Town and Country Producer Profile: Lummi Island Reefnet Salmon

October 26, 2011

Intro

My local Town and Country Market has the occasional Producer Profile available at the store.  I’ve started picking a few of them up to showcase here on the blog.  See below for the text of the profile and click on the picture to view the original profile that I’ve scanned.  Note that the information available on this post is not NW Farm Review’s opinion or original writing and while it may or may not represent our views it is soley taken from Town and Country Market.

Town and Country Markets Producer Profiles

Lummi Island, the most northeasterly island of the San Juan archipelago, is home to reef net salmon fishermen. As millions of sockeye and pink salmon return from the Pacific Ocean to the Fraser River, these fishermen harvest them using the ancient art of reef netting – a method used nowhere else in the world.

Native Americans fished this wayfor centuries, using cedar canoes and nets made of cedar bark rope. Although the boats have gotten a littlebigger, and winches are used to pull the nylon nets, the method isfundamentally the same today.  A net issuspended between two stationary boats as “spotters,” standing on towers, watch for schools of salmon to swim along the reef and over the net. When a school is observed, the net is quickly pulled up and the salmon are spilled intoa netted live well to relax.The fish are then sorted and any unwanted and protected speciesare harmlessly diverted backinto the water.

Reef netting often is referred to as the world’s most sustainable method of salmon fishing. In addition to avoiding unwanted bycatch, no fossil fuel is used to chase the fish, and there is very little disruption of marine mammals, birds or the environment. Reef net salmon are among the highest in omega-3 oils because they still have the energy (beneficial fats) they have stored for their long journey. This high fat content, as well as thoughtful, careful processing of the fish when caught, makes for rich, succulent flavor. To learn more about the ecological and historical practice of reef net fishing around Lummi Island, visit www.lummiislandwild.com.

Lummi Island Salmon Town and Country Markets

Click for Full-Size Producer Profile

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Commentary: What Will Keep Our Food Safe?

October 21, 2011

I found an article about food safety and food certifications on an economics site if you can believe it.  Find it here: http://mises.org/daily/5591/What-Will-Keep-Our-Food-Safe

In a very brief summary (it’s a brief article) it discusses some of the issues people are having with the USDA Organic label versus private labeling or just “practicing organic”.  The author briefly discusses a CSA he uses and links to another article about it; though I just glanced at it and didn’t read it fully.  He comes to the conclusion the USDA Organic label could easily be replaced by the variety of private certification labels already around.  I tend to agree.  A lot of good, small farms out there don’t even use the USDA Organic label due to it’s expense but just use the best practices available to them; which tend to be organic anyways.  It’s just the monetary cost and time cost that prevents them from doing so.

Anyways, check it out; decent article and I thought I’d share.


United Egg Producers Certified (UEP)

October 9, 2011
UEP United Egg Producers Logo

(UEP) United Egg Producers

United Egg Producers Certification

The United Egg Producers (UEP) is large trade association that represents producers.  According to their website they currently represent about 90% of all eggs produced in the United States.  Their currenty Animal Welfare guidelines however states 80% of all eggs, but most likely that’s just an old number and the guidelines haven’t been updated to reflect their growth in certification.

After reviewing their guidelines, is is my opinion that a UEP Certification is the minimum certification a farm should aspire too.  It is also the minimum certification I, as an egg eater, would want to purchase.  If an egg factory can’t meet a UEP Certification, these eggs are truly not something worth considering.  The UEP Certification program ensures reasonable minimum factors in nearly all aspects of production.

On Debeaking
Few things of note on the UEP, they allow beak trimming (which is done to reduce cannibalism and damage done by aggressive behavior).  But don’t let that dissuade you from UEP certified eggs, as beak trimming is a boon to any factory that has hens in close proximity.  If you want factory hens, you want the most humane debeaking you can get.  The UEP states that all beak trimming needs to be done the first time when the chicks are under 10 days old.  According to the references available on wikipedia, trimming prior to 10 days allows for healing and lack of pain in beak when they are older.  Trimming done after 10 days greatly increases the chance of the Hen having acute, chronic pain for her entire life.  So, if you are going to eat eggs from debeaked hens, make sure they are debeaked in accordance with the UEP.

