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"It's proprietary," they sadly say. "You don't have the right to know."

October 8, 2021

There are days of astonishment, when we get something back from the processor and we’re surprised to see an ingredient like “spice extractive” or “organic herbs” on the label. What does that mean!?

So, of course, we call the processor. We ask about the ingredient in question. We want details. If they don’t know, we ask to know the manufacturer or the ingredients on the package. 

Most of the time, our processors are awesome and simply let us know. Then, we update the product on the website with accurate info.

But once in a while, we are sorely disappointed. Sometimes we get the answer, “It’s proprietary.”

Ugh. What an awful thing that’s allowed in our country. Ultimately, they’re saying, “You don’t have the right to know.” In my humble opinion, this is not ok!

This closed door situation is a product of the FDA. They’re doing a balancing act. 

On the one hand, they’re job is to protect and inform consumers, which is why every label on every food product goes through government approval and requires ingredients, allergens, and more to be listed.

On the other hand, the FDA believes that it should not force food manufacturers to share “trade secrets”. So proprietary or patented blends with vague or fanciful names are sadly allowed. Oh our capitalist society! 

The situation is also caused in part by the USDA, which has strict guidelines for recipes, especially those that involve meat.

A processor spends lots of time and money to get each recipe approved. It’s far from easy to simply change an ingredient.

So here we are, left in the messy middle, somewhere between under-regulating and over-regulating.

So what’s a small farm to do? Do we throw away food with these ingredients? Do we give it away and lose money? Do we stop using those processors or carrying those products?

For me, the answer is not straightforward. The answer depends on the situation. And the answer is that we are working in an imperfect world but always working toward a better future.

But, one thing is for certain. With Miller’s, we pride ourselves in transparency, even if the answer is embarrassing. 

We do our best to provide lots of info on our website. And our customers know that if they have a question, they can ask. If we don’t already know, we’ll do everything within our power to find out more.

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PS: In the name of transparency, here is a list of ALL of our 99.9% awesome products that contain a vague ingredient that we don’t have the right to know exactly what it is:

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