What Does Certified Organic Mean?
Why Certified Organic?
Certified Organic means the farmer raising or growing the product, the slaughter facility, and the processing facility is inspected by a certifying agency to insure their products are meeting and or exceeding USDA Organic Standards. Every farmer, business, and or processor for Certified Organic must be certified, for every aspect of the operation that is in the Organic Food Program. When all the guidelines are met the farmer, processor, and business will receive a certificate from the certifying agency.
As a consumer ask to see a copy of the farmer or businesses Organic Certificate. We proudly display our Organic Certificates in our store for our customers to see and we are more than happy to snail mail, fax, or email a copy to our mail order customers. Another way to double check the authenticity of an organic producer or business is to contact their certifying agency. For example our USDA Organic certifying agency is WSDA, we provide a link on our website for our customers to contact them directly and double check our certificate and or read about Certified Organic standards.
Unfortunately there are a lot of people coming into the Organic Food Program or saying their products are Organic so they can charge consumers premium prices without providing a pure Certified Organic product. If they meet or exceed the Certified Organic Standards there is no excuse for not being certified. Yes, it costs the farmer, processor, and slaughter facility more money to get certified but it is the only way to insure integrity in the Organic Label.
What are the basic requirements for being Certified Organic in the raising, and processing of animals?
All slaughter animals in the Certified Organic Food Program must be birthed organic except chickens and turkeys, they can be one day old. This means all our brood stock must be Certified Organic, (our bulls and cows are Certified Organic.) All feed fed to the animals must be Certified Organic; this includes; pasture, hay, and grain. So our land and everything the cattle are fed is Certified Organic.
When a farmer first comes into the Certified Organic Food Program they must have their water and soil tested. If the water and soil tests are passed the land is then in a transition period for becoming Certified Organic. The farm will remain in this transition period for 3 years until their land can be Certified Organic.
Certified Organic meat animals must consume Certified Organic vegetarian feed; pasture, hay and or grain that has been produced without the use of insecticides, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, synthetic fertilizers, irradiation, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), sewage sludge, or animal byproducts such as bone meal, blood meal, or other animal byproducts.
We practice rotational grazing on our Certified Organic pastures in order to keep the environmental impact to a minimum. We also practice biological and natural pest control in all our Certified Organic pastures. For example we pull weeds by hand or use Cinnabar Moths to eat Tansy Ragwort versus spraying harmful insecticides or pesticides. It is more labor intensive but as Organic Farmers we believe we are stewards of the land working to preserve and enhance our Earth.
Certified Organic meat animals cannot be administered or raised using growth hormones or antibiotics. The humane treatment of the animals is written in the organic standards. Animals must have access to pasture and sunlight and be allowed to roam free not confined and overcrowded in feedlots. When animals are allowed to range free on pasture without being overcrowded and eat what their system is designed for as in herbivores such as cattle eat pasture, hay and seed grains not corn or other animals or animal byproducts they aren't stressed and their systems aren't stressed alleviating the need to administer antibiotics.
When processing; slaughtering, cutting, grinding, packaging Certified Organic meat products no use of chemicals, fillers, additives or preservatives are allowed. Substances such as MSG, ammonia, bleach, formaldehyde, nitrates, nitrites, phosphates, are all prohibited.
Finally all animals in the Certified Organic Food Program must be documented and traceable from birth, slaughter, processing, and sale, by the grower and Certified Organic Inspector. Without a proper paper trail the farmer or grower cannot be Certified Organic. For example a proper paper trail is, how many cattle were born, to which cow they were born, date they were born, the calves number or name that was born, date they were slaughtered, date they were cut for sale and total sales of all cuts and products.
For more in depth information on the requirements for being Certified Organic please access the WSDA or the USDA links on our links page links.php.
Why is Certified Organic more expensive?
We try to keep our prices as low as possible by doing as much of the farming, production, and processing of our products as we can. Also, having our Meat Shop located on our farm helps keep our overhead down passing savings directly onto our customers.
We realize how hard our customers work to support themselves and their families that is why we offer our loyal in store customers rewards cards. For every $10.00 you spend you receive a punch on your card. When you reach 15 punches you receive a free item of ground beef, ground turkey dark meat, turkey breakfast sausage, or turkey Italian sausage with wine, or $5.00 off your order.
We hope explaining our Certified Organic farming practices and Organic Certification requirements will help our customers understand the price difference in our products and commercially grown products.
