Certified Food Labels

How to Check if Your Food is Organic, Fair Trade or Sustainable

What is an organic food label?What’s in a logo? Well, a lot if you ask the very serious organic label and sustainable food certification bodies that are currently working to ensure you have natural, chemical free, food choices. Choosing organic certified food is not only sustainable but is much healthier for you.  A study by the Quality Low Input Food Project determined that fruits and vegetables grown organically can have up to 40% higher levels of antioxidants (important for fighting off cancer and heart disease) as well as vitamins and minerals like zinc.[1] What’s even better is that many of these certifying bodies also work to provide safer and more fair conditions for farmers and workers as well as organic food production methods.


General organic labels and food certifications

There are several organizations managing certification programs in North America, Europe, and internationally for a broad range of foods, from fruit and veggies, coffee and tea, to meat and seafood as well as grains and dairy.


USDA LogoUSDA National Organic Program (NOP): Known best for their USDA Certified Organic logo, this program develops and implements organic methods of growing and preparing foods with their logo, from production to handling to labeling. This logo can also be found on foods sold in Canada. 


Demeter Biodynamic Trade Association (DBTA): An association of farms, wineries, dairies, vineyards, food processors, and distributors, which certifies food as grown and processed biodynamically. Biodynamic agriculture in many ways goes beyond organic agriculture by fostering a culture of healing for the earth. More than just agrochemical-free, biodynamic methods emphasize homeopathic methods for treating compost, soil, and plants as well as understanding of cosmic rhythms and cycles to foster a holistic approach to the entire farm, treating it as a whole organism.

Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International: Working with small-scale farms and others along the trade line, this organization sets international Fairtrade standards and strategies and promotes their practices and products worldwide. Fairtrade standards encompass both the producers and the trade process, with the ultimate goal of providing fair prices to producers that cover the costs of sustainable production. In general, the issues of social, economic, and environmental development are all taken into consideration. Fairtrade labeling covers everything from bananas to cocoa, coffee to cotton, to sugar, tea, wine, and even sports balls.

Non GMO LogoNon-GMO Project Standard: A consensus-based standard that ensures the products with its logo are made following best practices of GMO avoidance in North America. This non-profit's "belief is that everyone deserves an informed choice about whether or not to consume genetically modified products" thus providing consumers with labeled non-GMO choices.


Rainforest Alliance LogoRainforest Alliance Sustainable Agriculture Certification: This is a multi-issue organization working to encourage the production of crops that are environmentally-friendly, while being healthy for local farmers and local wild communities. It helps to protect the ecosystem, worker’s rights, and wildlife and certifies cocoa, coffee, cut flowers, fruits, and tea.


Canadian Organic LabelOrganic Food and Farming Certification: Administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, this program certifies agricultural products that are imported, exported, and traded interprovincially (in Canada) if they have been produced using organic methods.


QAI - Quality Assurance LogoQuality Assurance International (QAI): Used to identify food products produced internationally using organic standards. The QAI logo covers everything from land stewardship to producer processes to processing and handling facilities - every step along the production chain.



Sustainable and organic food certifications for meat and seafood

While we recommend that you limit the intake of meat and seafood (for health and environmental reasons both), there are ways for you to make your intake of animal and seafood protein more sustainable. Whether it’s how the animals have been treated or the kinds of foods they are fed, eco and certified organic labels applied to these foods will make your decisions much easier. These are the most widely-known and accepted sustainable protein standards available:

American Grassfed LogoAmerican Grassfed Association (AGA): As a certifying agency, this organization works to create standards that result in food that’s healthier for humans and the environment while taking animal welfare considerations into account. They certify products from cattle, bison, goats, pigs, chickens, and sheep, including milk, meat, butter, cheese, and eggs.


Certified Humane LogoCertified Humane: Administered by Humane Farm Animal Care, this program (which is based in the US) labels products that are produced using only standards that benefit animals, including ample space, shelter, gentle handling throughout life to limit stress (including slaughter), and healthcare.


Food Alliance Certification LogoFood Alliance Certification: This is a nonprofit organization that works with producers (farms and ranches), packers, handlers, processors, and distributors to ensure that the food with their logo is produced sustainably, guarding the environment, worker’s rights, and animal welfare.


Global Gap LogoGlobalG.A.P (Good Agricultural Practice): Setting voluntary standards for agriculture and aquaculture that reduce environmental impacts of farming, this is an international organization that oversees 100+ independent and accredited certification bodies in over a 100 countries. These standards cover everything from crop-based food (fruit, vegetables, coffee, tea, flowers) to livestock (cattle, sheep, dairy, pigs, poultry, turkey) to aquaculture (salmonids, shrimp, tilapia, and so on).

Marine Stewardship LogoMarine Stewardship Council (MSC): This organization certifies standards and methods for environmentally-friendly fishing and seafood production and ensures a chain of custody to guarantee the sustainability. The MSC standard applies to all wild-capture fisheries, but not to farmed fish.


Organic Grassfed Beef LogoOrganic Grassfed Beef Coalition (OGBC): Provides certification for farmers looking to produce organically-raised beef products in the US.



BAP LogoThe Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA): Works to establish sustainable and socially responsible aquaculture techniques in order to increase seafood supplies without harming the planet. This organization certifies fish farms for Best Aquaculture Practices.


These food certifications and labels we’ve provided should help you eat a lower-carbon, more sustainable diet without giving up the flavor and variety you’re accustomed to. Bon App├ętit!



1 Organic Foods Have More Antioxidants, Minerals. (n.d.). Retrieved June 21, 2010, from WEIL, Andrew Weil, M.D.: http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/WBL02077/Organic-Foods-Have-More-Antioxidants-Minerals.html

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