Let it be said however, I am neither encouraging nor approving of debeaking.  I prefer my eggs to come from pastured hens, however that is not always possible.  And IF I am going to purchase factory hens, they need to be debeaked as to be not debeaked in factory conditions increases violent behavior and cannibalism among the chickens.  I prefer non-factory conditions, but given the choice between factory debeaked and factory beaked, I’d go with UEP Certified debeaked.

On Science
The UEP seems intent on letting you know that all their guidelines are scientifically reviewed and scientifically proven.  Statements like “Science has shown…” are commonly used.  I have a disagreement with that as to what they mean by “science”, as even depending on the field of science it can state vastly different findings.  Scientifically according to what?  What is their baseline?  Do they check stress levels of chickens?  Egg Production?  Do they call in a chicken psychologist?  You can’t just say “Science says”, you need to specify what factors you are looking at, especially when it involves animals that can’t tell you their subjective feelings on the matter.

Standards:

  • Debeaking in 10 days.
  • Outdoor Access: Does not specify required outdoor access on Cage-Free, but stipulates that if provided it must be kept clean.
  • Space Per Hen
    • Cage-Free Space: 1.5sqr feet per hen
    • Caged Space: 67 to 84 sq inches depending on breed (one Sqr foot equals 144 sqr inches)
  • Includes general requirements about access to clean feed, clean water, …

Sources:

  1. UEP Certified
  2. UEP Certified Guidelines
  3. Wikipedia: United Egg Producers (UEP)
  4. Wikipedia: Debeaking

National Food Corp

October 6, 2011

Summary:

National Food Corporation is a ~55 year old company that has produced eggs from the beginning.  While they have a simple and easily navigable website, it lacks some of the information that is desirable for research purposes and I need to contact them for additional information.

They produce eggs and egg products and have been doing so since 1956 but one thing to note is that they generally don’t sell the eggs in an obviously “National Food Corporation” carton.  They have a variety of different brands that the eggs are sold under with a small stamp on the back mentioning National Food Corp.  See their website – here – for their list of specialty egg brands.  They do sell a variety, organic, free-range and Omega-3 fed, as well as their ‘nominal’ brown eggs.

All of National Food Corporations egg products are UEP Certified, which while it does maintain a good minimum set of overall guidelines regarding space, hormone use, diet, medication, … it isn’t top of the line if you are concerned about such things.  For those that are, they do produce Free-Range, USDA Organic eggs.  Again, as with most Free-Range labeled eggs, they are generally housed in large open buildings with limited access to the outdoors.

I have personally only consumed their Naturally Nested brand eggs ($2.99 for a dozen @ Safeway Sept 2011), and they had surprisingly large yolks.  At the time the only yolks I could compare it to where Stieber Farms eggs and on average the Naturally Nested eggs had larger yolks for a similar sized shell.  I will have to do another egg comparison in the future.

Products:

  • Eggs (Omega 3, Brown, Organic, Free Range)
  • Misc other Egg Products

Standards:

Misc Info:

Related Posts:

  • None, look for a Naturally Nested egg review in the future.

Niman Ranch

September 21, 2011

Niman RanchSummary:

Niman Ranch currently sells and assists in the distribution for a collection of 676 Farms throughout the country.  They started as a beef producer in the 70’s but have since grown into a center for small family farms to sell their products under the Niman Ranch brand.