Certified Organic is more expensive because it costs the farmer or grower more time, resources and money to grow or raise the products organically.
For our farm and business it all begins in our Certified Organic pastures. We use biological and natural means to control insects and weeds.
It is far more labor intensive to pull tansy ragwort and dig up scotch broom and thistles by hand than to spray our fields with pesticides or herbicides. Pulling or digging up the weeds by hand not only protects the other plants, animals, organisms, soil, and our water supply it also allows us to check the poisonous or toxic weeds like tansy ragwort for cinnabar moth caterpillars. The cinnabar moth caterpillars eat tansy ragwort so when we find the caterpillars on a plant we leave that plant for the caterpillars. Letting the caterpillar take care of the toxic plant and leaving the caterpillar their food source keeps nature in balance.
Secondly it requires more land to raise our Certified Organic cattle without confinement in feedlots. All of our cattle are allowed to free range on our Certified Organic pastures year round without ever being confined. We practice rotational grazing to maintain nutritional benefits and reduce environmental impact on the land.
Our cattle are never administered any growth hormones or appetite stimulants therefore they take longer to reach a market ready weight. Longer time on the Certified Organic pastures for each animal equals more expense in feed and pasture, and a longer time for the next beef to be market ready.
In addition Certified Organic hay and grain are significantly higher than commercially grown hay and grain.
Our Certified Organic seed grains (we never feed corn), is approximately three times more expensive per ton than commercial grain and our Certified Organic hay is approximately 50% more expensive per ton than commercial hay.
We only feed Certified Organic hay and grain when there are low nutrients in the grass. Please see our FAQ section on grass fed for amounts or more information on how we raise our cattle.
Fortunately our moderate climate in Western Washington provides an extended optimum grass season of at least seven months out of the year.
We also supplement our cattle with minerals and vitamins they may not get from the Certified Organic pastures, hay or grain.
The minerals we provide are mined red salt, and New Life Mineral Livestock #1. The mined red salt we purchase for our cattle is from Redmond Minerals Inc. located in Redmond Utah. They do not use any chemicals or additives in their mined red salt. For more information on their products, where they are mined, and the nutrients in their salt please see http://www.realsalt.com. The New Life Mineral is mined out of naturally occurring mineral deposits, containing 22 known elements, no minerals are added to or taken away from the original product. For more information on New Life Mineral and it's complete breakdown of minerals please see http://summersvilleweb.com/ezbioag4u/2index.html.
Another factor in maintaining our certificate for Certified Organic is keeping accurate and extensive records. The record keeping process is time consuming but completely integral to maintain the integrity of the Certified Organic Program.
We must keep track of every animal from birth, slaughter, processing, or cutting and packaging, to the sale of each cut. For more information on our exact record keeping process, please see our FAQ on the basic requirements for being Certified Organic in the raising and processing of animals or go to our links page and click on the link for WSDA or USDA Organic Food Programs.
Finally in order to be Certified Organic we have to pay our inspecting agency. This does not guarantee a pass on inspections. We pay a standard site fee for our farm and our processing facility as well as a percentage of our yearly sales.
In addition to our certifying agency we have to pay to be a co-op member for the USDA Mobile Certified Organic Slaughter Facility. Initially we had to buy shares to become a member of the co-op. Now that we are members we must pay yearly dues plus the standard slaughter fees per animal.
What breed of cattle do you raise?
Are they Heritage Breeds?
Our bull is Piedmontese and our cows are Hereford, Angus, Limousin, and Charolais. Piedmontese is a heritage breed from the North Western part of Italy in the Piemonte region, which originated around 25,000 years ago. For more history and information on each of the cattle breeds go to http://www.bovinebazaar.com/history.htm or for more Piedmontese information http://www.piedmontese.org/SiteMap.html.
What about antibiotic use in the raising or treatment of your animals when an animal gets sick?
In the law for the Certified Organic Food Program there are provisions written specifically for the humane treatment of animals. If an animal is sick or down you must call a vet and treat them accordingly. If this happens and the animal is administered antibiotics they can no longer be in the Certified Organic Food Program. Even if one of our cows were to get sick she would have to be sold on the commercial market once she was well. Because our animals are raised on pastures in a stress free environment we haven't had sick animals or the need for antibiotics.
Are your animals humanely slaughtered?
