Mystery of Produce Codes Solved
Farm to Table,  Musings

Mystery of Produce Codes – Solved

A couple of weeks ago I met up with an old friend who now lives in Chile within a small, self-made, off the grid community that’s thriving as a family in a sustainable lifestyle.

We talked about life back in Maryland, and how my family has adopted a lot of the same sustainability principles they have. We chatted about food while eating delicious, juicy, succulent peaches that her parents purchased at a local farmers’ market just that morning.

Mystery of Produce Codes Solved

Eventually our conversation led to commercial produce, and how difficult it is to know what you’re buying at the grocery store. I’d love to buy all my produce from local markets where I know the farmers and how they grow their food. Realistically? That can’t always happen. Such is the life of a modern working family.

So how do you know what you’re buying at the grocery store? What if it’s not labeled “organic?” Can produce still fall under the “organic” category without actually coming from a certified organic farm? And what if you’re okay with it not being organic, but prefer to not eat genetically modified produce? Lots of questions – let me see what answers I can dig up.

Mystery of Produce Codes – Solved!

  • Organic produce has a five digit number beginning with “9”
  • Conventional produce has a four or five digit number beginning with “4”
  • GM or GE produce has a five digit number beginning with “8”
Genetically Modified (GM) or Genetically Engineered (GE) produce can be strange, bizarre, and wacky. Here, you can’t even find produce marked with the elusive “8” as part of its code. That’s a kind of a good thing, in my opinion (meaning, we don’t have any obviously labeled GM produce in our stores…but it’s the unlabeled stuff that gets me thinking).

Mystery of Produce Codes - Solved

Although, even with conventional produce, you still run the chance of having GM impact to corn, soy, and cottonseed oils. In the early 90s GM food was all the rage as the bio-engineering food was thought to be the wave of the future. Boy were they wrong! If anything, we’ve all swung in the opposite direction…trying to preserve natural heirloom strains of food.

Mystery of Produce Codes - Solved

These days it’s important to know where your food comes from, and what better way than to support your local farmers’ markets when you can. Though they may not all be certified organic, a lot of them farm that way without the label. Learn about seed saving and heirloom produce, open pollination and crop rotation. Join a CSA and take the guesswork out of trying to figure out what produce to buy.

Local Harvest

As it turns out, life in Los Brujos, Chile, can be quite similar to life in New Windsor, Md., from a small farmer’s standpoint. It all comes down to local support, and knowing where your food comes from. The label doesn’t always tell the whole story, but in some cases it can help.

Hi, I'm Liza, a self-proclaimed word-nerd who loves getting sucked into whimsical stories and epic movies. I have laid-back, practical attitude towards life, and as a foodie at heart, I relish the chance to both cook and eat. (No picky-eater here!) Always on the hunt for good eats, easy recipes, binge-worthy shows, relaxing road trip destinations, the perfect mojito and time to finish my novel!

4 Comments

  • Autumn Bradshaw

    Thanks for posting this. It helps to clarify those strange codes that I see all over the grocery store. We used to live near a Whole Foods, and the food was clearly marked organic there. Now it’s more difficult to find quality products for our family. Food, Inc. really drove the point home in my mind about changing my eating habits.

  • Liza

    Autumn – I have been meaning to watch Food, Inc. I really should. Most grocery stores in our area have gone to sectioning the organic produce & food together in one area. That really helps!

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