minimum temperatures deemed safe by the USDA.
Where you place the meat thermometer is key to your success. Position it in the center of the cut of meat, or where it is thickest. This holds true for burgers or a meatloaf made with ground beef too. Avoid bone, fat and gristle. Be sure to test your thermometer for accuracy before using.
To test, simply insert the first two inches of your thermometer stem into a pot of boiling water. It should read 212 degrees Fahrenheit, unless you’re atop South Dakota’s Harney Peak, where water boils at around 202 degrees. Altitude is just as important as attitude when it comes to great results on your grill.
Watch this video to see how to use a meat thermometer in three easy steps.
For more grilling safety tips, read this blog. Here are some great recipes to try on your grill:
Pesticide residues on your food can be a scary thought. Maybe the topic crossed your mind while making dinner or as you shopped the produce aisle in your grocery store. Pesticides are used to protect crops as they grow, but do they remain on plants after they leave the field? And, more importantly, should you worry about feeding your family those crops?
If you’ve spent time online reading lists like the Dirty Dozen, you may think your family’s health is at risk. The truth is crop protection products like herbicides and pesticides must meet safety standards before they can be used in the field. The farmers who use them are required to attend educational classes and become certified so they apply them in the right amount, at the right time and only when needed. They use precision technology to make sure their application is accurate. After all, they feed their families the same foods you do and want to make sure they’re safe for everyone.
So what is the right amount? Well that depends on the crop, product and pest problem, but the average farmer applies only about a coffee cup’s worth of pesticides per acre of crops. An acre is approximately the same size as a football field. Most of the spray that goes on the field is water. Any pesticide residues that may remain on plants in the field decrease considerably as crops are harvested, transported and exposed to light.
By the time food reaches the grocery store, it has gone through testing with the USDA to ensure it meets requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is safe to eat. Pesticide residues allowed on produce are so small they’re measured in parts per billion. In fact, the average child could consume 7,240 servings of carrots in one day without any effect, even if the carrots have the highest pesticide residue allowed by USDA.
Most fresh fruits and vegetables test below the threshold levels set by EPA, so you shouldn’t be worried about their safety. The best way to protect your family from unwanted residue, dirt or surface microbes is simply washing all fruits and vegetables before serving. This is also true for foods grown organically. Rinsing fruits and veggies is an easy task. For most foods, a quick water rinse should do the job. Thick-skinned produce such as carrots, potatoes and squash should be scrubbed. With leafy greens, toss the outer leaves.
Watch this video for a quick review.
You can also create your own produce wash by mixing one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with two cups of water in a spray bottle.
Have you ever calculated how much fruits or vegetables you’d have to eat to feel the effects of pesticides? Try this calculator. You might be surprised at the results. Learn more about how farmers responsibly use crop inputs like pesticides by reading these blogs:
Even if you’ve heard a lot of talk about GMOs, you might still wonder why farmers choose to grow them and how they actually help crops. We have three examples showing how GMO technology helps farmers and all of us have a safe and healthy food supply.
Want to know more about the process of creating a GMO? Read all about it here. If you have any questions about why farmers use GMOs, be sure to leave them for us in the comments.
Just how long is too long to store leftovers, raw meat or eggs in the fridge? Is it safe to eat that leftover dinner from a few days ago or should you throw it out? What about making a sandwich with week-old lunchmeat? It’s time to take the guesswork out of those decisions. Read on to find a helpful chart that can serve as a guide for safe food storage.
Before you check the chart, don’t forget these basic fridge safety tips:
• Always keep the temperature at or below 40° F
• Don’t pack too much in the fridge. Make sure there’s room for air to circulate.
• Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.
• Don’t thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Put frozen food in the fridge to let it thaw out.
Never leave your food safety questions unanswered again. Bookmark this page and print out this helpful chart so you always know how to answer “Is this OK to eat?”
Looking for a food item that’s not on the list? The USDA has a handy FoodKeeper app that lists out even more storage times for different food categories. Check it out here.
