Thursday, August 4, 2011

Labels I have Known

Its been awhile since my last organic label rant, so here goes. Overheard recently was this less than informed statement, "The only difference between organic and non-organic is that organic food is dirtier."

If it were that simple folks, most all your food labels would say  certified organic as that generally brings in more revenue but the fact is, less than 5% of all grocery store food is labeled organic.

Reason is difficult to be CERTIFIED organic. It takes time, money, knowledge and oh yeah, effort. But before I go too much farther I need to be clear on something. I understand that all things with a carbon base are indeed, organic. This discussion has to do with the National Organic Program (NOP) and the labeling of food items as organic. I frankly do not care if you, yourself eat organic, grow organic, breathe organic, snort organic or wrap your shitzsadoodle puppy in an organic silk caftan. Its your decision to ingest what you like, it is your decision to grow your food however you like.

My beef (pork and chicken) lies with folks who falsely advertise the items they sell, as organic, when they are not. Federal law states you cannot label your products as organic UNLESS

1. They have been through the organic certification process and successfully passed an annual inspection completed by a qualified surveyor OR
 2. You sell less than $5000 a year of product AND follow all the National Organic Program

These are the only two legal ways you can label your product organic.

You can call your items several other names though like, "All Natural," for which there is no government definition. You can also simply list on your label the things you DO NOT put in your products such as

    "no antibiotics"
    "GMO free"
     "chemical free"
     "no hormones"
     "this product contains certified organic oils"
     " free of squirrel tail and bat teeth"

Why does this bother me so ? Because of the work involved. Every year it takes us many many hours to prepare for our annual inspection by MOSA. (Midwest Organic Services Association)  Not only do we have to be antibiotic and chemical free in all we do on our farm, we also have to prove it . This is done through livestock tracking records, animal health forms, receipts etc...It is done by paying over $800 each year for the privilege of being inspected in addition to the costs of feeding certified organic hay and grain. It is done by maintaining the standards all year long not just at inspection time.

Recently the NOP passed the rule requiring that even the bedding we use must be certified organic. The reason being, animals tend to chew on their bedding at times so it best be organic as well. Locating certified organic straw in our area is not easy, nor is it cheap. We recently paid $4 for each bale. At that price we are now storing it in our bedroom, giving authentic meaning to the country decorating look.

So please, if you choose not to be certified organic, then be proud of that decision.  Don't climb up on the back of those who have worked so hard to maintain our organic certifications. Don't say goofy things like "I'm beyond organic I just don't have the fancy label"  How can you be beyond the standards when you've never even picked up the manual and read all its rules ?

So with all my gripes..why do we do it ?

We believe in it. We believe that animals raised without hormones and routine antibiotics, animals who must be outside on pasture at least 120 days of the year,  produce tastier, healthier meat and milk. We could raise our meat this way without the certification but paying customers deserve farmer accountability and they demand it. If they CHOOSE to buy certified organic meat than they should have some way to ensure that the meat they buy is indeed raised according to the standards that are important to them.

That's all I'm saying.

In my next post , I'll talk about some of the methods we used, all approved by NOP, for treatment of a sick calf. It does not include voodoo or purple koolaide. Stay tuned.


  1. that sow and piglet photo is quite lovely

  2. I love this post! I don't think HALF the people out there know about Organic, the greenwashing of america, etc etc! This needs to go on The Renegade Farmer--could not be described better!!!

  3. The farmers in the EU stand in the same fight. It ist rather difficult to get those certificates.
    BTW - What the hell is a shitzsadoodle puppy?

  4. Just up the road from us the Jesuit farmers have been certified organic.

  5. Donna ---- AMEN!!

    We are JUST starting to go thru the paperwork process for organic certification for our acreage, after researching details and studies for about 2 years, and I've already met great resistance from old-fashioned mindsets. However, the data showing the value of being TRULY NOP certfied is STAGGERING. But, the amount of work it requires is also staggering.

    More than the work the certification demands, the money, the dedication, the strategies for success in the field...I don't think the organic stance is embraced by many who are defensive about it because they do not realize that to be truly "organic" you MUST also embrace a changed mindset toward the entire organic process, toward EVERYTHING that touches your crops or animals. So many established farmers are leery of organic farms because they are just accustomed to their ordinary ways of processing. To be organic means you are going BEYOND the extra mile to make sure the DIRT is free of POISONS. Dirt can be deceiving...a simplistic mind will think that dirt is just can hold toxins. We have learned that our society doesn't even know how to let dirt be NATURAL dirt any more because we are so brain-washed into thinking there is a bottle of chemicals or a "medicine" readily available as a quick fix to take care of the "problem." Our society is slowly learning to become more discerning about how our food is grown and raised; I am trying to stay ahead of the curve. Just like Malborro Man died from lung cancer, but for YEARS AND YEARS everyone thought he WAS cool with that cigarette in hand, masses of the population thought that opponents of smoking were looney, until our Cowboy-advertisement was doing commercials with the oxygen tank attached and talking about the DANGERS of smoking. It took a long time and obvious failure in our face to finally GET IT. What will it take with our food producers before we GET IT????

