The Bio-Engineered (BE) Food Labeling Law is going to take effect in January 2022. This infographic from The Non-GMO Project gives you some solid information about this new law and why The Natural Grocery Company supports stricter labeling standards like the one The Non-GMO Project provides. In our stores the shelf tags that are green indicate products that are certified Non-GMO by the Non-GMO Project. Products with blue labels still go through a process of verification conducted by our buyers and staff and we do our best to keep GMOs out of our stores but the best labeling program continues to be The Non-GMO Project Verification. We think it is important to “Follow the Butterfly”.
Celebrate Fair Trade Month AND Non-GMO Month This October
Shoppers are demanding more: More from their local stores, more from their chosen brands, and even more from the farmers who grow their food.
Transparency in food production and in labeling is critical. Shoppers have a right to know if what they’re buying supports both people and planet.
This October, we celebrate both Fair Trade Month and Non-GMO Month — highlighting two labels you may have seen on your food often and want to know a bit more about.
What is “Non-GMO Project Verified”?
GMOs (or genetically modified organisms) are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and/or virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Non-GMO Project verification means that a product is compliant with the Non-GMO Project Standard, which includes stringent provisions for ingredient testing, traceability, and segregation.
What is “Fairtrade Certified”?
Every day, we enjoy products only grown in tropical countries — products like coffee, chocolate and bananas. These farmers and workers often do not earn enough to have a decent living — that is to eat nutritious food, send their kids to school, have adequate shelter and weather a crisis (like COVID-19). Many live on less than $2 per day.
When you see the Fairtrade Mark on a product, you know that farmers were paid at least the cost of production as well as an added Fairtrade Premium to invest in their businesses and communities. You know that child labor was banned and that measures were in place to protect the local environment and water supply. You also know that workers’ rights were upheld and they have the choice to collectively bargain.
Why do we need such labels on food at all?
“Natural” food and “fair” food are big business these days and “greenwashing” has become a serious problem. By making unverified or uncertified claims about how their food is grown or processed (“self-made marketing claims”), some unscrupulous companies capitalize on shoppers choosing to pay a bit more for high-quality food that supports both people and planet. In response, there is a sea of different labels popping up with claims that sound really good, but have little backing them up.
So how does an informed shopper know what’s backed up and what’s empty words? Choosing well-recognized, independent, third-party seals on products is the best place to start. Seals like Non-GMO Project Verified and Fairtrade Certified are rigorous standards with meaningful rules that need to be followed in order to receive the seal. This may actually require laboratory testing and supply chain transparency that allows for “identity preservation.” That typically requires the strict segregation of ingredients that are compliant with the standards from ingredients that are not.
Both the Non-GMO Project and Fairtrade America are nonprofits driven by their missions to change how food is made in order to better serve people and planet. The Non-GMO Project has been verifying products since 2010 and Fairtrade has been operating internationally since 1989. Both nonprofits publish their Standards on their websites to give shoppers transparency, first and foremost. It also helps to check which brands are using these labels: Brands both large and small voluntarily showcase this compliance by including either the Fairtrade or Non-GMO Project seal on their packaging (and in some cases, both seals). This further gives shoppers assurance that it’s not a new fad but a sustainability tool used by brands to have a positive impact on people and planet.
How do Fairtrade and the Non-GMO Project overlap?
The rigorous Fairtrade Standards ban the use of GMO seeds. This is partly because farmers may get stuck in an exploitative cycle when they rely on big agribusinesses for genetically modified seeds, rather than buying seeds from a variety of sources. Furthermore, Fairtrade and others in the field are not yet sure of the impact GMOs may have on the environment, which farmers rely on for their livelihoods.
What you can do
Shop the labels! This store will be highlighting products that are Fairtrade Certified and Non-GMO Project Verified throughout October. Support brands working towards a more sustainable future, and try something new.
Want to learn more?
