January 7, 2012
Verde Farms is a reseller of organic beef under it’s own name for a few farms based in the US, Australia and Uruguay. They sell primarily Organic Beef but are continually looking for more sources of organic, grass fed beef. One of the main sources for grass fed, USDA Organic is Uruguay; and nearby Argentina is where the Verde Farms was born in a sense. The founder of Verde Farms, Dana Ehrlich, visited a Ranch while living in Argentina and became interested in what kind of beef is bought by consumers in the US; at which point Verde Farms was born to bring high quality, Organic beef to US Consumers.
According to their website Verde Farms currently only supplies to the East Coast in the US; however Top Foods in Washington sells a variety of Verde Farms beef (multiple cuts, sizes, and ground beef).
- Organic Beef (all cuts and sizes)
- Organic Ground Beef
- Organic, Grass Fed Beef
- Organic, Grass Fed Ground Beef
November 17, 2011
Global Animal Partnership
The 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program
I rarely go to Whole Foods Market. I haven’t lived near one, nor worked near one and thus never bother to go. However, things are changing over the next few months and I will soon have access to a Whole Foods Market so I thought it worth looking into. I was quite pleased to find that Whole Foods has partnered with Global Animal Partnership (GAP) to certify Whole Food’s producer’s practices according to their 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Program.
First off, props to Whole Foods. After looking through the 5-Step Program it seems to be an simple and effective means of getting across to the consumer how the animals that they are consuming are treated and cared for. I look forward to purchasing some foodstuffs from them once I have better access.
So on the actual 5 Step plan itself, it seems that once in Whole Foods different foodstuffs will have different labels specifying whether the product is a Step 1, Step 2, … Step 5+ with Step 5+ being the max level of care you can have. In looking at GAP’s website here is a table below that shows how many operations they have for each step; which will probably match the likely hood of finding that particular step in Whole Foods. Meaning, it may be hard to find Step 5 or 5+ but easy to find Steps 3 and 4 for most animals.
From: Global Animal Partnership; click for source.
Also, check out this short video produced by the Global Animal Partnership. They go through all the steps:
- Step 1: No Cages, Crating or Crowding
- Chickens: Be able to spread their wings and preen without touching other birds
- Pigs: No more than 25% of floor is slatted; bedding required; no Tethers or gestation stalls
- Beef Cattle: 50% Vegetative cover on range/pasture; 2/3min life on pasture
- Step 2: Enriched Environment
- Chickens: Cover or Blinds in Housing to isolate themselves
- Pigs: Changed limits on allowed lameness, weaning age, and max transport time
- Beef Cattle: Objects must be provided for grooming/scratching (natural behavior)
- Step 3: Enhanced Outdoor Access
- Chickens: Shade required; continuous outdoor access; indoor foraging area during harsh seasons
- Pigs: Continuous outdoor access; enrichments required that encourage foraging.
- Beef Cattle: No step 3 for Beef Cattle
- Step 4: Pasture Centered
- Chickens: Access to 50% vegetative cover pasture
- Pigs: Access to 25% vegetative pasture during allowable seasons; access to wallows
- Beef Cattle: 3/4min life on pasture;
- Step 5: Animal Centered, no Physical Alterations
- Chickens: 75% vegetative pasture; birds must be able to perch
- Pigs: 50% vegetative pasture; pigs remain with litter mates for entire life
- Beef Cattle: 75% vegetative pasture; no branding/ear notching
- Step 5+: Lives Entire Life on Same Farm
- Chickens: Birds must be bred, hatched and raised on the same farm.
- Pigs: On-farm or local slaughter
- Beef Cattle: On-farm or local slaughter
- Whole Foods Market – 5 Step Animal Welfare Rating Program Brochure (PDF)
- Global Animal Partnership – The 5-Step Program
- Food Link – 5 Step Plan: Veganism, marketing or education?
October 9, 2011
(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.
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.
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.
- 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, …
- UEP Certified
- UEP Certified Guidelines
- Wikipedia: United Egg Producers (UEP)
- Wikipedia: Debeaking
July 16, 2011
Acres in Zion is a wonderful, somewhat small farm that offers grass fed beef that isn’t finished with grain. That right there is not always the easiest to find. Looking at their website you can tell immediately that they are huge fans of the Grass-Fed beef culture; as their “About Us” is just an article by Jo Johnson about titled “Why Grassfed is Best!”.
I have personal experience with the beef from Acres in Zion though I have no personal contact with the farm itself as of yet. Some family went in 1-2 years ago to purchase a 1/2 cow with each house getting 1/8 of a cow. My wife has stated that it is the best beef she has ever had. My taste buds are not as discerning and I can’t quite make such a statement; but I blame the somewhat typical male eating patterns known as “shoving too fast to taste”. Either way, we are in the process of acquiring additional ground beef from Acres in Zion from a friend who is purchasing a portion of a cow. Typical costs run around $6/lb as packaged. They advertise $3.85/lb hanging weight, which is before the butcher gets his knife into the animal and debones, trims, and cuts.
