One of the reasons that I have not pursued an organic certification for my farm is that I feel that the term "organic" is being co-opted by industry to something that is meaningless.
A recent story in the Seattle Times makes this pretty clear.
When I buy pastured beef, or organic beef, my belief was that this animal was on pasture until the end of its life. While it may have been fed something in addition to pasture, pasture, grass, comprised a big portion of the cows diet. In fact, there's a rule that the USDA has adopted that will be effective in June 2010.
One day out of each 3 days the cow has to spend on pasture. That means that 8 months of the year the cow can be on a dry lot or feedlot, which is the opposite of what I'd like to see, as a farmer who pastures his critters.
After being in the dry lot for 2 out of 3 days, the last 4 months of the cows life can also be spent in a feedlot. In fact, will probably be spent in a feedlot.
So what this new rule does is basically allow the same practices that have always been used, but people can now put the label "usda organic" on their packages of feedlot beef.
Well, I guess it's better than spending your entire life on a feedlot. But is it really what you think of when you think "organic" or "pastured"?
I feel the same way about "free-range" chicken. Normal industrial chickens are raised in huge barns, with thousands of birds standing shoulder to shoulder. They are fed a prepared feed, normally of corn and soybean with trace elements and coloring agents like marigold petals added, to make the chickens yellow.
"free range" industrial chickens are raised in huge barns, with thousands of birds standing shoulder to shoulder. They are fed a prepared feed, normally of corn and soybean, with trace elements and coloring agents like marigold petals added, to make the chickens yellow. After 4 to 5 weeks of their 8 week life, a door in the side of the barn is opened during daylight hours, and the chickens in theory can go out this door and find some grass. In practice, chickens stick pretty close to the food and water, and their flock and never go outside. outside is scary.
The "free range" chickens usually sell at a 10 to 20% premium in price to the non-free range chickens. What do you get for your money, honestly? They are the same birds from the same hatcheries fed the same thing in the same conditions, with a door cut into the side of the barn.
This sort of thing is why, if you really want a different product, it's a great thing to know your farmer. If you want to know what I do with my chickens, and how their life is, you can ask, or just look through the blog. It's all here. I do charge a premium price -- and it's for a reason. It represents a very different husbandry style. You're eating it. Please ask the questions to make sure your food dollars are supporting your personal views.
3 hours ago