When you enjoy a tasty treat like cookies, cakes or crackers, chances are good those foods were cooked with soybean oil. Soybean oil’s neutral taste, abundant supply and nutritional profile make it a great fit for the food industry, and now new GMO soybeans are giving the food industry a more nutritious option with high oleic soybean oil
High oleic soybeans are a GMO crop that deliver oil with lower saturated fat than conventional soybean oil and contribute no trans fats to products. High oleic soybean oil also delivers three times the amount of beneficial monounsaturated fatty acids as regular soybean oil.
In the mid-1990s, when trans fat labeling was first required on the Nutrition Facts panel of food products, consumers started to demand healthier choices and companies looked for alternatives. Farmers recognized the need to deliver a better option that consumers and the food industry wanted, and worked with researchers and scientists to develop an innovative option called high oleic soybeans. High oleic soybean oil comes from specialty soybean varieties that have a better balance of healthy fats and don’t require partial hydrogenation.
While high oleic soybean oil is only available for the food industry at the moment, as demand increases and a shift to healthier eating becomes a bigger priority, more and more oil will be available. We all want to eat healthier and to make good food choices. High oleic soybean oil is one example of how GMOs are helping us get there. It’s another example of how biotechnology can have direct benefits to consumers, just like the new Arctic Apples, which are bred to resist browning.
If you’re interested in learning more about high oleic soybean oil, check out www.qualisoy.com for current nutritional information and research. Learn more about high oleic soybean oil from Morgan, in our latest episode of Across the Table.
South Dakota farmers are among the nation’s best at growing soybeans.
The bulk of the soybeans grown here are feed grade, which means they are used to make feed for chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows and even fish. The oil from those soybeans is used for many different things, from biodiesel and insulation to salad dressings and vegetable oil.
The remaining small percentage of soybeans grown in South Dakota are grown specifically for us to eat. To find out more about soyfoods and their health benefits, we caught up with Teresa Blauwet, a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Sioux Falls.
“Soy protein is full of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and phytochemicals,” said Teresa.
Soy contains isoflavones and is a plant-based source for ALA omega-3 fatty acids. Products like tofu, miso, soy milk, soy nuts and edamame all come from soy.
Soybean oil is also a primary ingredient in many salad dressings, mayonnaise, margarine and cooking oils. In fact, that vegetable oil in your pantry is probably 100 percent soybean oil. Just check the back of the bottle. You can find it as an ingredient in a wide variety of products, including granola bars, crackers, peanut butter and cake mixes.
According to The Soyfoods Council, soybean oil is the most widely produced vegetable oil in the United States. In 2014, more than 20.6 billion pounds were produced with 1.9 billion pounds exported to more than 50 countries. It is also the most commonly consumed oil in American diets, accounting for more than half of all U.S. vegetable oil consumption.
Liquid soybean oil contains no trans fats and is high in poly- and monounsaturated fats. It’s also the principal source of omega-3 fatty acids in the U.S. diet and the primary commercial source of vitamin E as well. When polyunsaturated fat replaces saturated fat in the diet, risk of coronary heart disease is markedly reduced. Polyunsaturated fat also helps to control blood sugar levels.
“Soy is readily available in grocery stores. As with all foods, there are soyfoods that can be very good for us and foods containing soy that are highly processed and high in sodium and/or fat. As with all foods, we lose the nutritional benefits the more we process them,” Teresa said.
Beyond providing needed daily nutrition, soy protein has been shown to help the body keep some more serious afflictions at bay. In fact, in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim for soy protein that states, “25 grams of soy protein a day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
“Soy that is minimally processed has major health benefits and has been linked to increased heart health. It may even reduce hot flashes for women in menopause,” Teresa said. “The phytoestrogens in soy have been shown to reduce insulin resistance (improve blood sugars), blood pressure and inflammation.”
“The current research on soy shows it is safe for consumption for those who are at risk for, or survivors of, breast cancer. There are some studies that have shown that soy may decrease the risk of breast cancer and recurrence. However, there is inconclusive information on supplemental soy products, so it should not be recommended in supplemental form until research is stronger.”
