How to Recognize Ethically Produced Animal Products at the Grocery Store

Fresh fish at a grocery store

When you’re buying fish or meat for your next meal, you want to choose sustainable, ethically sourced options. But how do you tell these good choices apart from unsustainable, unethically sourced food? We’ve got a few key ways you can recognize them at your local grocery store, so you can make healthy meals that you feel good about.

Look for Certification Labels

One of the easiest ways to tell if the meat or fish you’re about to buy is ethical or sustainable is to check the packaging. Look for a certification label like one of these:

These are just some of the certification programs that exist to help consumers recognize sustainably and/or ethically produced animal products. They create high standards that the farms and fisheries must meet. While these certifications vary in their standards, an animal product certified by a program such as the ones listed above is more likely to be sustainable and ethical.

Talk to Your Butcher and Fishmonger

Butcher Counter Meat Sustainable Ethical Grocery

Many seafood and meat counters are staffed by knowledgeable fishmongers and butchers. These are people who have years of experience, training and knowledge about meat or fish. They’re able to answer any questions you may have about the meaning behind a certification label or the quality of the meat. They may be able to recommend the best type of meat or fish to use for that delicious family meal you’re planning.

Most good fishmongers and butchers will also know exactly where your meat or fish came from. They may be able to tell you about the farm where it was raised, if the animals were raised and butchered ethically and if the farm has sustainable practices. If your butcher or fishmonger is unable to answer your questions, you may want to shop at a different, more knowledgable grocery store.

Check the Supplier’s Website

Tilapia Fishmonger Grocery Store Sustainable Ethical

Next time you go to the grocery store, spend some time looking through the different brands meats and fish. Most animal products will have the name of the supplier or farm on the package. Write these names down on your grocery list or put them in your phone. When you get home, spend some time looking up the various suppliers’ websites and reading about their farming practices. This will help you determine if their meat is ethical or sustainable.

Keep in mind that some phrases, such as “humanely-raised,” “free range” and “animal friendly” are loosely defined. Look for evidence of these practices by searching for photos of where the animals are raised or reading about the farm’s animal-rearing practices.

At first glance, it’s hard to know whether or not a certain animal product was raised ethically or sustainably when you’re at the grocery store. But with a little bit of knowledge of certification labels, some online sleuthing and a reliable fishmonger and butcher, you’ll become an expert on which animal products you can feel good about buying.

Photo credits: Aleph Studio /, Lukas Budimaier, Kris Tan /