How Meaningful is this label
Is the label verified?
Is the meaning of the label consistent?
Are the label standards publicly available?
Is information about the organization publicly available?
Is the organization free from conflict of interest?
Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
The Certified Naturally Grown label is backed by clearly defined standards that prohibit the use of inputs that pose potential harm to human health or the environment, and promote sustainable farming practices. Like the organic standards, the Certified Naturally Grown standards are highly meaningful for promoting sustainable and non-toxic farming and food processing practices, but the standards only address animal welfare in minimal ways (e.g., there are no standards for slaughter) and do not cover fair trade practices.
Certified Naturally Grown is based on the "Participatory Guarantee Systems" (PGS) model of certification, which means that rather than relying on an inspection agency, farmers inspect each other's farms.
The CNG standards are generally consistent. The CNG standards are based on the USDA Organic standards, and the CNG program has resolved some of the inconsistencies found in the USDA Organic standards. Other inconsistencies remain.
Inconsistencies in poultry and eggs resolved: The USDA Organic standards prohibit continuous indoor confinement of all livestock, but have no minimum outdoor space requirements for chickens. The CNG standards require a minimum of 5 square feet per bird of outdoor space.
Inconsistencies for antibiotic use remain: The USDA Organic standards allow for the use of antibiotics in poultry hatcheries, where antibiotics can be administered in the egg and on the first day of the chicks' life. The same exemption exists in the CNG standards.
Board of Directors: The Board of Directors and their affiliations, and members of Advisory Councils, are listed on the website.
Financial information: Financial information is available on the organization’s publicly available IRS Form 990.
Standards development: Yes. Final decisions regarding standards development and updates are made by the Board of Directors. The organization has a policy that prohibits voting by Board members with an interest in the outcome of the vote.
Verification: No. There is no inspection or audit by an accredited third-party certification agency. Inspections are conducted by other farmers who participate in the CNG program. Farmers are prohibited from “trading” inspections -- meaning that a farmer cannot inspect the farm of the individual who inspected his/her farm. Inspector’s summary reports are publicly available.
Standards development: Yes. The Certified Naturally Grown standards for livestock and produce are based on the federal organic standards, which were developed with broad public and industry input.
Standards updates: No. Standards of the Certified Naturally Grown program that are not based on the USDA organic requirements are developed with farmer input but they are not shared with the public and are not posted on the website for public comment.
This label is on Organic
PoultryProcessed Fruit and NutsVegetables, Legumes, and Grains
The Certified Naturally Grown label means that the farm where the food is grown uses the same farming methods as certified organic farms but is not independently verified by a USDA-accredited certification agency and not subject to the legal enforcement of the USDA. The CNG label arose when farmers who did not want to participate in the USDA Organic program sought an alternative certification system with fewer requirements for recordkeeping and lower certification costs.
The Certified Naturally Grown standards prohibit the use of most toxic and synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, artificial growth hormones, genetically modified organisms and other inputs that pose harm to human health or the environment. The CNG standards promote soil fertility through natural methods.
While the standards for the Certified Naturally Grown label are based on the USDA Organic standards, there are some differences. There are fewer requirements for recordkeeping compared with USDA Organic certification, since there is no annual review of records by a USDA-accredited certification agency. The CNG program has additional standards to encourage the use of outdoor space by livestock. For example, the USDA Organic standards prohibit "continuous indoor confinement" but do not specify a minimum outdoor space requirement for chickens, which means that some egg or chicken producers grant only small porches as "outdoor access." The Certified Naturally Grown standards require at least 5 square feet per chickens outdoors (or 2 sq. ft. if kept on rotated pasture) and 1.75 square feet indoors.
For honey, the Certified Naturally Grown program developed its own standards rather than basing them on the USDA Organic standards, since no federal organic standards exist for apiculture. The CNG standards focus on the health of honeybees and the sustainability of beekeeping. The CNG standards include certain requirements that are in addition to the USDA Organic standards. For example, land that was planted to apple orchards prior to 1965 must be tested for heavy metal contamination before it is eligible for CNG status. The CNG program also does not allow certified CNG crops and conventional crops to be grown on the same farm in the same year (USDA Organic standards do allow such "split operations").
- 1. There is no inspection or audit by an accredited third-party certification agency. Inspections are conducted by other farmers who participate in the CNG program. Farmers are prohibited from “trading” inspections -- meaning that a farmer cannot inspect the farm of the individual who inspected his/her farm. Inspector’s summary reports are publicly available.
- Standards of the Certified Naturally Grown program that are not based on the USDA organic requirements are developed with farmer input but they are not shared with the public and are not posted on the website for public comment.
For More Information
Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) offers peer-review certification to farmers and beekeepers producing food for their local communities by working in harmony with nature, without using synthetic chemicals or GMOs.