INGREDIENTS & PROCESSING
HowGood exists to promote a transition to whole, fresh, high quality foods that are better for the environment and the consumer. The Ingredients and Processing spectrums are interrelated metrics that analyze the integrity of food products by assessing the caliber of ingredients and the extent of processing. Put simply, the first spectrum explores what goes into creating the ingredients, whereas the latter spectrum analyzes the processing that occurs when all the ingredients come together to form the final product.
The Ingredients assessment is the first test of a food product in the HowGood rating process. It is a gateway metric, meaning if the product scores above a certain threshold on the Ingredients spectrum, it is eligible for a positive HowGood rating.
This spectrum is used to assess the specific impacts and broader implications of each component ingredient in a food product. HowGood explores fundamental questions such as: Where is this ingredient from? How is it grown or synthesized? What scale and type of systems does it enable? What energy inputs does its production require? Etc.
Certain ingredients are grown in a context that inherently degrades the land with each growing season, while the availability of others is predicated on major land use changes. Palm oil production, for example, is directly fueling broad tropical deforestation. Other red flag ingredients manipulate flavor and texture to mask low quality ingredient profiles and high processing levels or to enable long shelf life. If a product contains ingredients that are highly impactful, surpass the threshold for intensive processing, or make a product less transparent, HowGood will not endorse that product with a Good, Great, or Best rating.
If a food product scores satisfactorily on the Ingredients spectrum, it is subsequently assessed on the Processing spectrum. This spectrum evaluates whether the product undergoes substantial processing to reach its final shelf-ready form.
When HowGood analyzed the energy intensiveness of various products’ life cycles, dependence of factory processing increased impact across the board. Processing plants require tremendous energy and resource inputs to construct and operate and contribute to pollution. Thus, in the interest of minimizing environmental impact, we reward simpler, less-processed foods.
The most wholesome, least impactful product would go essentially unchanged from field to table, without requiring factory processing, such as an unwaxed, unpolished, raw apple. However, this is not possible for all types of products due to transportation issues, storage needs, regional regulations, and industry standards. Therefore we permit minimal mechanical processing, which can include grinding, chopping, soaking, salting, cleaning, mixing, lacto-fermentation, dehydration (below certain temps), freezing (without blanching), and minimal pasteurization (when required by law).
The stringent standards we uphold for this spectrum are aimed at encouraging consumers to purchase higher quality, whole ingredients and to do more of their own preparation and processing at home.