Cascadian Farm cereal – ethical rating

I’ve bought a few kinds of Cascadian Farm cereal from the Grocery Outlet and thought they were all pretty good. They have most of the features I look for in a cereal – healthy ingredients, low added sugar, and substantial nutritional content. I try to keep my landfill waste to one small bag per month, so I think cereal is only worth buying if it’s nutritionally dense. The same goes for any food – the non-recyclable packaging footprint should be worth it. So for me, a little plastic wrap used to packaging Beyond Meat sausages is acceptable trade-off while individual 1 oz. bags of popcorn are not.

The first two that I tried – Raisin Bran Cereal and Fruit and Nut Granola – are quite good but I find the raisin bran to be a little boring while the granola is a little sweet. The perfect solution: mix them together! Then you get the combined benefit of the high fiber bran with the more nutritionally dense granola. Combined together they are similar to the Nature’s Path Pumpkin Raisin Crunch cereal, which I’ve already reviewed here (5/5 Green Stars). They were available at the Grocery Outlet for $2.99 each.

Then, last week, I came across a new one, Blueberry Almond Crunch, which is double the normal size – a 34 Oz. box contains two bags and costs $4.99 at the Grocery Outlet. This cereal costs $25 at Amazon (yes, Amazon is really bad value in many cases) and reportedly $13 at Costco. I was excited to find it so cheap at the Grocery Outlet, partly because it’s organic and has reduced packaging, but also because it contains no added sugar!

Cascadian Farm cereals – Ingredients and Nutrition Facts

Raisin Bran Cereal: Whole Grain Wheat*, Wheat Bran*, Raisins*, Sugar*, Oat Fiber*, Sea Salt, Malted Barley Extract*. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols). *Organic

Fruit and Nut Granola: Whole Grain Oats*, Cane Sugar*, Rice*, Sunflower Oil*, Raisins*, Sunflower Seeds*, Almonds*, Cranberries*, Molasses*, Sea Salt, Natural Flavor*. Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols). *Organic

Blueberry Almond Crunch: Whole Grain Wheat*, Rice*, Almonds*, Date Powder*, Whole Grain Oats*, Sunflower Oil*, Coconut Oil*, Dried Blueberries*, Sea Salt, Natural Flavor*, Vitamin E (Mixed Tocopherols). *Organic

 Nutrition Facts for two Cascadian Farm products - Fruit and Nut Granola and Raisin Bran. Per serving (63 g) the Fruit and Nut granola provides 9 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 4 g dietary fiber, 14 g sugars, 12 g added sugars, and 6 g protein.  Per serving (63 g) the Raisin Bran provides 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 7 g dietary fiber, 16 g sugars, 7 g added sugars, and 5 g protein.

The Fruit and Nut Granola is over my limit of how much sugar I would like in my cereal – 12 g of added sugar per 63 g serving – that’s almost 20% sugar. As mentioned above, I tend to mix it with the raisin bran, which contains only 11% added sugar, so it ends up being around 15% sugar. There’s unfortunately no shortage of breakfast cereal containing around 40% added sugar – it’s a pretty effective way to send your kids (or yourself) on a path to developing diabetes and inflammatory problems.

Cascadian Farm - Blueberry Almond Crunch cereal - Nutrition Facts. Per 1 cup serving, the granola provides 10 g fat, 3 g saturated fat, 5 g fiber, 6 g sugars, 0 g added sugars, and 5 g protein.

The new variety of Cascadian Farm cereal that I bought at the Grocery Outlet, last week has no added sugar – it relies on date powder and blueberries for sweetness. It’s made from whole grain wheat and oats, rice, almonds, dates, sunflower oil, coconut oil, and blueberries – all organic. It may be the closest I’ve seen to an ideal cereal formulation – lots of fiber and a decent level of protein, combined with moderate fat levels and low sugars from a natural source (dates, mostly).

Cascadian Farm – Love THE FARMLAND program

In very large font on the front of Cascadian Farm cereal packages is this message:

Love The Farmland

Join us in restoring 25,000,000 sq. ft.

It sounds great – the large font of their message is an implication that the project is large. I’d doubt that many consumers have an instant image of how much land that is. I certainly didn’t, so I had to look it up: 25 million square feet equates to 232 hectares.

The average farm size in the US is 180 hectares (in Ireland it’s only around 33 hectares). So the commitment by Cascadian Farm is about the same as converting 1.3 US farms (there are 2 million farms in America) or seven Irish farms.

The Nature Conservancy has a write up about the project (which is featured on Cascadian Farm’s website). Here are some quotes from it.

Wetlands, open fresh water, and other wild spaces in the central valley of California have been reduced 95% in the past hundred years in order to allow for agricultural development.

The goal of the project is to “encourage farmers to carefully shallow-flood their fields after the harvest” in order to:

  1. Help nature replenish water stores underground
  2. Create pop-up bird habitat for shorebirds migrating on the Pacific Flyway, offering them a place to rest and refuel
  3. Make more room in water reservoirs, helping prevent flooding in local communities after heavy rains

That strategy was more specific than I was expecting it to be.

The actual transaction for the project is a donation from Cascadian Farm to The Nature Conservancy:

Cascadian Farm, a pioneering brand in the organic movement, announced its commitment of $750,000 to The Nature Conservancy to help rebuild farmland in California’s Sacramento Valley. – Business Wire

With annual revenue of around $18 million, this donation (over two years) represents around 2% of revenue for Cascadian Farm. It’s important to compare the size of these donations to the company’s revenue so that we get correct perspective on the situation. For example, Kind Snacks (a subsidiary of Mars, Inc.) had built a brand for its Kind Bars based on donations of $10k per month to worthy causes. Sounds great, but as a percentage of Kind’s revenue it was only around 0.06%. Considering that the average US company donates around 0.8% of pre-tax profits to charitable causes, Kind’s donations fall far below this average, while Cascadian Farm’s is above it (at least for these two years).

