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Articles by 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.

Featured Article

“What’s in a name?” asks Shakespeare. Conscientious food consumers are beginning to realize that the answer too often is, “Not much.”


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 for the label stipulate only that the chickens must have access to the outdoors for an undetermined period each day.

Such is today’s supermarket aisle. So how does a shopper make informed decisions?

Seal of approval.

It is important to distinguish between label types. Some, such as “USDA Organic,” indicate verif... Read more