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Apr 24, 2008 06:44 AM

Sustainable Sugar Product?

I'm looking to buy sugar grown and harvested using sustainable and humane practices. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. Equal Exchange is a pretty popular fair trade brand. You could go on their website and see if they sell sugar. If not, the Co-op America website has a responsible shopper guide that might help. You might have more luck finding fair trade/sustainable alternatives to sugar like honey, agave nectar, stevia leaf, or fruit juice concentrate.

    1. Is labelling sugar organic enough? Because even my local supermarket (Raley's/ Nob Hill) carries it in the regular baking section.

      In California, C & H has organic sugar. There is also Domino organic cane sugar

      Trader Joes sells their own brand of organic sugar. I can't imagine that Whole Foods doesn't sell organic sugar.

      There is Hain which has organic cane, brown and powdered sugar. I tend to see this more in stores that are organic-oriented.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rworange

        Thanks for the references. I'm actually more interested in sustainable and humane rather than organic, but organic is a bonus. Kalidaemon's advice was great - fair trade products are just the ticket.

        WF does sell a sugar they certify as 'Whole Trade' but I'm more and more suspicious of some of WF's practices, and wish they used a third party certification instead of something they developed and now control.

      2. What is "humane" sugar?
        For that matter, what's "sustainable," since it grows like a weed?

        3 Replies
        1. re: MakingSense

          I can't speak for the OP, but it's possible that by "sustainable" she means cane or beet sugar rather than corn syrup. (I think most sugar sold in the U.S. is made from beets rather than from cane, which I presume is what you mean when you say it "grows like a weed.")

          But anyway: cutting sugar cane can be extremely dangerous. Machete injuries and injuries from getting poked by the cane in vulnerable places (such as the eye) are very common when harvesting is done by hand (still a very common practice). There are also problems of worker exposure to smoke (sugar cane fields are burned before harvesting) and pesticides. Child labor, fair wages and working conditions, etc. -- all the usual labor and fair trade issues.

          I forget where I heard this, and I may be wrong, but I thought most cane sugar sold in the US came from Hawaii, where presumably there's more regulation and worker protection (and automation) than, say, Honduras.

          1. re: MakingSense

            I'm pretty sure that C & H sources cane sugar from other places than Hawaii these days. Last time I was in the market the packages did Not say 'made in USA'. Even with the protectionist sugar tariff, foreign product must still be cheaper than very high cost Hawaii.

            1. re: DiveFan

              If the C & H sugar was not of US origin, it would be required by law to state the country of origin.
              Sugar in the US is either from beets or cane. If it is not clearly marked as "cane sugar," you should assume that it is beet sugar.
              The largest producer States are Florida and Louisiana. Smaller production comes from Texas and Hawaii. C & H is a West Coast brand.
              Most store brand sugar (less expensive) is beet sugar, which is also used by food manufacturers.

              Sugar tariffs are high. Plain granulated sugar from outside the US would be cost prohibitive. Specialty sugars are not because of high retail mark-ups..
              There are only a few places in the US where sugar can be grown organically so importing organic sugar has been reasonable. There are now some US companies meeting that demand but it has taken time for them to get into production. They can get a higher return on a value-added product so it's worth their while.

          2. My local chain grocery store started carrying a "natural" sugar called Florida Crystals. It's the minimally processed kind of sugar that has a light brown tint and a faint taste of molasses. According to the label, they grow and mill the sugar on their own farm in Florida. Harvesting and milling take place on the same day, and the farm uses sustainable methods such as rotating rice and sugarcane crops. Available in both organic and non-organic, I believe. Good stuff!