Ten Good Reasons
We take pride in producing delicious organic meats according to strict production practices that meet or exceed the National Organic Standards. We practice the highest standards of humane animal husbandry and offer a complete line of organic beef, pork, chicken and turkey.
Organic foods are known and appreciated for their superior taste and quality, but there are many additional reasons to “go organic.” Health, community, and environment are primary reasons that people choose organic foods.
For individuals and families seeking high nutritional value and reduced risk of exposure to toxins associated with large scale confinement farming, organic offers the assurance of high quality meats produced without the use of antibotics, synthetic hormones, or risky pesticides in the animals’ feed.
A commitment to choosing local and regionally produced foods is a core value of the organic movement. In addition to fresher foods and reduced fossil fuel consumption, the profit from the sale of locally produced foods is more likely to find its way back into the community. Consumers and family farmers working together to support such local systems form a sustainable partnership.
Organic farming methods are helping heal our earth by returning vitality and nutrients to the soil and keeping air and water safe from pollution caused by toxic pesticides and herbicides. Eating organic food is a great way to protect the environment.
Our 7-Step Safety Net ensures that the meat we deliver to you is the safest and healthiest available anywhere!
1. Our organic meats are brought to you by family farms—not factories. The upshot? Healthier animals, healthier people—a happier planet.
2. Our organic meats are produced without the use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics or persistent pesticides—that ’s what makes them organic!
3. Our animals graze in organic pastures, eat organic vegetarian feeds, and they ’re finished on family farms, not crowded, concrete feedlots.
4. Annual inspections ensure that our farms, feed, and facilities meet—or exceed—all certification standards. We ’re your trusted source for organic meat!
5. To ensure your safety, all Organic Prairie meat is tested for bacteria before it leaves our processing facilities.
6. We maintain meticulous records on every animal we raise, ensuring traceability from our farms to your front door.
7. As the farmer-owners of our co-op, we proudly uphold the highest safety and quality standards in the industry!
Our cooperative defines organic as a philosophy and system of production that mirrors the natural laws of living organisms with emphasis on the interdependence of all life.
This definition reflects our deep convictions in our role as stewards of the earth. With the wisdom of generations, Organic Prairie farmers care for the health of the land, the animals, and people who eat their food. We recognize the interdependency of all life and the value of sustainability, which results in the highest quality and purest foods possible.
Although Organic Prairie’s production standards go above and beyond government regulations, we uphold the USDA rules as the foundation of the organic industry.
Organic Standards and the USDA Organic Seal
On October 21, 2002, USDA regulations went into effect governing the labeling of foods produced using organic agriculture. Food products that contain 95-100% certified organic ingredients may use the USDA Organic seal.
As promised by the USDA, the regulations:
- Reflect National Organic Standards Board recommendations regarding which substances used in production and processing are allowed or prohibited.
- Prohibit the use of irradiation, sewage sludge, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in organic production.
- Prohibit antibiotic and synthetic hormone use in organic meat and poultry.
- Require 100% organic feed for organic livestock.
What do national standards mean for consumers?
For consumers who want to minimize personal exposure to toxins and support humane and sustainable agricultural practices, the organic labeling laws are extremely important. Today, all agricultural products labeled “organic” have been verified by an accredited certification agency as meeting or exceeding USDA standards for organic production.
Ask Organic Prairie producer Ron Rosmann how pasture-based farming works, and he’ll tell you, “It has to do with the whole farm system.” Describing his own northwest Iowa farm, he says, “How the livestock interact with crops and rotation, and diversity—it all fits together so well.”
Large-scale confinement farms may currently dominate U.S. meat production, but a growing number of farmers—including those in the Organic Prairie cooperative—are finding pasture-based farming to be a better path. There are many reasons to choose pasturing; it can mean healthier livestock, more nutritious food products, profitable family farms, and sustainable land stewardship. But perhaps the biggest reason of all is the way these benefits are interconnected. Raising animals on pasture promotes sustainable land use and leads to healthier livestock, which results in more nutritious, safer foods, and more profitable farms, which keeps the whole process sustainable. This is a food and farming system that simply makes sense.