What remains to be verified is the “stress-free” environment that they mention on their website. From the family member that purchased the cow for us last time they even kill the cow in a stress-free way as stress just before death will change the taste of the meat as the body releases a number of hormones to deal with the fright. I was told that the cows are essentially killed alone (so other cows don’t hear and stress out) and killed quickly while licking a sugar cube. But again, I’ll want to see that for myself before I say that is what they do.
- Grass Fed, Grass Finished Beef
- Grass Fed Lamb
- Eggs (According to Eat Wild, though not mentioned on their website)
May 2, 2011
Certified Humane Logo
Certified Humane Raised and Handled
Certified Humane is a 501c3 Non Profit organization who’s goal is to support the Humane treatment of animals from birth to death. This is an all encompassing certification program that includes feed, housing, & slaughter. They also make the claim that they are the only “animal welfare label requiring the humane treatment of farm animals from birth through slaughter.”
I will post a summary of what a Certified Humane food implies, but if you are curious for more information I encourage you to look at their website. They include a huge amount of information that is not always available on Farming websites.
Another positive about Certified Humane is their public visibility and thus accountability. For every animal-type standard, they list the people that developed the standard. This makes it easy to contact someone if you have a question or disagreement and don’t want to contact Certified Humane directly. It took me maybe 2 minutes to find contact information for the local “R. Newberry PHD, Associate Professor, Washington State University”. On Ms. Newberry, she is listed as an Associate Professor for the “Center for the Study of Animal Well-being”; an applicable contact in my opinion.
One potential downfall to Certified Humane is the generality of many of their standards. Terms like “must be considered” or “appropriate” rather than listing specifics. I do not personally view this as a downfall however, these are general guidelines that give freedom to the farmer to do what he considers best for his animals, as well as freedom for Certified Humane to question the farmer’s standards. Worst case scenario, Certified Humane removes their certification. When freedom is allowed, good things happen. There is no real reason to be horribly strict on many things such as feed types, amounts, or water conditions; as long as those conditions are “considered” and handled “appropriately” for the general animal welfare. Nature is too varied to be kept under strict conditions. And we view that as a good thing.
- Certified Humane has pages of specific rules and guidelines for Beef Cattle, Dairy Cattle, Young Dairy Beef, Broiler Hens, Egg Hens, Goats, Pigs, Sheep and Turkeys.
- In general, they all have the same requirements.
- Freedom to move (decent square footage)
- Freedom to eat and drink (clean sources, no stale food, no contaminated water)
- Healthy environments (specifics listed for pastured and indoor)
- No antibiotics (administered only for “therapeutic reasons” and only by a Veternarian)
- Humane slaughter required
- Certified Humane: Home
- Wikipedia: Certified Humane
- Certified Humane: Animal Standards Listing
March 13, 2011
NorthStar Bison is a premier producer of grassfed Bison, Beef and Lamb who surprisingly is a fully run family operation. The owners still run and operate the farm and all the kid’s work for various facets of the business whether it’s shipping and receiving, herd management or just helping out where they can (for the younger one). NorthStar Bison seems to take great care in the treatment of it’s animals, making sure they are grassfed; and they even purchased a processing plant which allows them to kill their animals in the field, and thus stress free making for a better quality meat (and a stress-free ending for the animal).
Oh, and did we mention they sell Ostrich and Elk? Now that is a pleasant, not so easy to find surprise!
Disclaimer: We here at NW Farm Review just recently (yesterday) cooked up some ground bison for Bison Burgers. We will admit that it was quite tasty and it won’t be the last time we purchase from NorthStar Bison.
- Grassfed Beef
- Grassfed Lamb
- Grassfed Bison
- Pastured Chicken
- Location: Northwest Wisconsin and East Central Minnesota
- NW Farm Review Rating: 4.5 Stars (Unknown extent of Pasture Raised on meat besides Bison)
- NW Farm Review Visit: None
- Standards Confirmation: None
- Website: http://www.northstarbison.com/
March 9, 2011
The Double R Ranch (Not to be confused with the Double R Ranch in Michigan) is a Washington based Ranch who’s beef products can be found at larger retailers in the area (Confirmed at Top Food & Drug and Haggen stores). They have been around since 1968 and is still stated as family owned, though there is little mention of the current owners.
The Double R Ranch is a large farm that is primarily based on a 100,000+ farm in the Okanagan (North, North East) region of Washington State; though they do state that some cattle do not originate from this ranch, but don’t specify what other cattle sources exist.
- Location: Northern Washington
- NW Farm Review Rating: 2.5 Stars (Unknown Standards)
- NW Farm Review Visit: None
- Standards Confirmation: None
- Website: http://www.thedoublerranch.com/