Get the scoop on Fairtrade. Sign up to receive Fairtrade America’s newsletter and follow them on social media — @FairtradeMarkUS
Follow the Butterfly with the Non-GMO Project. Check out their recipes and like them on social media — @NonGMOProject.
STAFF PICK – VIOLIFE by Kristy, Housewares Buyer
“Many people know this about me; I am … was a cheese junky. Cheese on pasta, cheese on sandwiches, cheese on crackers… you get the idea. Then one day my world changed, and I could no longer digest lactose or casein (milk sugar and protein). Oh, no! Now what?
I tried all kinds of alternatives, none of which satisfied me in the same way as “real” cheese, and none of them tasted too great either. I soon gave up, and while brushing a small tear from my eye, realized that my cheese-eating days were over.
Luckily, my despair was short-lived, as it appeared one day, at El Cerrito Natural Grocery – Violife! I couldn’t believe it! Finally, an alternative cheese that tasted like the real thing! No soy, no gluten, no funky aftertaste! This is a non-GMO plant-based cheese that has the same feel and consistency as “real” cheese, and the flavors are spot on. I put it to the test and ate it plain – fantastic! I melted it on a burger – beautiful!
If you’re vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, lactose intolerant, or if you just want to cut down on cholesterol, this may be a good choice for you. I could go on about how great these products are, but really, I think that it’s best that you try it yourself.”
Small batch, handmade, organic crackers made in Berkeley?
That’s exactly what Cory (long time employee of Berkeley Natural Grocery) said to Birgitta when she told him about her made-from-scratch crackers crafted from a Swedish friend’s recipe.
Birgitta is a long time (30 + years) shopper at our Berkeley store. For years, she bought the same superfood ingredients from our bulk bins. After chatting and recipe sharing with staff, she brought the team at Berkeley Natural (BNG) samples of her crackers. They were hooked. Birgitta and her partner Dianna credit Cory and the BNG team with inspiring them to start their small business.
The recipe originated with Birgitta’s friend in Sweden whose daughter is a very picky eater. When she finally discovered a winning combination that even her daughter appreciated, she shared it with Birgitta. While Birgitta and Dianna have altered the recipe a bit (most dramatically dropping the olive oil in favor of coconut oil), the Swedish roots are strong.
The flower on the label is a traditional Swedish decoration. Their label and logo designer lives on an island in the Baltic Sea between Sweden and Finland. The heritage (and inspiration) for these crackers points back to the majestic northern lands of the Baltic.
Cracker culture in Sweden is endless, with entire aisles dedicated to the craft. Everybody buys and bakes crackers. People commonly eat crackers with every meal whether paired with pickled herring, caviar, cheese, smoked meat, gravlax or soup.
The key to Birgitta’s leap into full time cracker production happened while selling Swedish ovenware. She was going to product shows and would bring her crackers along for snacks and meals. Everybody wanted the crackers more than the ovenware. With that nudge and the continued encouragement from Cory and the Berkeley Natural Team, Birgitta teamed up with Dianna (who has a culinary degree) to forge what is now Cult Crackers.
Together, they met the folks at Muffin Revolution and subleased kitchen space from them. That afforded them the chance (in a certified gluten-free kitchen) to produce more volume and become a registered business. When Muffin Revolution outgrew the space, they offered the lease to Cult Crackers. While it was a big jump, they accepted. And thank goodness they did!
These two ladies started their official Cult Cracker journey in June. Berkeley Natural Grocery was store number one, and now they are in ten stores throughout the Bay Area!
The crackers are delightful. At their kitchen, we snacked on them with Mitica Drunken Goat cheese and Crofters Jam. With a box to take home, I shared the crackers with my five year old son (and felt great about it!). He loved them with butter and salami.
We are so excited to carry their crackers at both stores so that you can try them sometime soon!
