Today’s Solutions: June 27, 2022

When it comes to what we put in our pantries, many of us are already thinking: organic, ethical, fair trade, and sustainable. However, one type of ingredient that may slip our minds is spices! We spice our foods with flavors from all around the world, so it’s important to consider how they’re sourced. 

Here are eight things to investigate about your spices to make sure they are sustainable.

Quality

There is so much greenwashing out there, so be wary even if the container is labeled as organic, pesticide-free, or fairly sourced. For spices, just like any business, brands are concerned about their profit margins and may cut corners by mixing ingredients from different regions. Your best bet is to make sure that the product is certified.

Human treatment

The spice trade has a long history rife with crimes against humanity. However, some of the shocking treatment endured by slaves hundreds of years ago is still experienced by workers today. Make sure to look into whether the company you’re buying spices from treats its workers fairly. The safest choice is usually single-origin spices and those found at local farmers’ markets.

Small farmers

Keep in mind that small farmers often have a hard time competing in the worldwide market, so what commonly happens is that a bigger buyer will buy small farmers’ crops and combine the ingredients to sell to a larger buy which then ships them out of the country. Once the spices are imported and transferred to a distributor, the origin of the ingredients being repackaged and sold at the shop is fuzzy at best.

Certifications

Two reliable food certifications to look out for are: 

  • The Fair-Trade label ensures the safety and fair pay for workers and fair prices for growers.
  • Rainforest Alliance certification guarantees a balance of forest management with a focus on clean water, healthy trees, and soil protection. It also means that workers are in safe and equitable working conditions.
Organic

Going for organic products isn’t just good for our bodies, but it’s good for the planet. Organic spices will not contain harmful pesticides, fertilizers, insecticides, and other toxins.

Transparency

This could be tricky, as the spice industry doesn’t have a good track record for transparency. This means that it’s up to the consumer to do careful research about each purchase and to actively search for spice brands that are committed to environmental and human protections.

Reliable brands

It can be difficult to pinpoint exactly which brands are being honest about their processes. However, they do exist! There are even some that offer direct-to-consumer shipments and provide single-source options for easy tracing. 

Some ethically produced spice brands include Diaspora Co, Burlap & Barrel, Curio Spice, Cinnamon Tree Organics, Reluctant Trading Experiment, Zameen, and Heray Spice.

Taste

Of course, purchasing ethically grown spices is healthier for us and the planet, but there is also the added benefit of enhanced taste and quality. Often, mass-distributed products are lackluster in flavor and depth, while spices that are sourced from one specific location, even within the same spice, like cinnamon, for instance, will boast distinct flavor profiles representing different regions and farms. 

So, if quality and bold, unique tastes are important to you and your cooking, then choosing ethically and sustainably sourced spices is a must.

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