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Here's a depressing story: Each spring, meat producers from all over the world get together for a Protein Innovation Summit to sit around a hotel and talk candidly about stuff that bleeds. Mostly they discuss the trends in the meat market and ways to sell more pieces of cattle, chickens, pigs, and whatever insects they use to make hot dogs, but that's not the most depressing part. During the 2012 meeting, they presented a consumer trend report in which they asked ordinary people what descriptors would make them most likely to pay more for beef. The descriptors were terms like "sustainable," "grass-fed," "free range," "locally raised," and "hormone-free," and while those words all have very specific definitions, the descriptor that was far and away the best performer among consumers was "premium."

burgerbusiness.com

"Premium," as far as the food industry is concerned, is a completely unregulated word that companies are allowed to slap on anything, from an actual steak to membranes and gristle stapled together, yet the study proves we're eager to pay 5 percent more for a piece of meat with that nebulous adjective attached to it, because we are, generally speaking, idiots. That also means that all those men in calfskin suits at the summit realized they were wasting their time trying to create sustainable practices for raising livestock because in the end people are more willing to throw their wallets at big words they don't completely understand.

Well I want to change that. Not the idiocy part; that's out of my hands. I think it's high time we forced some semblance of accountability from the companies that have been playing fast and loose with the artificial adjectives they paste on food wrappers. I conducted my own study by going to a grocery store, isolating five ubiquitous and hazy buzzwords, and then buying every single product on which they appeared, because I care about making the world better, and because they were already on my grocery list (I am a slave to marketing tactics). After consuming each product, I created these helpful, honest definitions to supplement the vague grocery jargon. So pay attention, because from now on this is exactly what marketing strategists really mean when your frozen dinner says ...

5
"Gourmet"

gourmetdining.net

As Seen on Packages Of:

Chung's for 2 Gourmet Microwavable Teriyaki Chicken, The Perfect Bite Gourmet Uncured Frozen Hot Dogs, Rondele Gourmet Spreadable Cheese, Cardini's Gourmet Cut Italian Croutons

Have you ever fallen into a cactus or a barbed-wire fence? Well, this meal is guaranteed to be at least three times more pleasurable than that. Made from the most satisfactory ingredients you as a customer will eat without complaining or dying, this product is conceivably safe for consumption.

Those strong yet precise artisan hands you likely see on the cover of this product, kneading dough or chopping vegetables, are guaranteed to be bacteria- and virus-free, partially because we begrudgingly adhere to basic food preparation laws, and partially because those hands were long ago replaced by sterile machines capable of producing 40 meals a minute in our factory. In fact, we guarantee that not a single human hand has touched your food, from the first mechanical separation of the rib meat (if applicable) to the moment you peel back the film after microwaving.

Andreas Rentz/Getty Images News
That's a promise.

Your meal is guaranteed to be assembled using natural ingredients, some of which have been synthetically created and loosed on an indoor farm, but this isn't really the time for an argument on whether the compounds and organisms created by man are any less natural than those created by God, because really, what if there is no God? Or what if he/she is actually in each of us? Now that's food for thought -- gourmet food!

4
"Fancy"

balloongal.blogspot.com

As Seen on Packages Of:

Bakers & Chefs Fancy Ketchup, Bumble Bee Fancy Whole Clams, Del Monte Fancy Cut Green Beans, Kirkland Extra Fancy Mixed Nuts

You lucky son of a bitch. While everyone else is stuffing their face with lowly, boring gruel just to stall the tide of death from washing away their humdrum existence, you are defining luxury with each and every bite of your canned clams and/or green beans. Ladies, do you remember the first time you stepped into your mother's heels, greased your face with her makeup, and threw on one of her bras like an oversized vest? Well, that sensation of sophistication is exactly what you can expect with every bite/squirt from this product.

Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images
Don't let the number on his shirt fool you -- this young man is No. 1 in terms of class.

It is ideally designed to make you feel like you deserve the finer things in life, provided your purview of fine things is uncommonly limited. Yes, pure style costs a little bit more than the swill the minions unknowingly consume, but you deserve it -- because you didn't just grab the first can you saw off the shelf like all the others, because your distinguished taste allowed you to appreciate the cursive lettering on the label, because you have a coupon. So enjoy and savor the superiority. It will taste a lot like 200 percent of your daily value of sodium.