Burroughs Family Farms – Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
We recently started selling Burroughs Family Farms organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed extra-virgin organic olive oil [aka EVOO]. This exemplary family-owned farm, situated in the Sierra foothills below Yosemite, is one of our favorite regional producers. We already source quality pastured eggs, organic cheese, and almonds from their property. The Burroughs Family Olive Oil is a blend of Arbeqina, Arbosana and Gretchenina olives (originally from Spain). The oil has a pleasant fruitiness with hints of grassy undertones. It is very versatile and may be used in sauces, salad dressings, as a topping to bread and for low heat cooking.
Here is what Burroughs Family Farms says about their oil:
Our olives are first cold-pressed at temperatures that do not exceed 80 degrees F. This protects the polyphenols, antioxidants, and vitamins that give the oil its nutritional value and its aroma and flavor.
Why extra-virgin olive oil?
- EVOO is known to contain stronger concentrations of phytonutrients (especially polyphenols) that have well-known anti-inflammatory properties
- EVOO supports blood vessels not only by providing antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene, but also also providing unique molecules like HT that actually work at a genetic level to help the cellular walls of the blood vessels remain strong.
- Cholesterol lowering and blood pressure lowering benefits of monounsaturated oil (olive oil contains 75%)
High quality extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of around 405ºF (191ºC), making it ideal for lower temperature cooking such as light sautés and non-cooked uses such as dressing salads and dipping bread. Such uses protect the nutritional value and beneficial qualities of the oil.
Why California Olive Oil?
As with wine, it has taken years for people to discover that some of the world’s finest olive oils are produced in California. Our family owned and operated farms rest on the rolling hills near Yosemite National Park, where the combination of the moderate Mediterranean climate with good soils and water grows some of the world’s finest quality olives.
Buying California olive oils vs. imports supports our farm economy, and California olive oils have a lower carbon-footprint because their shipping distance is much shorter than that of imports.
Conservation on our farms
Ours is not the easiest way to grow olives, but we think it’s best for our land and for our family who lives and works here. From organic production to state-of-the-art irrigation systems, we do whatever we can to protect air, soil, and water from herbicides, pesticides, petrochemical nitrogen fertilizers, and genetically-modified organisms. All that, plus our hedgerows of native plants support the health of native species and bees who have the most important job – the pollination of the olive flowers.
We do it for the future of our farms. For you, it’s deliciousness and more.
Burroughs Family Olive Oil is certified annually by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC). Year after year it’s labeled “extra-virgin” by the council. To get the seal the oil is lab tested and undergoes a critical analysis by an expert panel. The trained sensory panel (think of these people as the sommeliers of olive oil) ensure that the oil is free of defects in flavor or odor. In the U.S., many oils are labeled “extra-virgin” but do not undergo any such testing.
We had a blast visiting the McClelland’s Dairy Farm this past weekend. At an event sponsored by Organic Valley, they pulled out all the fun farm toys! We got to spend time with calfs, shake and make butter, drive mini tractors, play in corn pits and drink milk (lots of milk!). Check out the pictures for a diary of the day. It’s always wonderful to see where our food comes from. I couldn’t help but pick up a dozen of their eggs before heading back to the city. Their bird’s beaks never get clipped so they roam the fields and eat tons of bugs and grass…all the good flavor making ingredients that lead to yummy eggs.
St. John’s Family Farm was founded in 2006. They are located about 40 minutes from Chico and 1 1/2 hours from Sacramento. Their farm is tucked away on a quiet country road, surrounded by nut trees.
Their hens are all pasture raised, free to explore, chase bugs and snack on hearty green grasses. Three times a day, they are served freshly mixed (corn and soy) Non-GMO feed. In their spacious mobile coops, they lay beautiful brown eggs and roost for the evening. It’s pretty bucolic.
Recently they went through the process of becoming Non-GMO verified. And we are thrilled with their new certification! Same tasty eggs, newly verified.
When we visited the farm, it was easy to tell why these eggs are so delicious and why the yolks are so intensely flavorful. The hens roam in wide open spaces, are gently treated by the staff and family and kept safe (mostly from foxes) by some amazing (and cute) guard dogs.
Try their eggs next time to stop by our stores and help support an amazing family and their animals by purchasing delicious eggs!