Fair Trade, Organic, or Local?

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Grocery shopping can be difficult. How do you make the best choice for yourself, your wallet, your ethics, and the environment?

Here is a quick rundown on what three common labels mean:

Fair Trade:

Fair trade is an ongoing movement to help producers in developing countries promote sustainability, higher environmental standards, and better working conditions. In exchange for these standards, producers are paid higher prices for their goods.

In most cases, a fair trade item cannot be grown locally. In the USA, these products can include tea, coffee, cocoa, sugar, mangoes, and bananas.

Organic:

Items that are certified organic avoid most synthetic chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, additives, etc.). Farmland must be free of synthetic chemicals for three or more years, and organic and non-organic products must be strictly separated.

In the USA, only products that meet the above requirements can be labeled as “100% organic” and products with at least 95% organic ingredients can be labeled “organic.” Both of these types of products may display the organic seal. Products with at least 70% organic ingredients can be labeled “made with organic ingredients” and bear the certification of the body that approved them.

Locally-Grown:

Local food is, by definition, food produced locally. What is considered to be local is more unclear—some say within city limits, and others say within the country. Most people consider local food to be food that is produced within a one-day (approximately 400-mile) drive. Locally food tends to be less processed and better for the environment (less fossil fuel is required for transportation). It often supports independent, local farmers.

Do you pay attention to food labels when you shop? Let us know what’s important to you in the comments below!

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