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Natural Rhetoric

Natural Rhetoric
What does that actually mean?
No, I’m seriously asking what does that mean?

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I see the label “natural” slapped on everything, so I started asking around. I live outside a town of around 12 hundred people (just within the city limits), and a large surrounding agricultural area. These are the people who I would claim are experts on what qualifies as “natural.”
The responses were “things grown naturally.” Yes, ok, but isn’t all organic matter grown naturally? And that brings us to the argument of organic vs. synthetic, which is in reference to chemicals to help with growing. Which is a totally different argument than GMO and non-GMO. And we are only focused on foods right now. I’ve seen soaps and cleaners that are labeled “natural”. And that is just a whirlwind of a headache waiting to happen. And do we want to go there? What is in soap that has been grown? I mean actually cleaning-really works-removes all traces of dirt-soap! I guess that lye does come from the ground. Are you following my point here? Why can’t we agree on the same definition on what the word “natural” on our labels mean?

I feel like I’m in an Emperor’s New Clothes situation here, and I’m going to get sacrificed by those who are radical “naturalists.” I’m still working out how you get a unnatural chicken, I haven’t found any growth hormones for them yet… unless they are trying to pass off rat meat as chicken? How would I know if they apparently taste the same?
I’m trying to do my due diligence. I’ve learned about GMOs and even helped with my husband’s study of them. I’ve learned how foods gets the “organic” label. It all seems like the hard way of doing things. 

Also, people who do things “naturally” usually have a soap box to stand on. There are some mothers who are martyrs because they want to protect their families from the raging chemicals in their homes. Unfortunately for such a mother, she was not alive before boiled water and now has to save her kids from modern ingredients that could cause skin irritations, lung damage, blindness, poisoning, and death if ingested. In all the billions of houses with chemicals in them, kids die of these causes. That kind of rational thinking turns me off.

After a lot of studying about it, though, I’ve decided to do some things naturally. Why? Because it’s cheaper. Think about it. I’m already half way there. I’m growing my own garden so I can have homemade salsa, I get my beef and eggs from the family’s ranch, I can and preserve peaches/pickles/tomatoes sauce, and I make the occasional jam. I have a kid who has extremely sensitive skin and needs special soaps and lotions. With one income, I’m always looking for ways to cut my grocery bill with homemade/ natural things. And some how owning goats makes my stance more convincing. Talking about stances, I’m not sure I’m following this anymore, but the point I’m trying to make is this: “natural” can be cheaper! But I’m cherry picking what I can do “naturally”.  There will always be 409 in my cleaning arsenal, my kids will be given Tylenol to lower their fevers and reduce pain, my deodorant will be Sauve and toothpaste Crest. Somethings in my life will always be considered  “unnatural,” like how I give birth. And I am ok with that. But if I can do it in bulk and do it cheaper and it’s just as effective as store bought, then I will try it and say it’s natural. 

To bring all this around to gardening, I’m doing it because I can. It’s not for any other reason other than “why not.” I had a discussion with someone recently whose point of view for not canning and going with store bought was it was cheaper and faster.  I 100% agreed. The discussion was based solely on which was cheaper. I argued that the initial investment could be pricey, but then I had the satisfaction of enjoying my hard work all year long. 
I didn’t notice the labels on my food until a college roommate had to make an extra trip to buy organic chocolate chips in bulk. Then, in my married life, I’ve lived in a world of agriculture, and I have gotten to see and live with the food markets. Which is different then how I grew up. For example, I didn’t know what FFA was until I was 19, and then I though it was kids learning the different types of meat cuts. So my question is … What are your thoughts on the rhetoric of food labels?

~Lexi

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4 thoughts on “Natural Rhetoric

  1. I very much enjoyed reading this.
    I personally try to live with the most “natural” sources of products, food stuffs, and ways or doing a lot of things.

    I find there is a fad to how the “natural” movement kind of thing is going and companies know it want want to profit from it.
    There is a lot of misdirection from companies vs personal opinions of natural.

    Like you mentions I think you need to pick your battles in a way, I don’t have the time to can my own food so I will but canned goods, however I have never owned (nor my family) a microwave, I use baking soda instead of toothpast, I haven’t have soda in 2 years, I try my best to avoid added sugar, don’t over or under cook vegetables to try and get the best nutrition out of them, etc.
    Do most things in moderation, and have “cheat” days where I do have some cake once and a while.
    I agree a lot of it is the cost but also a lot of things are the convenience even if it cost more and isn’t as healthy in the end.

    Keep up the good work on this blog!

    1. After reading Lexi’s article again, and Meruru’s comment, I’ve tried to put a little more thought into why people buy natural products or put work into gardens. A couple comments really stuck out. Lexi concluded, “I’m [gardening] because I can.” Meruru discussed cooking vegetables in a way valuable nutrients are preserved.

      Working to grow your own food, or carefully selecting natural food, is a choice to eat healthy. When I choose to eat healthy, I’m more likely to avoid junk food, and continue making healthy choices. I definitely disagree with my hasty assumption that the term “natural” has no tangible meaning. I now believe it must positively influence people’s choices to some degree.

      Thank you both for the insight!

  2. Thank you for the blog. What a great article on these mysterious words. Natural, organic, packs of free roaming chickens. I hope to adequately express my confusion, concern, and hypocrisy starting with the latter.

    Confession time. I think I like to buy products that have natural and organic on the labels because I think, “Well the stuff has to be a little bit better, and its only twice the price.” There has to be a psychological benefit, if I don’t question myself or think about it, right??

    I really don’t think “natural” means anything. Is it a marketing term? I know it doesn’t mean organic. It sounds like you’ve done more research than I, but I’m pretty sure organic compounds include carbon, hydrogen, maybe both?? In addition, organic crops are restricted to organic pesticides. I’ve read, however, organic pesticides are causing larger soil contamination issues than inorganic pesticides.

    Speaking of soil contamination. What does that mean? I think it means there’s too much of a “natural” organic or inorganic substance. Lead is a naturally occurring inorganic substance. Of course, lead’s pretty toxic. What about chromium, vanadium, and iron? You want some of that in the ground…I think. How much? Too much and you have killer veggies. So my concern is, should I be testing my soil? Can you buy dirt testers from a local store?

    I completely agree, growing your own food is less expensive. Especially when you can the food and create lasting storage’s of deliciousness. Sometimes I just want foods that are out-of-season and going to the pantry is the way to go!

    Please keep writing these wonderful articles!

  3. Thanks everyone for the comments. I’m always keeping an eye out for new information and seeking out other point of views on this topic. It’s a conversation that has always interests me. – Lexi

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