Our Buying Standards
How We Source
This Sourcing Policy represents part of a continuous dialogue we have had amongst ourselves and our stakeholders since our founding in 2011. We take sourcing extremely seriously and our purchasing team is comprised of individuals who are passionate about good food. We are transparent so you can make informed food choices.
What? Our very first criteria for anything we sell is that it has to taste good.
Why? We believe that eating can and should be a pleasurable act.
2. Ecologically Sustainable Farming
What? We support farming that uses sustainable and organic growing methods. This means farming without the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and considering ecological and biodynamic methods for production.
Why? Our food system is too reliant on synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides that are a short- and long-term danger to plant, animal and human health. The use of genetically modified seeds promotes the use of even more pesticides and herbicides. The conventional food system uses too much energy to produce our food. This is mostly due to the large amounts of synthetic fertilizers that are used.
The vast majority of the produce we sell is certified organic. We make exceptions in the following two scenarios: (i) Where we have a personal relationship with a smaller scale farmer and are confident they practice organic growing methods, and (ii) Where there is no other local, certified organic option available, we opt for pesticide‐free hydroponic produce. All of our produce is either certified organic, organically grown or pesticide-free hydroponic.
We rely on the expert advice of The Healthy Butcher to select our meat. Our strong preference, always, is for certified organic meat raised on local farms. However, the following important factors are considered that extend our meat sourcing beyond local and certified organic: (i) Ruminant animals, like beef, that should be fed a diet 100% composed of grass, so we look beyond Ontario simply because our weather does not allow for live pastures year-round; (ii) We take into consideration other certification bodies, like SPCA-certified (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and Non-GMO Project Certified, as well as farmers raising special heritage breeds to ensure the continuation of diverse genetics; and (iii) When we can work directly with farmers to raise animals according to our stringent principles of using biodynamic farming techniques and the highest animal welfare conditions.
We source only fish and seafood that is Oceanwise Recommended and from Canadian waters. As such, these fish and seafood products meets the highest standards of sustainability and quality.
Our strong preference is for certified organic dairy products. Where there is an option that is both local and organic (either certified organic or organically grown), we generally provide that option. We may provide a local and non-organic option if (i) a similar product is not available in an organic option, (ii) the product has other sustainability or animal welfare features or certifications such as SPCA certified or exclusive use of non-GMO feed, and/or (iii) there is a very significant price difference between the local and organic option and the local and non-organic option.
Our strong preference is for cheese made by farmstead cheese makers located in Ontario and Quebec. Farmstead makers are defined by a single-source herd of dairy animals, generally present either on the cheesemaker's farm, or within a close vicinity to it. This gives the maker more control over the welfare of the animals, and the quality of the cheese, by avoiding larger scale production and the milk pool. We diverge from farmstead when there is either (i) a certified organic and local version, or (ii) an unique local product.
Fresh City’s in-house line of prepared foods are made fresh daily in Toronto. We use organic ingredients (either certified organic or organically grown) with very limited exceptions where an organic ingredient cannot be sourced and there is no clear substitute for that ingredient, ie. Ontario sheep feta from Best Baa.
Our in-house line of Mabel’s Bakery breads are made fresh daily in Toronto. Our bakeries prioritize the use of luocally sourced ingredients. Our strong preference is for certified organic bakery products, and many of our breads use certified organic flours. We may provide a local and non-organic option if (i) a similar product is not available in an organic option and (ii) there is a very significant price difference between the local and organic option and the local and non-organic option.
Our in-house line of Mabel’s Bakery pastries are made fresh daily in Toronto. Our bakeries prioritize the use of locally sourced ingredients. Pastry is a bakery category for which is very difficult to source organic ingredients. We may provide a local and non-organic option if (i) a similar product is not available in an organic option and (ii) there is a very significant price difference between the local and organic option and the local and non-organic option.
Our strong preference is for certified organic products. Where there is an option that is both local and organic (either certified organic or organically grown), we generally provide that option. We may provide a local and non-organic option if (i) a similar product is not available in an organic option and (ii) there is a very significant price difference between the local and organic option and the local and non-organic option.
3. Local Priority
What? Priority will be given to makers in our local foodshed. For us, local means Toronto and southern Ontario. When necessary, we import from the rest of Canada and abroad, looking first to products shipped by road, rail, and sea. We keep air-flown imports to a minimum.
In practice, our local first commitment means that 100% of our milk, 100% of eggs, 90% of baked goods and 80% of cheeses are local. For our produce bags, we offer a 100% local option and our veggie and fruit bag is just under 60% local on average (100% during the height of the Ontario growing season). We buy from smaller scale makers whenever possible.
Why? By shortening the supply chain and having the least amount of intermediaries as possible we can get the freshest products to your door. It lessens our transportation carbon footprint, helps raise awareness of local food culture and builds a vibrant local food economy. Buying local also means that we have a political say over the environmental and labour conditions under which that food was farmed, prepared or processed.
The three largest national grocery chains control about 70% of our grocery dollar and they do not prioritize smaller makers. By providing a market for small-scale makers, we help promote a food system that is dynamic, vibrant and open to new concepts from our diverse community.
4. Nutrition & Food Safety
What? We endeavour to source food that is nutritious and has a role to play as part of a well balanced diet. This means selecting products that have limited-to-no processing, preservatives or sweeteners and those that consider plant‐based and special dietary needs. None of our products contain any of the substances listed in Appendix A: Banned Substances.
Why? Eating a well balanced diet is crucial for mental and physical health. We look for makers that practice high food safety standards. Your health comes first.
5. Labour Standards
What? We try our best to source food that is produced and obtained in ways that do not compromise people’s dignity, self‐respect or human rights. This includes sourcing Fair Trade certified whenever possible, especially for bananas, chocolate, and coffee. Higher labour standards are yet another reason to source as locally as possible given we have much more confidence in the labour standards and enforcement in Canada than in most other jurisdictions.
Why? Fair Trade certified and co-operatives ensure makers receive a fair price for their goods. This is particularly important for foods that are made and shipped from outside Canada where labour standards vary.
What? We strongly prefer products with minimal packaging or none whatsoever; we prefer products in bulk, with little to no packaging and plastic. For local products, where transportation is minimal, we prefer packaging in glass, especially where the maker takes the packaging back and reuses it. If disposable packaging is unavoidable, our very strong preference is that it should be recyclable and/or compostable. Our focus on reducing packaging extends up the supply chain where we prefer suppliers that reuse pallets and pack produce in containers that we can return to them for reuse.
Why? Reducing packaging helps minimize waste, cost and environmental impact.