I commend Niman Ranch for a wonderful website where they truly try to get you to understand their vision of food, as well as offering a collection of videos depicting interviews and actual conditions of poultry, review from restaurants who use their products, …  Check out their youtube page as well, they have a collection of ~30 videos posted.  The poultry video – located on their website here – is especially good to watch as he takes you through the egg process.  It is common knowledge that hens are social, but I never realized just how social they actually are.  The video depicts two floors connected to each other that the hens can freely move between.  One is the scratching floor which had maybe one hen per 10sqr feet of space, and the floor above which was packed full of hens at about 1 hen per ~2 sqr feet.  Not horribly packed as it was a voluntary social gathering rather than a caged 6 sqr inches of space per chicken.  But it is immediately impressive that hens prefer that kind of social ‘network’ versus the open spaces below.  Either way, we still prefer pastured eggs when we can get them.  Quality cageless hens however are a step in the right direction and they are easier able to maximize utilizable space as opposed to pastured hens and thus easier to get on large grocery stores shelves which require high volume.

Niman Ranch isn’t just a producer of high quality meat and eggs however, as a brand that farms throughout the country can sell under, they have their own, high quality standards which include natural behaviors for meat, often pasture raised lamb/beef/pork, all vegetarian feed, no antibiotics, and all the things we at NW Farm Review really appreciate in our food.  A separate post is required for their standards and will be posted soon.

Also, back to the earlier mention of their videos.  I think this is a novel approach to farming that more farms and farm review sites like NWFarm Review need to take heed of.  The Food Revolution won’t be televised but it will be filmed and youtubed.  Take a look at this pork video for instance, for some, seeing such cute pigs running around in a natural environment makes them not want to eat pork.  Speaking for myself, it makes me want to eat more high quality pork.  Only through yours and my purchases of quality products do we shift the market towards sustainability and healthy living for the animals we care about.

There have been some criticisms about Niman Ranch since their merger in 2009 with Natural Food Holdings.  Details of that merger and some criticisms can be read here.

Products:

  • Cage Free, Brown Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Beef
  • Pork
  • Lamb

Standards:

  • Beef Specific
    • May be Organic, Practicing Organic (Farm Dependent)
    • Pasture Raised, Grain Finished Beef
    • Vegetarian Feed (Random testing done once a month, much is grown on farm)
  • Poultry Specific
  • No Antibiotics or Hormones
  • Stress-Free / Painless Death
  • Niman Ranch Standards (Future Standard Link)

Misc Info:


Full Circle

September 13, 2011

Summary:

Full Circle LogoFull Circle started out as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in 1996 and has turned into one of the largest Organic CSA type farm businesses in the Northwest.  They are not only just a CSA however, they are also a reasonably sized distributors who’s products can be found in large retail stores.  Closest location near this author is 2.5 miles away at a Top Food & Drug.

Full Circle is an excellent, wide range producer and distributor of organic food.  It’s hard to quantify them specifically as they are a distributor, but technically each of their partners should be looked at individually.  For example, Full Circle eggs come from Stieber Farms and Full Circle Dairy comes from Fresh Breeze Organic.  Both of which us at NW Farm Review have reviewed before and find to be top notch producers.  Click their names above to see prior reviews.  Full Circle lists all their farmers and producers on their website here, it’s worth checking out.

Products:

  • Huge range of Vegetables and Herbs full list here
  • Full list of available products on the website here
  • Grains
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Meat/Seafood
  • Tofu

Standards:

Misc Info:

  • Location: Multiple Farms all in Washington
  • NW Farm Review Rating: 4.5 Star
  • NW Farm Review Visit:  None
  • Standards Confirmation:  None
  • Website:  Full Circlehttp://www.fullcircle.com/

Related Posts:


Eggs! Full Circle and Stieber Farms

September 7, 2011

So the other day there was a large sale for a variety of Full Circle Farms foods.  Always eager to try organic foods, especially when they are on sale I bought a few items; not knowing very much about Full Circle.  Sadly, it was primarily foods I don’t eat very often like grain based cereals, and ultra-pasturized milk.  I did however purchase some of their eggs.

Normally I don’t purchase milk because it will go bad before my family can drink it all, as I’m an breakfast burrito guy in the morning and only granola once or twice a week – generally with yogurt.  So my lack of cereal and mixed with the fact that I prefer the least amount of pasteurization I can get (which decreases the speed for milk spoilage) means I just rarely buy milk.  I was going to purchase Full Circle milk anyways and just deal with it but while it was Organic and Whole (two musts!) it was ultra-pasteurized, which threw the deal for me.  On ultra-pasteurization see some of the top google hits here, here and here.  I just prefer it as natural as possible.

