Food Label Glossary

Food labels can be mighty confusing. Here’s a quick and easy glossary for some of the food labels you’ll see in our stores. For more information about all of these labels, check out Consumer Reports Eco Labels.

Organic – Certified organic products must follow the USDA’s organic standards and operation must be inspected annually by a 3rd party inspecting agency.  No chemical pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified organisms, growth hormones or antibiotics may be used. For more information, visit the USDA’s National Organic Program.

Local – Eating locally can benefit the environment, boost freshness and flavor and support the rich network of farms in our region.  Our co-op labels foods local when they are produced in MN, WI, IA, ND or SD. Foods significantly processed by locally owned businesses also qualify.  For example, coffee isn’t grown in Minnesota, but Peace Coffee roasts all their beans in Minneapolis and delivers them to us by bicycle.

Free Range – The free range label implies that animals have been outdoors, roaming around freely.  But the label is only regulated for poultry (not eggs) and just requires birds to have “access to outdoors” for an undetermined period each day.  We pride ourselves in knowing our farmers’ practices and, in many cases, visiting their farms in person.  When you see a free range label in our stores, you can trust it.

Grass-Fed –  The USDA can inspect farms with ruminants (that’s cows and sheep) to verify that the animals are eating 100% grass/pasture.  Just look for the USDA’s seal next to the claim to know they’ve been verified. Thousand Hills is our 100% local, grass-fed beef supplier. 

Fair Trade Certified – This certification is a trading partnership that groups disadvantaged producers into co-ops and/or unions and promotes social justice, sound environmental practices and economic security for the producers’ communities.  FairTradeUSA is the certifying agency.