What Food Labels To (& Not To) Trust – Gardenuity

Food should be simple. You have a right to know what you’re eating and how it was made. And when you grow your own, food is simple! But…we can’t grow everything, so the grocery store — and all the labels in it— are unavoidable.

Sometimes labels are extremely useful; sometimes, labels are extremely misleading.

Here’s your guide to the useful and the useless labels in the grocery store.


USDA Organic

This label is the real deal. It means that the product has been grown and cared for according to the organic standards set by the United States Department of Agriculture — which are pretty strict.

Nearly all synthetic pesticides are prohibited and growers are required to use the least toxic pesticide first. Synthetic herbicides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, or GMOs are also prohibited.

For more details on the USDA organic standards, click here.

USDA organic labels

Certified Naturally Grown

This is basically the smaller, community-based version of USDA Organic for farmers and beekeepers.

If the food has this label on it, it was grown under strict standards.

Nearly all pesticides are prohibited and growers are required to use non-chemical pest-control methods before toxic ones. Like USDA Organic, synthetic herbicides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, and GMOs are prohibited.

Non-GMO Project Verified

Food with this seal on its package has not been genetically modified. In other words, no GMOs. However, this label doesn’t put any restrictions on pesticide use.

non GMO labels

Food Alliance

This label encourages the reduction of pesticides, but only three toxic pesticides are actually prohibited…which isn’t very many. That being said, it does set important sustainability standards on soil and water conservation, biodiversity conservations, and safe working conditions.

food alliance labels



The good news is that “cage-free” means the chickens weren’t in cages. The chickens are able to stand-up; however, they’re not given enough space to turn around. Unless the eggs say, “pasture” on the label, the chickens weren’t quite given the space the label implies.


Artisanal implies that the product is made by hand, with carefully sourced ingredients and lots of love. But, this word isn’t an official label. Any brand can put the word “artisanal” on their package, and more often than not, it’s not because they actually were made by artisans.


The truth is, no one knows what this means. The FDA has actually declined to define “all-natural.” So we suggest you read the product list, check out their website, and make your own decision about whether the food is all-natural.

The grocery store can be confusing. So use this guide to help you find your way through all the labels. The best way to avoid uncertainty? Grow a little or a lot of your own, and read up on the products you love.

By giving gardening a try you will always know your veggies and herbs are organic, all-natural, GMO-free, artisanal, and sustainable. If you have any questions about how our products meet these standards, contact us!