Teresa says the elderly can also benefit from more soy in their diets because soyfoods can deliver some of the protein older adults need. She says soy is a lean, complete protein option containing all nine essential amino acids.
Want to learn more about how to incorporate soy into your diet? The Soyfoods Council and SoyConnection.com are good places to start. The sites contain information, research, plus dozens of tasty ways to add nutritious soyfoods to your diet.
What’s your favorite way to eat soy? Let us know in the comments.
Food labels and wrappers are a carefully crafted blend of art and science. The colorful, attention-grabbing packages are designed to get shoppers to pick them off the store shelves, while the nutrition panel gives them full disclosure of what the food product contains.
Despite efforts to simplify and clarify, terms frequently used on food labels can be confusing, and it can be difficult to define what they truly mean. If you’re looking for a healthy treat, does a “healthy” label on the front of the packaging really mean it’s the best choice for you? The FDA recently announced they want help defining the term “healthy” on food labels, saying that much of our nutritional knowledge has changed in recent years.
Currently, terms like “healthy,” “low in fat,” “good source,” or “natural” may appear on the front of food packaging as companies try to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but are not clearly defined or regulated by the FDA. Therefore, the meaning of these terms can vary greatly. Check out our Easy Guide to Food Labels for more on this.
Our understanding of things like fats and sugars is changing. We now know that fat free isn’t necessarily the way to be, and that there are healthy fats to incorporate into our diets. We also know that many products that seem healthy contain a great deal of sugar. That’s why the FDA began soliciting feedback on how to define use of the term “healthy” in September. The agency is asking for public input on a range of questions about what “healthy” should mean from a nutrition perspective and how we understand and use “healthy” food label claims.
The Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 dramatically changed how food companies labeled products. The measure was created to help clear up any confusion about the nutritional content of the food on grocery shelves. It was also designed to help people make healthier food choices by providing more detail.
By May 2017, restaurants and other retail establishments will also be required to carry nutrition and calorie information on their menus so customers can make the best choices for their dietary needs.
But the front-of-the-pack terms can be subjective and potentially confusing. FDA officials say while they are working on the “healthy” claim, other label claims are also being reviewed to see how they might be updated. Their goal is to give people the best tools and information about the foods they choose in an effort to improve public health.
Most of us are busy, and we often spend just a few seconds making food purchase decisions. Experts say that having uniform definitions for common food labels will help Americans make better and healthier food buying decisions. Check back to the blog for updates on new food label definitions.
What do you think about the “healthy” food label? What does the term “healthy” mean to you? Let us know in the comments.
This time of year, the leaves are changing and the weather is cooling. It’s time to visit a pumpkin patch, make Halloween plans and break out the cool-weather clothing. For farmers, this time of year holds a different meaning: It’s harvest time. While many of us see the equipment in the fields and know that crops are done growing for the season, there is much more that goes into soybean harvest than just driving a combine across a field. John Horter is a father of two and a farmer from Andover. He grows corn and soybeans, and raises beef cattle. We caught up with him to find out everything that goes into the soybean’s journey from field to plate.
John’s son Dane is a young farmer-in-training. He loves to share the latest “crop reports” from their farm. Here he is with a crop report on soybean harvest.
“We monitor the fields very closely,” said John. “We watch for visual signs. The leaves will turn from green to brown and start to drop. Once we think they are close, we take moisture samples. We’re looking for 13.5 percent moisture or less before we can harvest.”
Weather is Key
Dry weather is imperative to a successful harvest. If the plants are too wet, the seeds won’t be able to separate from the pods; and if the ground is too wet, equipment could get stuck in the field. Weather is a major factor in the timing of planting and the health of soybeans throughout the growing season. John said this year, Mother Nature worked in his favor.
“We are in the northwest part of the state where we had warmer, drier weather so harvest was ahead of schedule. It went very well because we didn’t have weather delays.”
The impact of weather makes a big difference in harvest conditions for farms in different regions of the state. Southern South Dakota had a lot of rain this year, which delayed planting in the spring, so their harvest began later.
