Quality Assurance and Food Safety
Organic Prairie takes pride in a robust quality and food safety program that goes beyond the industry norm in assuring safe, wholesome, delicious products. In addition to organic certification, the cornerstones of this program include monitoring and third-party auditing of our co-packers for good manufacturing practices, testing of the processing environment and the raw materials, testing of finished goods, and the use of High Pressure Processing for ready-to-eat products.
NOP organic standards prohibit the feeding of mammalian or poultry slaughter by-products to mammals or poultry. Organic Prairie has abided by this standard, which is more stringent than the FDA feed ban, since our business began in the late 1990s.
Organic standards will remain more stringent, prohibiting the feeding of all mammalian and poultry slaughter by-products to organic mammals and poultry. We believe this full ban provides the strongest possible defense in the industry against the transmission of BSE.
Organic Prairie guarantees the organic integrity of our products in accordance with the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). Production practices are documented by an annual on-farm inspection, supported by an audited paper trail at every step, from the farm through distribution.
All Organic Prairie farms are certified organic by a USDA accredited organization, such as Oregon Tilth or MOSA. In addition to third-party audits, Organic Prairie/CROPP Cooperative staff visit each farm regularly.
Transportation and harvest facilities:
- Most Organic Prairie cattle and hogs are gathered at a collection point for transport to harvest. Organic Prairie staff work closely with the collection point staff, who are another point of inspection and control in our system. If collection staff find that a particular animal does not meet CROPP’s healthy animal standard and requirements, the animal will not be utilized by Organic Prairie.
- Organic Prairie maintains long-term relationships with independent trucking firms to haul livestock. These transport companies have proven their commitment to careful, mindful hauling of livestock, backed by their signed affidavit that they will uphold Organic Prairie’s standards. Among these are limits to the number of hours livestock can be transported without a break for water, feed and exercise.
- Organic Prairie works exclusively with federally inspected harvest (slaughter) plant partners that are certified for organic processing. Most importantly, all our harvest plants undergo an annual rigorous third-party Animal Welfare audit with measurable standards that exceed USDA-FSIS requirements.
- Organic Prairie’s primary cattle harvest facility processes just 35 head of cattle per day. This is a slower speed for moving and handling livestock than most of the industry today, which means less stress on the animals. The facility receiving area has been designed according to Temple Grandin’s humane harvest facility guidelines.
- Organic Prairie insists on continuous transparency, and the plants we work with actively embrace transparency. In fact, our primary cattle harvest facility was dubbed the “glass abbatoir” in Michael Pollan’s best-seller, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. In this facility there is an observation window allowing for all operations to be openly observed. There are also video cameras in all areas of the plant. Organic Prairie staff has access to the harvest of our cattle by means of frequent visits to the plant, and when that is impractical, by means of video feed over the web-cam, for which we have confidential access. Few plants in the industry would allow continuous video feed in these areas of their plants, so this is an especially high level of transparency.
USDA has proposed a regulation requiring “test and hold,” which is the practice of sampling and testing for pathogens (disease-causing microbes) and then withholding the associated lots of product from shipping until negative results have been received.
This has been and continues to be Organic Prairie’s voluntary practice. The regulation is necessary in part because some others in the industry have not followed this practice, resulting in many recalls and illnesses that would have been prevented with the test and hold practice.
Instead of spot or random testing, we test every batch, every day, so that if we get a positive result for a microbe of concern, we can isolate it immediately. We test raw materials and finished goods.
Pathogenic strains of E. coli, such as O157:H7, are the major concern for raw ground beef. Six new strains of E. coli have been identified as adulterants. Organic Prairie is prepared to test for these as soon as effective tests have been validated. Organic Prairie tests each lot of raw beef, using a sampling method that exceeds the N-60 industry standard.
Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes are the major concerns for ready-to-eat products. All Organic Prairie ready-to-eat products are either tested for these pathogens, or they undergo High Pressure Processing, which is a proven post-packaging lethality step for these pathogens.
Note: Fully cooking all ground meats is the consumer's responsibility and is the final line of defense against food-borne pathogens and cross-contamination. Testing along with test and hold are best practices, but do not prevent all foodborne illness.