The other day, we were grocery shopping in Kroger and decided to pick up some canned peaches. We saw these cans of Simple Truth peaches labeled as “Certified Transitional” and “Made with Transitional Peaches.” We wondered, what are transitional peaches? Peaches after all have some uniquely specific classifications, like freestone and clingstone, so our first thought was that farmers had bred some new kind of delicious hybrid peach variety.
We later researched what “Certified Transitional” means, and it turns out that it’s much bigger than just peaches. The label is used to identify foods from farms that are undergoing the three-year process of getting certified USDA Organic.
The concept of labeling food products as a sort of “organic in progress” originated with the Kellogg’s brand Kashi. In 2016, Kashi was having so much difficulty finding enough cereal ingredients from organic farms that it saw the need to help conventional farms make the conversion to organic farming. It takes three full years of practicing organic farming methods before a farm can be certified as USDA Organic, and many smaller farms at the time were unable to bear the expensive cost of organic farming without being able to label and sell their produce at organic prices.
Kashi decided to do their part to increase the supply of organic foods in the United States. Together with Quality Assurance International, one of North America’s largest organic certification organizations, they started the Transitional Program, through which QAI permitted farms to use the Certified Transitional label if they adhered to organic farming standards and gave up the use of prohibited pesticides and fertilizers in years 1, 2, and 3 of the organic certification process. Kashi in turn offered to pay transitional farms a premium for their produce above the market price for conventionally grown ingredients.
Today, QAI’s Certified Transitional program has expanded to certify products in the food, beverage, dietary supplement, cosmetics, textile, and household cleaner markets. QAI sets rigorous standards and performs unannounced audits to guarantee that transitional farms are meeting the high standards of organic certification.
So if you see a product in the supermarket labeled as Certified Transitional, chances are it comes from a small or medium-sized farm that has chosen to undergo the costly effort of converting to organic farming practices. Knowing that these products are organic in all ways except the USDA’s mandatory waiting period, we should keep in mind that when we buy a Certified Transitional product, we are helping some farm out there along its path toward getting certified USDA Organic, which will ultimately lead to more availability of organic produce throughout the country!