You could argue that for Cascadian Farm’s parent company General Mills, which is also benefiting from this good publicity, it’s small potatoes. General Mills’ annual revenue is around $18 billion – a staggering thousand times higher than Cascadian Farm’s income.

But, as I’ve argued in the case of Kind Bars, donations are nice but sustainability of the product itself is more important. Kind bars, in my opinion, fall short on the product sustainability front as well as the corporate donations front. Cascadian Farms does better on both fronts.

History of Cascadian Farm

An idealistic grad student from Chicago, Gene wanted to farm in a way that would preserve the earth and her inhabitants. In 1972 he set out to farm by trial and error on a little stretch of land in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. He believed that organic agriculture could make a positive impact on the health of the planet, but he also realized that more like-minded farmers were needed to make lasting change. Today Cascadian Farm has grown beyond our original home farm and is a pioneering supporter of farmers who use practices that regenerate the land and their communities. – Cascadian Farm

The “home farm” is normally open to visitors during the summer, but this summer will be different as the farm has changed hands. General Mills donated the home farm to the Rodale Institute, which is famous for research on the feasibility and improvement of organic farming.

On September 29, 2022, General Mills announced it is donating the Cascadian Farm Home Farm in Skagit Valley, Washington to new owners, Rodale Institute.  

General Mills is proud to donate the Home Farm to Rodale Institute. As a global leader in regenerative organic agriculture, we believe Rodale Institute is best served as land stewards to continue its legacy.

Support Cascadian Farm even though it’s owned by General Mills?

This topic has come up a few times – in posts on Sweet Earth and Lightlife and in a post on the Green Stars Project: Should you support vegan brands owned by less ethical corporations? My short answer is that I would support Cascadian Farm, even though it’s owned by General Mills, as long as I think there’s a net benefit. Let’s say Cascadian Farm deserved 5/5 Green Stars if it was an independent company. How much is that score dragged down by General Mills ownership? That may depend on a few factors:

  1. How ethical is General Mills?
  2. Does Cascadian Farms seem likely to go downhill due to General Mills’ ownership?
  3. Alternatively, might it be a genuine step in the right direction for General Mills?

The Cornucopia Institute, which rates companies based on the kind of agriculture practiced, has a pithy write-up on Cascadian Farm:

100% of the brand’s cereal and granola products are certified organic. [The] corporate owner is one of nation’s largest agribusinesses involved in GMO/ chemical agriculture.

The ultimate score is 410 out of 700 – considered “very good” on their chart. It’s a little over halfway between the “exemplary” score of 700 by Nature’s Path (reviewed here before) and the “poor” score of 5 by General Mills.

A scorecard from the Cornucopia Institute, which rates companies based mainly on their use of organic agriculture versus industrial agriculture (GMOs, agrochemicals). the scorecard gives Cascadian Farm full marks (100/100) and the parent company General Mills either 0/100 or 5/100 in each case.

How ethical is General Mills?

I’ve written a little bit about General Mills in a 2021 post on Lärabar, feeling that they had a poor reputation but were improving. Here are some updates from GM’s 2022 Global Responsibility Report:

Sourced 63 percent renewable electricity across global operations, with a commitment to source 100 percent by 2030. 

115,000 acres total enrolled in the company’s regenerative agriculture program, with a commitment to advance regenerative agriculture on one million acres of farmland by 2030

115,000 acres equals around 46,500 hectares, or almost 260 average-sized US farms. That’s around 0.01% of US farms – bear in mind that General Mills ranks in the top 10 largest food processing companies. Also bear in mind that this just refers to enrollment in the program.

General Mills gets a C grade on Australia’s Shop Ethical! Site, which I think is fair – I would probably rate the company around 2/5 Green Stars today, although I would like to do more research to make sure.

Ethical rating for Cascadian Farm cereal and granola

I’m scoring Cascadian Farm 4/5 Green Stars for social and environmental impact, for these reasons:

  • All products are made with organic ingredients.
  • They are a good plant-based option for breakfast, being more nutritionally dense than most cereals.
  • Cascadian Farm has been a leader in organic agriculture for 50 years in the US.
  • The cardboard box is made from recycled paperboard (and is also recyclable).
  • The Blueberry Almond Crunch cereal comes in a larger box containing two bags, saving packaging.
  • Charitable donations and collaborative projects such as “The Farmland,” are secondary to the product itself, but a nice addition in this case, representing around 2% of Cascadian Farm’s revenue for 2021-2.
  • The parent company, General Mills, gets a poor ethical rating but has made some improvements lately.
  • Donating Cascadian Farm’s home farm to the Rodale Institute was a nice move.   
Cascadian Farm cereals - ethical rating. Three different kinds of Cascadian Farm cereal are pictured above a graphic showing an ethical score of 4/5 Green Stars. This score is for the social and environmental impact of Cascadian Farm.

Summary scores (out of 5) for Cascadian Farm cereals and granola:

  • 4.5 gold stars for quality and value
  • 4 green stars for social and environmental impact

If you have a different opinion, please share your rating! Until next time, stay safe : )  

Published by jkaybay

I have two sites, both focused on ethical consumerism. The Green Stars Project ( aims to start a movement based on crowd-sourced ethical ratings. Ethical Bargains ( is focused on new products that I've bought at the Grocery Outlet.

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