We understand and share our customers concerns about the humane treatment of animals. We do our best to make sure our animals are healthy and happy when we raise them. We certainly do not want the slaughterhouse to then stress them and have their last moments be full of fear. Many of our cattle are named so taking them to the slaughter facility can be difficult. The slaughter process is as follows; each animal is brought into the chute individually so the other animals are unaware of what is happening as well as the animal that is being slaughtered. Once they are in the chute they are stunned with a stainless steel rod directly into the brain. Then their throat is slit immediately so they bleed out thoroughly.
How do you keep your Organic animals separate in the slaughter facility and in your facility and prevent cross contamination?
We have our slaughter done at a USDA Certified Organic slaughter facility. In the Certified Organic Program, Certified Organic animals have to be slaughtered first and kept separate from other slaughter animals. So, our Certified Organic animals are slaughtered prior to anything else in the slaughter facility therefore the slaughter facility is clean and sterile prior to our animals being slaughtered.
It is also required by the Certified Organic Standards that the Certified Organic animals be kept and labeled separate from all other slaughter stock. After slaughter our beef quarters are tagged with our name on them, the date they were slaughtered, the word "Organic", and the animals number or name.
We cut all our own beef, lamb, and pork in our Certified Organic Meat Shop. Our Certified Organic Beef are always cut first thing in the morning prior to any other cutting. If we have our beef, lamb, and pork to cut that day that is the order we would cut them. Many of our customers do not eat pork for personal and or religious beliefs therefore pork would always be cut last or at the end of the day.
Prior to cutting our meat we must write down the date of cutting, exactly what we are cutting; hindquarter of beef, ½ lamb, whole pig, and the tag number or name of the animal in the cutting logbook. The logbook is part of the Certified Organic paper trail the Certified Organic Inspector checks.
Are your beef grass fed?
Why do you feed grain?
Do you feed corn or wheat?
What is the nutritional comparison for your beef?
Our beef are on Certified Organic pasture year round where they are free to roam. They are fed in the barn where they can come and go as they please from the pasture.
Unfortunately, during the winter the grass does not grow and what little grass there is has little to no nutritional value due to lack of sunlight and the shorter days. The grass doesn't grow in the winter similar to other plants and leaf bearing trees. Therefore, the cattle are fed certified organic grains that are seeds from grass; barley and rolled oats, as in we do not feed corn, or wheat, and they also are fed certified organic hay. During the summer if it gets to hot with no rain the pasture burns up or dries out and dies and the nutritional value of the grass is leached out by the sun, the cattle have to be supplemented nutrients at this time as well.
This last summer we were very fortunate plenty of sunshine and enough precipitation to equal great pasture growing weather. So, we didn't feed any grain or hay. Fortunately our moderate climate in Western Washington provides an extended, optimum grass season of at least seven months out of the year.
When we do have to feed grain here is our breakdown versus the commercial feedlots. We feed about 3# to 4# per day per animal as compared to a commercial feed lot that feeds about 25# per day per animal and the animals do not have access to pasture.
We paid to have our beef tested at an independent lab for Omega-3 fatty acids, Omega-6 fatty acids, linoleic acid, Vitamins A and E, saturated fat, etc. Our beef tested 3/1 for Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats. For more of our test results please see our two reports. View Report #1 View Report #2
What determines Grades in beef?
What Grade are your beef?
There are two different Grades determined by the USDA, a Quality Grade and a Yield Grade. A USDA inspector determines both of the Grades. It is not a requirement for beef carcasses to be graded by the USDA. Grading is paid for and provided by each grower on a voluntary basis.
The Quality Grade is determined by examining the physiological maturity and the marbling of the beef carcass. A USDA inspector examines the beef carcass for size and shapes of the bones and cartilages as well as the color and texture of certain muscles and cartilage, thus determining the category for the beef carcass.
The physiological maturity or age of the beef carcass is put into five categories, with the age being the factor for each group.
A Category- 9 to 30 months
Our cattle are 18 months old when brought to market so they are A Category.
Once the physiological maturity is established the marbling of the beef carcass is examined. Marbling is the amount of fat located within the muscle, or meat, of the beef carcass. There are ten marbling scores used for grading. They range from Abundant, Moderately Abundant, Slightly Abundant, Moderate, Modest, Small, Slight, Traces, Practically Devoid to Traces, and Practically Devoid.
More fat or marbling in the muscle or meat of the beef carcass equates to a higher USDA Quality Grade.
