Have you ever gone to the grocery store, picked up a package of food, and realized there were a handful of certification claims on the labeling that look fantastic, but that you really have no clue what they mean?

Rainforest Alliance Certified, that’s good right? Fair Trade? Totally worth the extra couple dollars, sure!

As a conscious consumer looking not only for nourishing, high quality foods that support my health, but also environmentally responsible and ethically sourced foods, I’m all for these labels. But it doesn’t do me (or anybody else) any good if we don’t know what they mean!

So, for your information, I’ve compiled a list of common food certification labels, and little insight as to exactly what they represent on the labeling. Enjoy!

USDA Organic

Certified through the National Organic Program, products containing multiple ingredients must be at least 95% organic and not grown or raised with the use of most synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, growth hormones, antibiotics, sewage sludge, irradiation, and GMOs. Read more about organic certification here.

Because organic certification is expensive, some smaller companies may practice organic production yet not label their products as such. Some farmers go “beyond organic” in terms of standards for their food and production practices. Speaking with the farmer can shed valuable insight into the way food was grown/raised.

Non GMO Project Verified

This is a 3rd party verification system that “assists farmers, processors and manufacturers in avoiding GMO contamination by providing consistency of definitions and methodology for investigating source materials, testing high-risk ingredients, and building identity preservation practices into the supply chain.” Because cross-contamination may occur in multiple links in the supply chain, “GMO free” is not a viable promise to consumers; however, non GMO maintains strict standards to reduce the possibility of GMO contamination as much as possible. Read more about non GMO project certification here.

Certified Humane

Regulated through the non-profit Humane Farm Animal Care, this certification applies certain standards to the treatment of farm animals, from birth through slaughter. For example, animals may not be kept in crates, cages, or tie stalls, nor may they be given food that includes animal by-products, antibiotics, or growth hormones. Read more about the standards of this certification here


Rainforest Alliance Certified

Products with this seal meet agricultural standards through the Sustainable Cultural Network. The focus is on sustainability, protecting wildlife and waterways, and providing “safe and dignified” conditions for workers. Read more about the Rainforest Alliance certification here. 

Fair Trade

This certification is 3rd party verified and designed to ensure that products are socially and environmentally responsible. Under the Fair Trade certification, child labor is prohibited and certain health and safety standards for working conditions are met. Additionally, Fair Trade works to increase wage levels for workers and even guarantee minimum prices for some commodities, as well as focus on community development. Also, the use of GMOs and certain toxic chemicals is prohibited under Fair Trade certification and there is an emphasis on responsible waste management, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and protection of soil and water quality. Read more about the Fair Trade certification here. 


Animal Welfare Approved

This certification is 3rd party verified through the Animal Welfare Institute, and upholds the highest animal welfare standards in farming currently. Animals must be allowed access to the outdoors on range or pasture, and “must be able to behave naturally and be in a state of physical and psychological well-being.” This certification is given only to independent family farmers, and also upholds more humane standards for breeding and slaughter. Read more about the Animal Welfare Approved certification here

American Grassfed

This certification is for ruminant animals (most often seen on beef and dairy) and means that they were 100% forage fed after weaning, raised on pasture and not in confinement, and never given antibiotics or hormones. This certification is third party verified and audited annually. Read more about the American Grassfed certification here. 


Food Alliance Certified

This certification focuses on increased standards for labor, sustainability, animal welfare, and the environment. Foods containing this seal must not have been grown or raised using hormones, GMOs, non-therapeutic antibiotics, and certain pesticides. Moreover, there is a focus on protecting soil and water quality and wildlife habitat. This certification is third party verified. Read more about the Food Alliance certification here.


Certified Sustainable Seafood

This seal is certified through the Marine Stewardship Council, and requires that seafood come from fisheries or wild caught practices that are sustainable, well-managed, and support the diversity, function, and structure of the ecosystem. Read more about the Certified Sustainable Seafood certification here



Now I’d love to hear from you! Which certifications do you look for on your food? Leave me a comment below and let me know! And, if you found this article informative and useful, please share! 🙂

Health and happiness,