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Listen to Dr. Urvashi discuss the credibility of ecolabels

00:00 / 01:04

What about if you do know where your food is coming from? 

Labels are great for purchasing products that come from the national market. Labels are helpful when you don’t know where food is coming from and you want to make an informed decision. But what if you could know exactly where your food comes from? What if you could know exactly who did the strenuous manual labor required to harvest your fruits and vegetables? 

Shopping locally means fewer fossil fuel emissions associated with transportation, a better understanding of how and where your food was produced, and a sense of connection between the land and the people who put in the work to produce the food that we often take for granted. Beyond the environment, supporting local, small scale farms by shopping at your farmers market supports local markets and economies associated with regional agricultural systems. And if you are still skeptical about local sourcing, you might be shocked to learn that in addition to all of these benefits, food that is locally produced using sustainable practices that almost all small-scale farms have committed to is actually fresher, more nutrient dense, and always in season! 


Labels aren’t the only way to make informed, eco-conscious decisions about food sourcing if you have the access and financial means to buy food from local farmers. Even if suppliers the label certification, many small farms utilize the sustainable farming practices. The best way to find out what the environmental and human health implications of a farmer’s practices are is to ask them yourself! Click here to find resources for local sourcing! 

Vegetable Stand

Label Deep Dive.

USDA Organi
non gmo

USDA Organic

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  • Has among the strongest standards for environmental sustainability

  • Prohibits synthetic fertilizers and industrial pesticides.

  • Animal feed must be 100% organically produced and without animal byproducts or daily drugs.

  • GMOs are prohibited (though testing is not required).

  • For multi-ingredient products in the “made with” organic category, at least 70 percent of the product must be certified organic ingredients. 

  • The organic seal cannot be used on the product, and the final product cannot be represented as organic – only up to three ingredients or ingredient categories can be represented as organic. 

  • All non-agricultural products must be allowed on the National List. 

    • For example, processed organic foods may contain some approved non-agricultural ingredients, like enzymes in yogurt, pectin in fruit jams, or baking soda in baked goods.

  • Listen to Dr. Urvashi talk about the Organic Label

00:00 / 00:26

Demeter Biodynamic

  • Goes beyond organic, envisioning farms as self contained and self-sustaining systems

  • A minimum of 10% of total farm acreage is set aside for biodiversity

  • The entire farm, versus a particular crop, must be certified

  • Farms are inspected annually

  • Farmers must avoid chemical pesticides and fertilizers, utilize compost and cover crops, and promote biodiversity. 

  • Biodynamic standards on animal management require pasture access for livestock and prohibit some mutilations (disbudding or dehorning cattle, beak tipping poultry or routinely tail docking sheep), but the standards do not cover other common livestock operations (ie. castration age and methods)

  • Products with the label must be made with certified Biodynamic ingredients and meet strict processing standards to ensure the purest possible product. 

  • Label is legally defined and audited by the Demeter Association, Inc.


  • Eliminates inputs and ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from company’s supply chains

  • Products and their ingredients tested for the presence of DNA from GMOs 

    • ​tested samples of certified vegetable seeds must routinely contain less than .25% ingredients from GMOs

    • Testable products containing fruits and vegetables must contain less than .9% products from GMOs

  • not necessarily organic (though all organic is non-GMO)

  • The Non-GMO Project Standard is most rigorous certification for GMO avoidance

  • Non-GMO Project Verified Products must have systems in place for:

    • Labeling: Accurate and clear Product labeling

    • Quality assurance: Maintaining operational consistency and addressing Non-conformities promptly

    • Procurement: Obtaining Inputs and Ingredients in accordance with uniform and meaningful specifications

    • Testing: Meaningful, ongoing testing of Major High-Risk Inputs and Ingredients

    • Segregation and Clean out: Protecting compliant Inputs and Ingredients from commingling
      with non-compliant materials

    • Traceability: Supply chain traceability, especially following Input and Ingredient testing or the establishment of a compliant Affidavit

  • DOES NOT address fertilizers, pesticides or other chemicals used on the farm or in processing

  • Non-GMO products are important to protecting seed sovereignty and conservation among indigenous communities & small scale farmers ! 

Read more about the specifics about Non-GMO here:


California Certified Organic Farmers

  • CCOF adresses: 

  • Animal Welfare -

    • CCOF believes that organic livestock standards should require humane and ethical treatment of animals during all stages of production, including transport and slaughter.

  • Carbon Sequestration

    • CCOF believes that organic practices offer verifiable opportunities for sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) and should be encouraged as an effective strategy for reducing dangerous levels of emissions

  • Ecosystem Protection

    • CCOF believes that organic standards should encourage stewardship of land and waterways, as well as protection of biodiversity and ecosystems

  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)

    • CCOF believes that genetic modification is fundamentally incompatible with organic production. The organic market and its producers must be protected from GMO contamination. GMO products must be labeled.

