Matthew Miller

Matthew L. Miller is director of communications for the Nature Conservancy of Idaho and writes frequently on agricultural issues. He is a member of the Prairie Writers Circle, a project of the Land Institute in Salina, Kan.

Not all “eco-labels” are created equal

“What’s in a name?” asks Shakespeare. Conscientious food consumers are beginning to realize that the answer too often is, “Not much.” Eggsellent. Shoppers increasingly are willing to pay more for food produced in a way that protects human health, water, wildlife, rural communities, and farm workers. And this is not lost on marketers. Many grocery packages today include “eco-labels” that make attractive claims. Grocery shelves are bulging with food labeled “Natural,” “Free-Range,” and “Sustainable.” But much of this labeling is just spin. “Free-Range” chicken conjures an image of birds pecking contentedly around a farmhouse. In reality, Department of Agriculture standards …

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