The Art of Harvest
“Once soybeans show the visual signs of being ready for harvest and moisture levels are dry enough, we head out to the fields with our combine to start taking the crop out of the field,” said John. “The combine has the capability to be flexible as it goes over the ground. It’s pretty neat technology that guides the part of the combine that does the harvesting along the contours of the ground, cutting off the plants. Next, it’s fed into the big drum in the combine that separates grain from the pods with sieves that shake the pods away from the seeds. Those seeds are what we end up harvesting.”
“Even though the weather was very dry in our region during the growing season and we had some hail, we still found very good yields,” he said. “I attribute that to modern genetics and our GMO crops being able to more efficiently use moisture even in adverse conditions.”
When John is done harvesting, he will prepare his fields for next year’s crop and take care of other areas of his farm for the winter months. He’ll use the what he learned from this past season to plan for next year.
“As we harvest, we have a lot of monitors that show us how our crop did. We always think about how to improve and do things more efficiently next year,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure we use as few inputs as possible to grow a healthy crop.”
John and South Dakota farmers like him work hard to grow healthy crops. So next time you break out your jacket and head to the pumpkin patch, remember that farmers are breaking out their combines to start the process of turning their crops into the nutritious ingredients that make up the great food on our plates.
Do you have questions for John about soybean harvest or what he’s up to this time of year? Leave them in the comments.
We’ve talked at length about how to interpret the facts behind the many labels we find on our food. Many labels, like certified organic, are regulated by the FDA and USDA and have standards that farmers and food manufacturers need to follow in order to use the label. Some labels, however, are not regulated at all.
Marketers can use unregulated labeling terms at their own discretion, and some will add the latest buzzwords to packaging in order to attract customers. While these labels can be helpful on some food products, there are some instances where they mean nothing at all. Here are some food labels we’ve seen that made us say, “Hmm …”
Non-GMO grapes – Although technically accurate, there is no option to choose GMO grapes. The only GMO fruits grown in the U.S. are papayas, squash and apples, so all grapes are inherently non-GMO.
Gluten-free water – The gluten-free label is very important to many people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, gluten is only found in cereal grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats so, on a food product like water, it’s not necessary.
Hormone-free chicken – If you see chicken, turkey or pork labeled “no added hormones” or “hormone-free,” it’s simply a marketing term. Hormone use is not allowed in any poultry or pork. No need to pay extra for that label because all chicken is guaranteed to be free of added hormones.
These examples serve as good reminders to look at what really matters when it comes to making decisions about food. Turn the packaging around and look at the Nutrition Facts panel to see if your food is healthy and nutritious. No matter what type of food you are looking for – GMO, non-GMO, organic, hormone-free – you can rest assured that all food in the grocery aisle is thoroughly tested and is safe.
Have you seen any labels in the grocery store that make you say, “Hmm …?” If you have questions about a label or a practice, you can always ask a farmer. Hungry for Truth is all about connecting South Dakotans to the farmers who grow their food, so leave a comment and we’ll connect you to a local farmer who can tell you all about what they do.
Read on for more about food labels:
Charlotte Rommereim is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and farmer from Alcester. Her family has been farming the same land since 1874. She says her family is the whole package because, “My husband and I grow the food, and then I advise people how to eat it in a healthy way.” We sat down with Charlotte to learn more about her career and how she connects food and farming every day.
HFT: Tell us a little bit about your career path.
Charlotte: I’m a registered dietitian. For the majority of my career, I have been a consultant dietitian for long-term care facilities and rural hospitals. I’ve also done some work in the local cancer clinic and with WIC.
HFT: What does a typical day as a dietitian look like for you?
Charlotte: I spend time interacting with the residents of the long-term care facility to make sure they get the best nutritional care possible. I also advise the food service operation. In the hospitals, I do the same work with patients, but on top of that I provide outpatient education. I teach patients who have diabetes, heart disease or any other diagnosis how to eat properly and take care of themselves.
