Western Sustainability Exchange uses the Sustainability Criteria to certify farmers, ranchers, processors, and food service businesses for WSE programs.
These criteria reflect years of market research that identifies the characteristics many consumers, chefs, and natural food markets demand in “natural food” products. The elements of the Criteria were developed in consultation with range specialists, ranchers, farmers, chefs, processors, and consumer researchers. These criteria ensure that producers:
- treat animals humanely
- eliminate hormones and sub-therapeutic antibiotics
- significantly reduce or eliminate chemicals used in production practices
- protect open space, wildlife habitat, and water quality
They also track food service businesses’ use of sustainable foods, energy and water use, and waste reduction measures.
Producers must meet 75% of WSE’s Sustainability Criteria to qualify for marketing assistance. Products containing growth-hormones and/or animal by-products as protein feed for livestock are ineligible. Products that use GMOs as seed sources are also ineligible.
WSE’s Sustainability Criteria are dynamic documents that are regularly revised and updated to reflect a fluid marketplace and an evolving understanding of best management practices.