We are often asked if our meat is organic or people just assume that it is organic because many of our practices mirror those one would see on organic farms. However, the answer is that our meat is NOT organic. The primary reason it is not organic is that the feed we purchase - mainly the feed rations for the hogs and chickens and to a lesser degree the cattle - is not organic. The diet of the chickens and hogs mainly consists of purchased feed. Though they are free to peck and root around as much as they like they still require a feed ration for most of their growth/production needs. The feed is GMO and antiobiotic/hormone free, but it does come from conventional farms.
In addition, we sometimes do not produce quite enough forage on our land to be able to feed our own hay to our cattle all winter and, as such, we purchase in a portion of the hay, also not from organic farms. Regarding our own land, we do not use any pesticides or chemical fertilizers and have been told that we could probably have it certified as organic in a very short period because of our record-keeping documenting our practices. Also, we are already in the certification loop as we do operate a certified organic greenhouse business (Trout Lily Nursery).
Finally, to be completely honest, we also want to reserve the right to use antibiotics if absolutely necessary and it is our understanding that in organic production once an antiobiotic has been used on an animal, even if it is months or years away from slaughter, that animal must be sold as non-organic. As such, we have placed certain parameters around our use of antiobiotics that we believe reflect how many of our customers would like to see them used both in humans and animals (see our section: More on Hormone & GMO Free + Ethic on Antiobiotic Use).
All of these decisions have been made with a significant degree of thought. We have many times over considered switching to organic feed and certifying the whole farm (i.e. versus just the greenhouse operation). However, the price of the feed and thus the pricing of the resultant meat is one of the main issues. We want to keep our pricing within a range that the average modest income family can afford and many of our current customers come to us for this reason. It could be argued that perhaps people should just be eating less meat and spending more on their food and we do not disagree with that thinking. We also have a great deal of respect for our colleagues who are using all organic practices. However, for the time being we have chosen to go this route of providing a product that we feel is ethically & humanely produced, respecting the animals and our land. We are not averse to taking on the switch to organic if our customers express a desire for us to do so, recognising that the price of the meat would increase substantially in accordance with the significant increase in feed costs.
As such, we invite comments from existing and potential customers regarding this question. We would love to receive feedback from both sides of the fence, from those who would like us to stay where we're at, using organic methods on our own land and producing non-GMO and hormone free, pastured meats, or from those who would like us to make the switch to organic feeds in order to sell what could arguably be a more environmentally sound product, but at higher prices.