What is in your spice cupboard?
Aug 10, 2021
By Nareena Switlo, Co-founder, Naledo
How to shop for sustainable and ethical spices.
It’s time to look at your spices! We all want fresh, natural, and sustainably sourced spices… but that is hard to figure out when you are looking at labels on the grocery store shelf!
When we launched Naledo we were shocked to learn about the journey most of our spices take to get into our pantries. Spices can trade hands many times before being packaged. The result can be poor taste, additives (like sawdust and lead in turmeric powder), damage to our environment, and impoverished farmers.
Let’s look at our favourite spice, turmeric. Some farmers are paid as little $0.24 for 1kg of fresh turmeric root. By the time it gets to the store shelf in powder form it can be $105 for 1kg.
So what can we do to support a more equitable supply chain that empowers farmers rather than keeping them in poverty?
Our Top 5 Tips to Spotting a Great Spice Brands:
- Look for Certifications. Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, and Certified B CorporationsTM look at the social impacts as well as environmental. We love being a Bcorp because our audit covers the impact of our decisions on workers, customers, suppliers, the community, and the environment.
- Is the brand transparent about where spices are from? Check out their website. Do they mention specific regions or farmers, just country? If they can tell you exactly where their spices are from there is a better chance that they have a shorter supply chain, which could mean more money in a farmer’s hand. Single origin and direct trade are good terms to look for!
- Is the product low cost? Spices that are really cheap (unless they are packaged by the farmer) are usually bought from spice auction houses where spices from all over the world are mixed and sold. They can be from different countries, harvest years, and/or contaminated. And there is little chance that the farmer earned a fair price.
- Is the brand sharing how it is grown? Spices can be organic and be on land that is clear cut to make room for them. If the brand supports biodiverse growing, agroforestry, or permaculture that is a great sign that this brand is aware of the environmental and social impacts industrial agriculture has.
- Expensive doesn’t always equal sustainable and ethical. Watch out for brands that ‘green wash’. If they can’t tell you where their spices are from (even if they are organic) then it might mean that you are paying for the brand name and not for the farmer to get a fair price.
Making the switch to sustainable and ethical spices will not only support farmers’ livelihoods, but your dishes will sing with vibrant smells and flavours! Spices also boast a long list of health benefits. So get out there and get your spice on!
Learn about some great brands here.
Happy Spice Hunting!
Nareena Switlo, Co-founder, Naledo
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