Our beef fall into the Slight Category marbling score because they are so lean.
Combining the physiological maturity for our beef, A Category, with the marbling score of Slight equals a USDA Grade Quality of Select.
The Yield Grade of a beef carcass is determined by the amount of closely trimmed boneless retail cuts that can be made out of the round, loin, rib, and chuck sections. The USDA inspector determines the Yield Grade for the beef carcass.
There are five USDA Yield Grades.
The lower the Yield Grade number the higher the yield of closely trimmed boneless retail cuts. Therefore, a beef carcass with more fat would have a higher Yield Grade and less lean edible meat that can be made into closely trimmed boneless retail cuts.
Our beef are very lean and are Yield Grade 1.
How are your pigs raised?
What breed are your pigs?
We purchase our locally grown certified organic pork from the Klingeman family farm located in Ephrata, Washington. All of the pork is naturally raised the old fashioned way, pastured without confinement, fed a vegetarian certified organic diet, free from hormones, antibiotics, animal byproducts, or GMOs.
The Klingeman farm crosses a mix of four breeds to get the best lean, well-muscled pork possible. The sows are Yorkshire, Landrace and a bit of Duroc and the boar is Berkshire.
For more information on Pure Country Pork and the Klingeman family farm please go to http://www.purecountrypork.com.
What kind of turkeys do you carry?
Is your turkey heritage breed?
What is the difference between the Natural Diestel Turkey and the Certified Organic Diestel Turkey?
We carry three different kinds of turkeys from Diestel Turkey Ranch, located in Sonora California. The first two are The Original Diestel Natural Turkey and Heidi's Hens Certified Organic Turkey. Both are available frozen year round and fresh during the Holiday Season. The third is a heritage breed Certified Organic Heirloom Collection Turkey available only by special order. Availability for the Heirloom Turkey is mostly during the Holiday Season with possible limited availability the rest of the year. Please inquire about the ordering process, nonrefundable deposit requirements, and sizing information via phone (253) 537-4490 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diestel raises all of it's turkeys for approximately 6 months, free range, no hormones, no antibiotics, and no animal byproducts as in their diets are strictly vegetarian. The difference between the Certified Organic turkeys is they eat only Certified Organic feed. All the turkeys are fed corn and soybeans that have been milled on their farm but the Certified Organic birds ate the Certified Organic feed so there are never any insecticides or pesticides in the feed.
The Natural and the Certified Organic Turkeys come from the White Nicholas Breed. The Certified Organic Heirloom Collection Turkey is a Heritage Breed from the Bronze and Auburn male line gene pool sourced from Nicholas Turkey Breeding Farms.
For more information on Diestel Turkey Ranch http://www.diestelturkey.com.
How old are your lambs when they are prepared for market?
What is the difference between lamb and mutton?
How are your lambs raised?
What breed are your lambs?
Our lambs are 6 to 10 months old when they are brought to market. Lamb is a sheep that is less than one year whereas mutton is a sheep older than one year. Lamb has mild flavored meat with a little softer texture. Mutton is a more distinct, stronger, flavored meat. All of our lambs are strictly pasture raised without confinement, hormones, or antibiotics. The lambs are English Breeds: Romney, Suffolks, Hampshires, and Dorsets.
We have three growers in Washington State that raise lambs specifically for our shop to our exact specifications. In addition to these three Washington growers we also purchase lamb from Anderson Ranches, located in the beautiful Willamette Valley in Oregon. For more information on Anderson Ranches lamb please go to http://www.oregonlamb.com.
How long will your products stay fresh in the refrigerator?
How long can your products stay frozen?
To Maintain optimum flavor we recommend using our products that are fresh within two to three days. To properly store meat for an extended period of time in the freezer we recommend putting another layer, either paper or Ziploc heavy duty freezer bags with all the possible air removed when sealed, over the meat to protect it from getting freezer burn.
Do Certified Organic meats and dairy products contain cancer-causing dioxins
Dioxins are carcinogenic hydrocarbons from petroleum byproducts. For example a petroleum byproduct used in the commercial production of meat is urea. Urea is a synthetic protein in animal feeds and is also used as a chemical fertilizer for nitrogen.
In the Certified Organic Food Program petroleum byproducts and synthetic fertilizers are not allowed. Therefore, the dioxins contained within them are not a factor. Unfortunately, there are of course dioxins in the air due to pollution, which is out of every producer's control.