At the end of the day, I come home and help on the farm where it’s needed. Much of the time, I help in the pig barn and manage the financials.
HFT: What’s the best part of your career?
Charlotte: I enjoy helping people eat healthy and well. I love helping someone find something new they’ve never tried or a healthy new way to prepare something. I also love helping people reach results. To be able to help someone lower their blood sugar or manage their weight through what they eat is very rewarding.
Lately, I also work with my fellow dietitians and food professionals to help them understand farming and where our food comes from. Coming from the farm, I love to share stories about how much care and attention we put into raising safe and healthy food. It’s important for all of us to remember that no matter what practices are used to raise food – organic, non-organic, GMO, non-GMO, etc. – it’s all safe and all equally healthy.
HFT: What motivated you to become a dietitian?
Charlotte: When I was a kid on the farm, I started cooking when I was very young. At 12 years old, my mom had an injury so I stepped in and became the full-time cook for all the people who worked on our farm in the summer. My mom would instruct me and I would prepare the noon meals for all eight people. I fell in love with cooking.
My uncle was a surgeon, and he encouraged me to pursue medicine, which was also an interest of mine. So the career path I chose was a combination of those two things I loved to do. Plus, it was a natural extension of my life growing up on the farm where we raised food.
HFT: What is your educational background?
Charlotte: To become a dietitian, you need a minimum of a four-year degree plus an experience like an internship. I received my degree in nutrition and food science at South Dakota State University, and then I took a national exam to become a registered dietitian. After college, my husband and I moved to the Alcester area to start farming with my dad. I was able to find work in the area as a consultant to long-term care facilities and small rural hospitals.
Have more questions for Charlotte or about being a registered dietitian? Leave them in the comments!
The following is a guest blog post from farmer Dawn Scheier. Dawn and her husband, Patrick, grow corn and soybeans in Salem. Patrick is the fourth generation of farmers in his family.
In our country, we are blessed with a plethora of choices when it comes to food. GMO, non-GMO, organic, non-organic, grass-fed, grain-fed, vegan, vegetarian: Whatever your preference, you can find it. The best part about all these choices is that no matter what you choose, you can rest assured it is a safe choice for you and your family.
To give you a good picture of just how harmless GMOs are, it helps to know what makes a food or crop genetically modified and what that means for us. The term “genetically modified organisms” doesn’t mean there are foreign organisms injected into your food. The “organism” refers to a cell. All food has cells, which are no longer living by the time they are harvested.
Genetic modification is basically a faster version of selective breeding, something farmers have done for centuries. Depending on the desired outcome, a gene is added to the crop from bacteria, a virus or a different variety of fruit or vegetable. That tiny change in the crop’s DNA results in huge positive results, like resistance to insects or non-browning apples or potatoes.
GMOs also have the potential to improve lives beyond non-browning apples. Golden Rice is a variety of rice genetically modified to increase levels of vitamin A. This variety has great implications for people in 122 countries affected by vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness. Genetic modification also rescued a whole papaya crop from dying out. Twenty years ago, the papaya crop in Hawaii was almost wiped out due to ringspot virus until one scientist had an idea. He took a gene from one part of the virus and applied it to the papaya’s DNA, making it immune and saving the entire fruit population for Hawaiian farmers.
Over the years, farmers – myself included – have seen the benefits of growing GMO crops and have adopted them at rapid rates. Our family started planting them as soon as they became available 21 years ago. They make it easier to protect crops from the elements and predators like insects and weeds. They help us to use fewer resources like water or chemicals. As a farmer, I take my responsibility to grow safe, healthy food very seriously. As a mother, I am confident in the science that says GMO foods are a safe and nutritious choice for my family.
Hungry for Truth is a great local resource that focuses on the connection between food and farming in an unbiased way, supporting everyone’s right to choose the best options for themselves and their families. Better yet, you can reach out to a local farmer and talk to them about why they do what they do. Everybody eats food. Learning more about what goes on before it hits grocery shelves can help all of us make informed decisions and a better connection to the food on our plates.