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What About Organic

What About Organic

TK Ranch native pastures and hay lands have not been sprayed since the land was bought in 1956. We were certified organic for many years, but we chose to opt out for many reasons, learn more about it by reading the post below

food inc poster

TK Ranch and Organic Certification

TK Ranch native pastures and hay lands haven't been sprayed since the land was bought in 1956. It likely wasn't sprayed prior to that either. Our land was certified organic for many years, but we chose to opt out for many reasons. Primarily because we think the organic industry has been largely co-opted by multi-national corporations looking to capitalize on growing consumer trends. The documentary Food Inc. was produced to raise public awareness about the conventional and organic food industry. It'll make you think about public perception versus reality.

The last time we were certified organic,  mandatory testing  was not required for organic producers, everything was based entirely on the honour system. There were a few surprise inspections, but these added up to a small percentage of the whole program. As far as we know nothing has changed. Producers are required to sign an affidavit-like letter during their annual inspection, but for most this is all that is asked of them. We believe that most small family farms can be trusted at their word and do follow the organic standards, but who is making sure the large corporations are? We are talking about big business and a lot of money. For example, if a corporation has invested a great deal of money in a feedlot full of organic calves that are being fed expensive organic grain and hay, what happens if these calves get sick? Do you think they'll treat them with antibiotics to save their lives and then sell them into the conventional livestock market for much less than they originally invested? Some might, but will all of them? Unfortunately nobody really knows because mandatory testing is not in place.

Getting to know the farmers that grow your food is more important than having a third party involved. Creating these personal relationships will put culture back into agri-business and re-build agricultural communities that are currently in crisis due to a globalized economy.

Corporate Organic Agriculture

TK Ranch Alberta

Over the years we've learned a great deal about what the term organic means. Unfortunately there is a lot of misinformation in the public domain about its definition. Most people believe that when they buy organic products they've been raised in a sustainably on a small family farm that's the picture of happy rural living. While this might be the case, it's not generally.

To fully understand how your food is being raised you need to step out of the grocery store and re-connect with agriculture. This means developing relationships with the people that personally grow and supply you and your family with food.

This isn't always easy as our current food system has created a huge disconnect between urban and rural communities to the point that many people don't know where their food comes from. Unfortunately corporate organic production has become the norm, all you have to do is go to organizations like the  Organic Consumers Association  to start learning about problems happening within the organic movement. While organic is certainly a step in the right direction, it doesn’t guarantee that an animal has been raised ethically or humanely. All you have to do is search organic livestock standards on the internet to fully learn about the confinement of organic animals in feedlots and barns. The photo of the feedlot above is the Aurora Dairy. It has several large operations located all over the US. Besides providing organic milk, much of the organic ground beef sold in big box stores like Costco comes from cull dairy cows managed in facilities like this.

The New Organic Lure, Go Big or Go Home

In 2000, we thought we should be offering our products in large retail chains. For years we worked very hard to supply retailers in Alberta and learned a valuable and heartbreaking lesson. They didn't care about our program, only that we could supply them with niche meat products they could mark up substantially.

In 2007, we'd supplied over 40 Safeway stores across Alberta for several years. They were happy with the quality and service we offered so asked if we'd consider supplying their stores nationally. This was the new organic lure, go big or go home. While some people would think this was a great opportunity, we didn’t. To supply a large chain like this would mean compromising our program and what we believed in. We'd have to ramp production to meet supply which would mean feedlot finishing our cattle. Concentrating large numbers of animals in one confined area is not sustainable environmentally or ethically. Once finished our animals would have to be hauled to a large factory processing plant where their emotional well-being was not considered, only how quickly they could be processed and shipped out the back door. Had we accepted Safeway's offer, we would've become an organic corporate factory farm based entirely on supply, demand and the bottom line. We declined and told them we were happy only supplying their Alberta stores. In response they de-listed our products and said if we didn't want to supply all of their stores we'd supply none. This wasn't a surprise, just a sad indication of where the organic sector was moving at that time. Unfortunately, nothing has changed. In fact it's only getting worse.

See also:  Canadian Organic Standards and Regulations