Sep 21, 2014
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100% Grass-Fed

RSS By: Randy Kuhn, Beef Today

Our family farming history began with my great-great-... (nine generations ago) grandfather Johannes. He, his wife and three children left Saxony, Germany, on April 20, 1734, aboard the ship St. Andrew, mastered by Capt. John Stedman. They landed at Philadelphia on Sept. 22 and eventually settled our family’s first "New World" farm near Society Run in Frederick Township, Montgomery County, Pa., in 1743. Pig farming was our family’s specialty until the mid 1950s. A lot has changed since then. Our BQA cow–calf operation includes 100% grass-fed registered Red Angus, Hereford and purebred Beefalo; 30 to 35 pastured Duroc and Spot pigs; 100 Freedom Ranger broilers; and 90 Golden Comet and Buff Orpington layers. We organically maintain 80 acres, comprising 15 acres in rotational pastures, 15 acres in tillable cropland, and alfalfa/mixed grass hay on the balance. We have never used chemical pesticides or herbicides on our pastures or hay fields. We are not a "certified" organic farming operation, but we prefer the natural/organic approach to help promote sustainability.

Certified Organic? Sure! I think?

Aug 13, 2011

Certified Organic?  Sure!  I think?

   Does anyone raise truly Organic Livestock?  Are you sure?  How do you know?  Are you certified through an Organic organization or the always trustworthy Government?  Do you think that the Government knows what Organic means to producers, what about the general public?  I’ve done research on this subject over the last decade, and every time I ask a question (or find information about becoming certified Organic), for either livestock or commodities, I wind up with more questions because everyone including the USDA has different requirements or rules that change as often as the price of corn or oil!

   There are so many producers out there that are claiming to be "Organic" or "Certified Organic" that when you see their operation you wonder, why would I want to be associated with that?!  Don’t get me wrong there are a few honestly certified producers that are doing everything in their power to be truly organic.  But after having spoken with our local PA Dept. of Agriculture health inspector, he stated that "there are so many producers out there claiming to be organic that the Dept. of Agriculture can’t regulate or check on all of them, so they don’t. "  So if you wanted to, you could claim to be organic or certified organic and no one can legally challenge your false claims.  I believe this is because the rules and regulations have so many loopholes and confusing propositions that are constantly being changed, that it’s hard to tell if someone is telling the truth.

   In a proposed "Certified Organic" rule the USDA defined a dry lot as ‘‘a confined area that may be covered with concrete, but that has no vegetative cover.’’  Two similar edited versions of the definition were also received.  One of the version received, which the USDA accepted, replaced the word ‘‘confined’’ with the word ‘‘fenced’’ That sounds nice doesn’t it?  They also modified "vegetative cover" as ‘‘little or no.’’ meaning NO GRASS/vegetation.   Responses asserted that ‘‘dry lot’’ is commonly used in certain regions to describe outdoor access areas.  Commenter’s that recommended revising the definition to include ‘‘little or no vegetative cover’’ were concerned that areas of sparse vegetation could qualify as pasture.  Otherwise known as a Feed-lot.

   Other commenter’s recommended revising the definition to clearly characterize dry lots as areas for continuous total confinement.  The prohibition on dry lots in the proposed rule has been stricken from this final rule due to comments received asserting that ‘‘dry lot’’ is a term which, in some regions of the U.S., describes a feature that can be compatible with organic livestock production. Accordingly, the definition of ‘‘dry lot’’ has been amended to clarify the characteristics by which a dry lot would be acceptable for organic ruminant livestock.  They may be fed organic feed stuff’s, but what is their quality of life?

   The USDA also accepted the commenter’s suggestion to modify "vegetation" with ‘‘little or no’’ in order to prevent the incorrect usage of dry lots that have some vegetation, as pasture.  The definition of ‘‘Dry lot’’ reads: ‘‘A fenced area that may be covered with concrete, but that has little or no vegetative cover.’’ 

So basically cattle can qualify under USDA criteria for Certified Organic when the majority of their lives are spent on concrete or as they put it "a dry lot".  Next week we’ll take a look at Certified Humane guidelines.  You thought Organic had allot of loop holes and wishy washy definitions, wait till you find out what we’ve experienced with regards to "Certified Humane" criteria!

"Access To Pasture"

   Under this provision the terms feedlot, yard, feeding pad are used interchangeably under the rule. Feedlot, yard and feeding pad are terms used to describe an area that functions as a space to provide feed rations, other than pasture, to livestock.  Beyond their functional similarity, these attributes do vary in how they are used (the amount of time that animals spend in feedlots) and designed (how much space do animals have in the feedlot). During the non-grazing season and when animals cannot be out on pasture, organic producers need an area to feed their livestock. Animals cannot be continuously confined in a feedlot, yard or feeding pad. When animals are in a feedlot, yard or feeding pad, they must have enough space to eat simultaneously and without competition for food.

Soooo, can Certified Organic Livestock be confined in a "Feed-lot" or not?  Re-read the last paragraph. In one sentence they state "Animals cannot be continuously confined in a feedlot".  Than in the same paragraph they state "When animals are in a feedlot,….."  Which is it?  I guess you really can have your concrete and eat it too!?

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