As more and more Americans desire better food at better prices we see small groceries open up all around the country. Unfortunately, buying organic, buying fair, and even just buying healthy is not cheap. Yet, somehow the rising star Trader Joe’s has found a way to sell these products for low prices. So what is their trick?

To begin, Trader Joe’s is not a health food or organic food store. Although they do sell many products that have those labels on them, they sell far more products without it. Therefore, it is not safe to assume that you are making a healthy decision by shopping at Trader Joe’s.

Next, the overall Trader Joe’s brand is a myth. A good amount of their products are actually sourced from larger brands covered by the Trader Joe’s label. For example, the well-known and super tasty Trader Joe’s pita chips are sourced from Stacy’s. This may not seem that bad, but when you start to get into the complexity of this all it makes the lack of transparency a big problem. Not knowing where your products are sourced from doesn’t give you the freedom to not support brands you don’t agree with. For the pita chip example, Stacy’s is a smaller brand under PepsiCo who are a common supporter to eliminate information on GMO labeling.

Another example of Trader Joe’s lack of transparency comes from their milk. They proudly label their milk and dairy products as organic and ethically produced yet when asked, they will not share where there dairy is sourced from, which is quite concerning.

Environmentally Trader Joes has also been criticized. They have made some products in where they sourced their seafood because of consumer demand, but, they still sell endangered species such as the Chilean Sea Bass. They also put up a huge fuss signing a fair food agreement act set up to treat migrant workers more fairly. They did end up signing the agreement after a lot of negative press but it took too much to make this company pay one penny more for each pound of tomatoes to support Hispanic, Latino, and Haitian migrant workers.

Since signing the agreement they have made some progress in eliminating Red Line items from their shelves but have still struggled with transparency in all of their sourcing.

Trader Joe’s is able to keep prices low by buying in bulk and eliminating advertisement costs. It has made a way for some healthier foods to be available to lower-income homes but we cannot really say how much healthier or better these choices are.

Written By: Katelynn Behrens