  • Organic Standards

    • CCOF believes that organic standards should require processors to minimize environmental impacts by conserving water and energy; preventing contamination of water, air and soil; and promoting the reduction, reuse, and recycling of packaging

  • Find out more about CCOF certification here:


Regenerated Organic Certified

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  • The goal of ROC is to promote holistic agriculture practices in an all-encompassing certification that:

    • Increases soil organic matter over time and sequesters carbon below and above ground, which could be a tool to mitigate climate change

    • Improves animal welfare

    • Provides economic stability and fairness for farmers, ranchers, and workers

  • Three pillars:

    • Soil Health & Land Management

    • Animal Welfare

    • Farmer & Worker Fairness

  • Three levels: Bronze, Silver, and Gold

    • Each requires a different number and scope of regenerative organic practices used

  • Created to leverage and bring together existing high-bar certifications in order to avoid duplicative audits or burdensome paperwork.

  • Producers can demonstrate compliance with ROC criteria by leveraging certifications they’ve already earned, such as Animal Welfare Approved or Demeter Biodynamic, among others

Learn more about ROC certification at 

Certified Regenerative by AGW

  • Aims to use agricultural practices to increase soil health to the best extent possible for that system and its location

  • Positive management of soil, water, air, cropping systems, livestock, biodiversity, wild harvested resources, and human/societal factors

  • Concerned with the regeneration of soil, water and air quality and biodiversity

  • Animals must be allowed to behave naturally and can play an important role in the nutrient cycle

  • The Certified Regenerative label by AGW has 11 key principles and other standards that companies must pass to be able to use this label, read about theme here:

Certified B

  • Mission: to transform the economic system into a more inclusive, equitable, and regenerative global economy

  • B Impact Assessment uses a point system – if you meet the verified 80-point threshold, you’ll enter the Post-Verification stage and sign the B Corp Agreement

  • In order to meet the transparency requirement for B Corp Certification, companies must publish  their public profile in the B Corp Directory, including their company’s score and impact report

  • B Impact Assessment is a digital tool that can help measure, manage, and improve positive impact performance for environment, communities, customers, suppliers, employees, and shareholders

  • B Lab provides companies with the programs and tools necessary to understand their environmental and social impact - whether or not they are Certified B Corporations

  • Learn more about B Corp certification here:

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Certified Vegan or Plant-Based


  • No animal products

  • No type of animal testing, including animal food trials, nutrition studies, or clinical trials, where animals are “mistreated, hurt, or killed” 

  • No animal genes are allowed but non-animal GMOs are permitted

  • Taken straight off of read more about the certification process there!

Animal Welfare Approved

  • Most rigorous standards for farm animal welfare currently in use by any North American organization

  • Most highly regarded label when it comes to animal welfare, pasture-based farming, and sustainability

  • Animals must be able to behave naturally and be in a state of physical and psychological well-being

  • Addresses every aspect of each species’ lifecycle needs from birth to death

  • Only label that requires audited high-welfare slaughter practices with pre-slaughter stunning 

  • Only label that additionally requires pasture access for all animals

Certified Naturally Grown

  • Products are produced in approximate accordance with National Organic Standards

  • Standards on livestock management are stricter than the National Organic Standards and require more time on pasture for all animals

  • Lacks an independent third-party verification (because it is a non-profit organization that defines its own label)

  • Employs a peer-review inspection process built on local networks, rather than a formal or independent audit, rather than verification by an independent third-party to ensure farms are actually meeting the standards

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Certified Humane Raised & Handled

  • Requires ruminants to have outdoor pasture access for at least part of their lives

  • Defines space requirements and bird and animal management

  • Animals are never kept in cages, crates, or tie stalls. Animals must be free to do what comes naturally. 

    • Ex: chickens must be able to flap their wings and dust bathe, and pigs must have space to move around and root

  • Animals must be fed a diet of quality feed, without animal by-products, antibiotics or growth hormones. Producers must comply with food safety and environmental regulations.

  • Processors must comply with the American Meat Institute Standards (AMI)

  • Carries out audits to its published standards

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Certified Grassfed by AGW

  • For farmers and ranchers raising cattle, sheep, goats or bison according to Animal Welfare Approved standards of production

  • Only certification (in the U.S. and Canada) that guarantees: food products come from animals:

    • fed a 100% grass and forage diet

    • raised outdoors on pasture or range for their entire lives

    • managed according to the Animal Welfare Approved program’s standards

  • Animals must be raised outdoors on pasture or range and cannot be confined to feedlots or dirt lots. 

  • Combined standards also prohibit the routine use of antibiotics and hormones and ensure welfare at slaughter.


Fair Trade

  • Basic fair trade principles: 

    • Long-term direct trading relationships 

    • Payment of fair prices and wages 

    • No child, forced or otherwise exploited labor 

    • Workplace non-discrimination, gender equity and freedom of association 

    • Democratic & transparent organizations 

    • Safe working conditions & reasonable work hours 

    • Investment in community development projects 

    • Environmental sustainability 

    • Traceability and transparency

  • Use of label requires an audit 

  • Listen to Dr. Urvashi discuss Fair Trade

00:00 / 00:41

Global Animal Partnership

  • G.A.P. certified means animals have:

    • More space

    • A safe and enriched environment 

    • Access to pasture or outdoors

    • A healthy, vegetarian diet (no animal-made products)

    • No added hormones or antibiotics 

  •  base level certification :

    • farms and/or ranches have met over 100+ animal welfare standards (more space to move around, no cages or confinement crates, & an environment that lets them express their natural behaviors)

  • Learn more about the qualifications and different G.A.P. certifications here: 

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