    Augh. I'm learning more every day about organic certification --- it's a long road. I have a LONG way to go and you are an inspiration for testifying about first-hand accounts of organic differences.

    I'm your cheerleader! GGGOOOOO DONNNAAAAA!!!!!

  6. John, from a man who also loves his pigs, I appeciate your comment. It helps that Miss Debbie is a well seasoned mom who doesn't mind having her udder on public display.

    Zan, thats a great idea for my next Renegade Farmer article. Do you think the editor will approve ?

    Misc. why is it harder to get an organic certificate in the EU ? Is the process more complicated ? More expensive? Tell me more.

    MBJ, So many comments spinning in my head about the certified organic Jesuits but I feel unworthy to come up with the perfect one. Khalanie ? Are you there ? You're better at this than I am.

    Lana, thank you so much for feeling my pain. Are you just certifying your land ? Livestock ? Farm products ? Have you already covered all this on your blog ? Shall I stop asking questions ? Would you like to ask me some ? Seriously if I can help with the process please email me at

  7. Thank God, Donna, for your upfront honest rant!

    I serve as membership chr for our local Buy Fresh-Buy Local chapter. I can not tell you how many people used the term "Beyond organic" in their membership forms this year.

    First of all ... what the H does it mean???

    Personally, I scratched everyone of them. If you have gone to the work and expense and the pain of organic certification... Shout it from the roof top! But otherwise, I don't want to hear the term "organic".

    We raise our flowers using as many organic methods as possible. But since we have a 4 foot bumper space to the traditional cornfield... it will never be certified. Therefore -- its chemically free, naturally fertilized flowers. Period.

    Great rant... love your blog!

  8. Oh Miss Effie, I am honored you took the time to comment. I read about you...where ? Some famous mag. Wish I could remember but I know it was BIG.

    Happy to hear someone else has the same issue I do with that "beyond organic " phrase. I'm a little dissapointed that I haven't heard any opposing views though. I love a good discussion.

    PS love your flower beds. One day in my new little house I will make time for a flower garden just like yours !!

  9. What the hell's the $5000 about? Are you forced to be poor if you're organic? On this side of the pond you simply have to pass all the rigorous organic criteria to become 'ORGANIC'; it has nothing to do with sales figures!

    Keep flying the flag.

  10. I think this is something folks truly need to be educated about. What's really bothersome, is that the GMO growers think they should be allowed to fall under the definition of organic too. If that happens, the entire thing will fall apart I think.

    We pay $4 a bale for nonorganic straw here. Of course, the goats waste so much hay I don't even bother with straw.

  11. You are entitled to be proud in what you believe in and (to coin a phrase) you put your money where your mouth is. Frankly, if I go into a supermarket and pay extra for organic, then that's my choice and I agree, it may coast a few pennies more, but that's ok. Those who falsely purport to be organic who are not are fruadulent traders. It is tantamount to dishonestly appropriating money in the wholesale market using false claims.

  12. Donna, we are trying to consider what we want to do -- which kinds of certifications. We have all the paperwork ready, but can't decided. I do believe my husband will have hogs since he's raised them before and maybe goat for meat and for diary/goat products. The bottom line is...we DEFINITELY want to get the certification for as much as we can before we get moved to the farm and everything becomes more complicated. Since we're getting to be on a more slim time-line, we need to get going on the paperwork. My husband and I both read your blog and find it fascinating - the good, the bad and all in between. We love the honesty of your blog. Going organic is a huge decision, but we are doing it. I have to get time to sit down to start doing the paperwork, but deciding which certifications to apply for is difficult. Our farm will be small -- it's just about ten acres, so we have that to consider. We will probably help supply some things to Houston, but I also want to be a handler/producer so that we could sell direct from our farm, etc. without problems. Any advice you have --- I will take it as often as you want to give it! I always value the wisdom of others who have traveled roads before us.

    Thanks Donna!

  13. My chickens are fed 'organic' layers pellets, organic corn, and organic veg and are free range. They don't have a label and haven't passed any tests, certification boards or climbed the sheer rock-face of legislation (even if the produce they consume has).

    Question is - are they laying 'organic' eggs even if they don't have a label?

  14. Thank you Rare, hats what I'm trying to say. Organic is just another choice we have.

    Cro, Leigh, Chris Such great comments! I've addressed them on todays post. Chris, I especially love your logical approach. Funny, how we still expect our governments to make sense. !