Ultra-Pasturized

Full Circle Whole Milk - Ultra Pasteurized

However, like I said I did purchase eggs and sought then to taste test a few.  I compared the Full Circle brand Organic, Brown eggs to Stiebrs Farms Organic, Free-Range, Omega-3 eggs.  See below for the final product.  Oh, and the bacon on the side, well it’s hard NOT to cook up some bacon if there is any defrosted and begging to be cooked, and this morning I added a strip of Beeler’s Bacon to the menu.

Eggs, Bacon and Breakfast

Full Circle & Stieber Farms Eggs with Beelers Bacon: Breakfast!

Full Circle & Stieber Farms Egg Comparison

Full Circle & Stieber Farms Egg Carton Comparison

On an initial, pre-cook exterior examination, my personal thoughts are that the Full Circle eggs are on average slightly larger than the Stiebrs Farm eggs.  Not all the eggs were larger, but on average; the batch was.  Now, I cooked this comparision breakfast up without having done any research on Full Circle farms so I will write the article like I had initially intended.  However, as I have now done research into Full Circle I will admit that there is a surprise revelation below.

Full Circle and Stieber Farms Egg Comparison

Full Circle Upper, Stieber Farms Lower

On cooking the eggs one thing was readily apparent, the Stiebrs Omega-3 Eggs were had a much thicker, or stronger shell.  The color was also slightly different though both organic eggs had a beautiful golden color.  Overall I’d say Stiebr’s Omega-3 eggs were slightly more golden in color.  If you click on the below picture to view it full size you should be able to see the slight difference.  Take a look and comment below which egg appears more golden, I’ll let you know if I agree.  Despite the Full Circle eggs appearing larger in their shell, once out of the shell I was unable to distinguish any difference in size of yolks between the two eggs.  Obviously, as seen below, my cooking methods don’t allow for a comparison of the whites as they mix quite readily.

Full Circle and Stieber Farms Egg Comparison

Full Circle and Stieber Farms Egg, Pre-Deliciousness

The below picture is moments before the scrumptious taste of eggs was to be mine!  On a strict taste comparison I would say that they were equal yet slightly different in taste.  The Omega-3 egg yolks due taste different and I wasn’t surprised by that as their diet is uniquely different.

Eggs, Bacon and Breakfast

Full Circle & Stieber Farms Eggs with Beelers Bacon: Breakfast!

Overall, after eating breakfast I concluded that while I still prefer Stiebr’s Farms eggs the Full Circle farms eggs would work in a pinch!  My only real concern was that I didn’t know where the eggs came from and what the farming practices were.  Obviously, a little bit of research can solve that matter.

Research:  So while preparing for the Comparison blog post I obviously did a bit of reading up on Full Circle.  Funny thing however, and I quote directly from the Full Circle website, here:

Steibrs Farm provides our members with cage-free, organic eggs that are absolutely free from GMO feeds or pesticides.

Haha!  Oh my, it appears I may have been comparing Apples to Apples!  Full Circle eggs ARE Stiebrs Farm’s eggs, just run through Full Circle’s different producer/store network.  At first I was a little embarrassed about learning this because I thought it pointed me out as a biased reviewer; and while that still may be the case, after thinking about it I concluded that what it really showcases are the differences between the Organic and the Organic, Omega-3 eggs.  The yolk color difference I can understand due to the dietary difference; but I am still surprised at the shell thickness difference.  Both sets of hens are Cage-Free and unless Full Circle get’s something special, both are Certified Humane, which is top of the line in my opinion.  I even went through and tested a few more eggs from each dozen, and each time I would say the Full Circle organic eggs have weaker shells.  The Omega-3 diet, or whatever else get’s included in their special diet, must make for a stronger shell.