Updated: Oct 23, 2018
If you’ve been a customer for a while, and you’re reading this, you might be thinking, “wait, what?” But stay with me for this one. First, let’s talk about what is “organic” – and why I keep putting “organic” in quotation marks.
What is “organic”:
According to the dictionary – the term means ‘of, relating to, or derived from living organisms’
According to the USDA – the term means that ‘you have gone through the formal certification process, for which the authorities set the rules, stipulations, entry price, etc.’
And why do I keep putting “organic” in quotation marks?
Here’s the thing about “organic” – “organic” foods are only foods that have been approved by the USDA’s National Organic Program. This label is reserved for ONLY those producers that have gone through the approval process. Even if you abide by the standards, if you haven’t gone through the certification process, you are not legally permitted to use the term “organic” in your labeling.
So when people call me and ask for “organic” eggs – I explain that we don’t have those, but that we have truly free range eggs. When they ask for “organic” beef – I explain that we don’t have that, but that we have grass-fed, grass-finished beef. And so on…
But why wouldn’t we just go get the certification?
Here’s the heart of this blog post. We have a few reasons we’ve chosen not to go “organic” at Gober Grass Fed Farms, and it’s worth covering in detail.
First – for us, it’s part of practicing what we preach.
It’s an integral part of our message that we want for consumers to get to know their farmer. We feel very strongly about this, and at its core, it is about control. We want to put the control back in your shoes. When you see for yourself how your food is raised or grown, you have the control to say “this is acceptable” or “this is unacceptable”. I will purchase this product, and not that product. I will make the decision about what is best for my family.
Second – it’s about the money.
Have you ever wondered why “organic” foods are so expensive? It’s in large part due to the cost of the certification. The cost of around $1,000 per year may not seem like much, but for small producers that are generally operating at a loss to begin with? It’s crippling to their business. And that’s just the cost of the inspector’s fee…there’s a considerable deal more that goes into it, making the true cost much, much higher.
We want to remain as affordable as possible for our customers, and we’ve found that you prefer that as well.
Finally and the biggest reason for us personally – labels aren’t always what they seem.
The “organic” program was a great idea in theory. And without jumping into a political mudslide, many of the things our government does are neither efficient, cost effective, or work the way they were originally intended. “Organic” foods are big money, and where there is big money, there is an opportunity for fraud and influence by industry.
Have you ever seen something that is absolutely ridiculous on a store shelf with the label “organic” on it? Boxed macaroni and cheese, with powdered cheese product has to be one of my favorites. It might meet the federal guidelines or “organic”, but y’all, that stuff is not good for you… nor is it what I think of when I think of “organic” foods.
This problem is systemic
Within the “organic” system, our legislators have seen fit to modify or drop the standards to meet the needs of big business. One prime, recent example is that the USDA dropped the welfare standards for livestock. Did you know about that? Don’t feel bad if not, most people don’t.
But most consumers see the “organic” label and they have an expectation that the product was raised in the same way that our livestock was, and that’s not true. The actual letter of the law leaves a lot of loopholes for large producers that want to gain the benefit of the label without adhering to the spirit of the law.
The letter of the law
Did you know that within the “organic” program, there are certain pesticides that are permitted? There are certain medications that are permitted, and so on. The problem we have with this is not so much that they are permitted, but that by them being permitted and regulated by the government, they are subject to change.
At any time.
Without notification to you, or me, or anybody else.
I mentioned that people have an expectation that “organic” meats are raised in the same way that we raise our chicken or beef here. In reality, industrial “organic” chicken is nothing more than factory raised, confinement chicken that is fed “organic” feed from an “organic” grain farm that only uses the current approved for “organic” chemicals. They are not raised outside on pasture, they may not ever even see the light of day or a single blade of grass.
What can you do about it?
One of the reasons labels exist in our food system is to notify the consumer of what is or is not contained in a food. “Gluten Free” is one example. “Organic” is another.
However, one of the unintended consequences of establishing these systems is that we have shifted the responsibility/accountability for our food choices to another entity. All we need to do to fix this problem is to shift that responsibility back into our own homes.
This might seem like a lot of work, but I promise you, it’s not.
Getting to know your farmer is easy.
Sign up for our farm newsletter and in a few months, you’ll feel like you’ve known me your entire life.
Follow us on Facebook. We share pictures regularly, and you can see the farm and the condition of the animals on a regular basis – that will literally never happen in a confinement establishment.
Wanna be a little more hands on? We have an open gate policy. If you’re ever in the mood to come visit us on the farm to pick up your orders, we will welcome you to do so every Friday and Saturday from 10am-4pm.
What’s the takeaway?
If you get nothing else from this blog post, I hope you will walk away with a better understanding that “industrial organic” is just that – INDUSTRIAL “organic”. Eat local. Know your farmer. Know where your food comes from. Exercise your right to choice in the marketplace. Feel empowered.