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3
"Quality"

progresso.com

As Seen on Packages Of:

Hormel Quality Corned Beef, Underwood Quality Deviled Ham, Progresso Quality Chicken Alfredo, Gardetto's Quality Snack Mix, Tabatchnick Wholesome Quality Cabbage Soup

As you may know, pink doesn't exist in the color spectrum. It is lost in the ethereal space connecting red on one side and violet on the other, but has no place in the range of white light. Well, rest assured that on the spectrum of Quality, this product certainly exists. Somewhere between "exceptional" and "horrendous," the canned meat/cabbage soup you hold in your hand at the very least has a place, and in that respect it is not pink. That doesn't mean the product won't be pink in color when opened, because it probably will.

Evgeny Tomeev/photos.com
Sorry if that's confusing.

Maybe it would be easier to think of the Quality spectrum as it equates to the spectrum of autism. If you could trace one over the other, the quality of your product would fit somewhere between pervasive development disorder and moderate learning disability, which is actually pretty good when you think about it. While consuming this product, you will likely find that, functionally speaking, it works as a meal, but it's really not the type of canned ham you'd want to bring with you to a casino.

2
"Select"

familyfoods.ca

As Seen on Packages Of:

Safeway Select Frozen Cheese Enchiladas, 7-Eleven Select Hot Dog Potato Chips, Select Pesto Sauce, Campell's Select Harvest Vegetable Soup, Meijer Creamy Select Frosting

Welcome to the future. Gone are the days when you have to choke down regular old frozen dinners just because "that's what everyone else eats" or "they're FDA approved." This meal has been selected and customized exclusively for your consumption. You like butter? We already knew that, and that's why we included a bunch of it. Hate metal filings? Again, we've been paying attention and ensured that this frozen dinner wouldn't even approach noticeable levels. You're welcome. The selection process was rigorous -- we sorted through hundreds of thousands of ingredients we could have potentially used, and we discarded nearly every single one that was toxic and/or inedible. So what actually made the cut for this product? Hand-picked stuff, we already told you. Stop asking so many questions. It's not like it's horse. It's not like it's 100 percent horse. There are tons of ingredients that aren't horse.

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Gelatin, for instanc- Sorry, never mind.

Just for the record, though, it wouldn't be illegal for us to put horse in it. "Select" has a specific meaning for grades of meat, but you're not buying a slab of bison, you're buying fried hunks of potato flavored like a hot dog. We could put anything we want in it, but the point is, we didn't. So stop being rude and eat it.*

*May contain trace amounts of whey, nuts, and horse.

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1
"Premium"

redmart.com

As Seen on Packages Of:

Imperial Garden Premium Quality Microwaveable Eggrolls, Crosse and Blackwell Premium Ham Glaze, S & W Premium Whole Kernel Corn, Hungry Jack Premium Hashbrown Potatoes, Moran's Wholesome Purity Premium Frozen Beef Patties

Who would choose to eat dehydrated hash browns when they could eat opportunity instead? Who would choose to coat a ham in glaze when they could coat it in a better quality of life? Not you, that's for sure, because right now you hold in your hands both a product and potential. That "Premium" label is no mistake: This product is premium to the max. It is overflowing with premium. What does "Premium" mean? It means better. Better than what? Better than a lot of things. Nails and razor blades, to name a few. Paper cuts and dirty bombs, to name a few more. Diesel exhaust, asbestos, botulism, and hantavirus, to name all the rest. But really, we believe in your ability to define it for yourself, just like we believe in your ability to define your own future. We believe in you.

Simone van den Berg/photos.com
And your relentless dedication to the Premium lifestyle.

For us, "Premium" means you can be damn sure that if this product contains spices, we're going to tell you how slow they cooked. If it contains salad, we're going to call it "wild greens." If it contains cheese, we're going to count up all the different kinds and tell you on the label. This isn't just breakfast, lunch, or dinner in this vacuum-sealed pouch, it's an experience, and just like life, not every experience is going to be good or fair. Can we promise that this meal will be delicious or superior to other meals? No, but we can promise that it exists, just like you, and that your collective future hasn't been written yet. You can be whatever you want to be, but here, have some creamed corn before you go so you don't get hungry.



You can find Soren on Twitter or Tumblr and tell him all about how he forgot to include "Natural," "Organic," and "Original" on this list.

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