What are nitrates and nitrites?
Do you use nitrates, and nitrites in your meats?
How do you cure your meats?
Why do they say uncured instead of cured?
This topic is still such a controversial topic with heated debates and data on both sides of the aisle. We prefer our products to speak for themselves and let our customers decide. Here are some facts that are not debated by either side.
Nitrates (NO3) and nitrites (NO2) are part of the environments nitrogen cycle. Nitrates and nitrites are the byproducts that occur from plants or wastes breaking down or decomposing in either water or soil.
Sodium Nitrate (NaNO3) is a preservative and sodium nitrite (NaNO2) is a preservative and a coloring agent. Both are formulated or made and used specifically for commercially produced cured meats and sausages.
We have never used sodium nitrates or sodium nitrites in any of our meats or curing process. Our cured meat has never been pumped full of water or chemicals of any kind.
The only naturally occurring nitrate that would be in our products is from the kosher sea salt because sea salt does contain nitrate. The highest levels of nitrates ingested by people come from water, root vegetables and leafy vegetables. Of course the natural nitrogen levels in the soil will vary therefore the nitrate levels will vary in the vegetables depending on this factor.
We use pure kosher sea salt without any free flow agents and Certified Organic honey to cure our hams, bacons, and Canadian bacon. Because we do not use any sodium nitrates or sodium nitrites or natural coloring agents such as celery juice, (celery juice contains naturally occurring nitrates) or beet juice all of our cured meats retain their natural meat color.
Meats that are cured without the use of sodium nitrates and sodium nitrites are considered uncured in the commercial marketplace.
We are definitely not the first people to cure meats using only pure sea salt. Man has been doing this successfully since Roman times. For example every true foodie knows how delicious Prosciutto di Parma tastes, the first mention of making it dates back approximately 2,000 years ago. It is made with salt and the pork raised in specific regions of Italy and aged for 10 to 12 months in Parma Italy, using no other ingredients.
For more information on our curing process please see our products page on our website products.php and read our FAQ on wheat or gluten, dairy, and spices or ingredients in our products.
Why age beef?
What is the difference between dry ageing beef and wet ageing?
How long is your beef aged and by what method?
Ageing beef helps improve tenderness and enhance its natural flavor. But ageing will not make a tough animal tender or enhance flavor of an animal that wasn't fed properly.
Dry ageing is beef that is either left in quarters or cut into primals and hung in a cooler at a controlled temperature for a minimum of two weeks after slaughter. Wet ageing is beef that has been cut and vacuum packaged right after slaughter, and then refrigerated in the vacuum packaging for a few days or a week prior to cutting.
Dry ageing beef causes the beef to lose moisture therefore losing weight. In addition the outside of the beef has to be trimmed off and thrown away to get rid of the fat and dry outside of the beef. Because dry ageing beef is more time consuming, takes up more room in coolers, and the beef loses weight in the hanging and cutting process it increases the cost and loss to the grower, producer or purchaser, therefore 90% of the beef on the commercial meat market is wet aged. Dry aged beef is also considered artisan beef or one of the factors in being an artisan beef product.
We proudly dry age our beef for two to three weeks prior to cutting. For more information on dry ageing versus wet ageing you can check out this discussion on yelp http://www.yelp.com/topic/san-mateo-dry-aged-versus-wet-aged-beef or Google http://www.google.com dry ageing versus wet ageing.
Do you use wheat or gluten in your products?
Do you use dairy in your products?
What kind of spices and ingredients do you use in your products?
We have never used wheat or gluten in any of our products. We purchase Certified Organic uncut spices from Frontier Herbs and Certified Organic San-J Wheat Free Tamari to use for our cured meats, sausages, lunchmeats, pepperoni, and jerky.
We do use Certified Organic, Organic Valley Whole Milk and Certified Organic, Organic Valley Nonfat Dry Milk in some of the recipes. For example our Bratwurst recipe has Certified Organic whole milk in it and Certified Organic eggs from our own hens. The spices and ingredients vary depending on the recipe. The four Meat Shop recipes that contain dairy are Bratwurst, Bologna, Smoked Polish Sausage, and the all Beef Wieners. If you have other allergies and are interested in a particular product please call 253-537-4490. We would be happy to look up the recipe for you. If the product is from Diestel, or Applegate Farms we will either contact them for you or give you their number, whichever you prefer.
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