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Learn Your Labels!

January 17, 2021

Let’s talk labels - not shipping labels or fashion labels, but food labels. If you take a look at the fruits and veggies at your local grocery store, you’ll likely see a wide variety of stickers and markers adorning them. Read on to learn more about what they mean. 

Labels can be helpful, letting you know a little bit more about the food you’re buying, but they can also be confusing. So we wanted to break down some of the more common labels you’ll find on your produce.

Of course, Good Apple produce isn't usually labeled, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t thoughtful about the methods and techniques that go into growing our food. We source organically grown local produce, which means that we carefully consider how the food has been produced and whether it’s been done in a sustainable and healthy manner.

Food can be grown in many ways, and there are a lot of specific criteria and considerations that go into why food gets labeled a certain way. Let’s start off with what it means to be “organic.”

USDA Organic

“USDA Organic” is one of the most common food labels, and falls under the category of “regulated labels” as it’s governed by the National Organic Program. Foods that get this label have to follow a strict set of criteria, including around crop cultivation, pest and waste management, and they can’t have been grown using prohibited substances like synthetic fertilizers. Getting this certification isn’t free - farms have to pay a certifying agent, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars, often prohibitively high for small farms.

Certified Naturally Grown

Another one you might see on your veggies is “Certified Naturally Grown,” which was started as a more affordable alternative to the USDA standard. CNG generally follows the same standards for how food is grown, but unlike USDA Organic, this is an “unregulated label” as certification is gained through peer-to-peer inspections (producers inspect other producer’s farms), rather than governmental review.

Fair Trade

Another one you’re probably familiar with but may not be sure what it really means is “Fair Trade.” This one shows up all over the grocery store, including the produce aisle. The label is governed by the Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International, which is an association of national organizations enforcing the standards in their own countries (for instance, Fairtrade America). Fair Trade goes beyond just the way the food is treated, but also how the workers who are producing the food are treated, identifying economic, social and environmental standards that growers must comply with. 

These three barely scratch the surface of the food labeling world. Like we said, we’re not into labels at Good Apple, but we pride ourselves on making sure that we work with farmers who have transparent, conscientious growing practices. We’re always happy to help our consumers better understand the food ecosystem and how food gets from farm to table. And that’s not so easy to put on a label on - so always reach out to us if you want to learn more about how we and our farm partners do things.