To learn more about the benefits of raising animals on pasture, read Ron Rosmann’s essay, The Grass Is Greener: Why Pasture-Based Farming Makes Us Happy.
Organic vs. Natural
Organic Prairie’s commitment to continual improvement in sustainable organic production has led us to meet and exceed the National Organic Standards. Take a look at key points of differentiation between USDA Organic, “Natural” and conventionally raised meat on our USDA Organic Comparison Chart. If personal health, the environment, and a sustainable future are among your values, look for the USDA organic seal on the foods you purchase.
About Our Cooperative
Organic Prairie meats are produced by our independent cooperative of organic family farms.
We are pioneers of the organic meat industry. We began producing our delicious meats—without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, or pesticides—back in 1996. We insisted on third-party organic meat certification long before federal organic standards were established. We were the first in the industry to ban animal by-products from our cattle’s diet. And we played a vital role in shaping federal organic meat certification standards—the strictest in the industry.
Organic Prairie farmers are committed to providing your family with the healthiest, most wholesome meat, raised humanely in accordance with organic principles and practices—respecting the dignity and interdependence of human, animal, plant, soil and global life.
We know that meat produced organically is the safest, best choice for our families, and we’re proud to make it available for yours to enjoy!
To learn more about our cooperative, please visit www.organicvalley.coop.
- by Ron Rosmann, Organic Prairie Farmer
Pastured and Organic
Pasturing methods are a good fit with organic farming, but organic does not always mean pasture-raised. USDA organic standards require “access to pasture” as part of an organic livestock system. This standard is under review, but currently does not specify how often or how long animals are outdoors, nor does it require they be fed live grasses.
Because of their commitment to working in harmony with nature, Organic Prairie producers prefer to provide their animals with as much pasture as they can. The Cooperative’s own production standards require that ruminant (grass-eating) animals have access to well-managed pasture as a significant portion of their feed whenever it is in season—a minimum of 3 months in most regions. Many Organic Prairie farmers pasture their livestock for all but the coldest winter months.
Some Organic Prairie farmers raise their beef on 100% pasture, all the time. However, due to a popular preference for fat-marbled meat, consumer demand for 100% grass-fed meat is still relatively small. There is growing demand for meat that is pasture-raised and then grain-finished, to provide both the benefits of pasture and the flavor that many customers enjoy. It’s one piece of a broad, gradual trend toward positive change in the food system.
Just as organic production is about more than just organic feed, pasture-based production is about more than animals eating grass. “Pasture benefits go back to type of farm, lay of land—utilizing it to the most,” says Wisconsin Organic Prairie beef producer Fred Pedretti. “Pasture and organic really work well together. It’s a fairly simple system once you get the right number of livestock for the acres you have—you use the system that works for your farm.”
Modern Pasture: Rotational Grazing
Once, nearly all livestock were raised on pasture. That usually meant turning them out to graze freely, often resulting in overgrazing, trampling and waste. But all pasture-based farming is not the same. Modern methods known as Management Intensive Rotational Grazing (MIRG) or Holistic Resource Management (HRM) offer significant benefits over both confinement and old-style grazing methods.
Managed rotational grazing involves dividing a pasture into pens or paddocks, and shifting the livestock from paddock to paddock as they graze. Animals are moved based on the condition of the grass. This allows the farmer to avoid overgrazing, while giving livestock access to pasture at the peak of nutrition and the right height for grazing, and letting the animals spread manure evenly over the entire pasture. Rotation also extends the grazing season, and often produces enough surplus grass during the summer months to provide silage for feed in winter. Organic Prairie’s own pasture protocol is designed to maximize production in the pasture and promote growth and well-being in the ecosystem.
Organic Prairie’s commitment to continual improvement in sustainable organic production has led us to meet and exceed the National Organic Standards. If personal health, the environment, and a sustainable future are among your values, look for the USDA organic seal on the foods you purchase.
- by Ron Rosmann, Organic Prairie Farmer
Benefits of Pasture Farming
Pasturing livestock offers benefits for consumers, producers, animals and the environment.
For many farmers, feeding livestock on pasture is an important part of ensuring that the animals have comfortable, healthy living conditions. Confinement in crowded conditions or cold, damp barns can contribute to respiratory and other health problems for all livestock, including poultry. Pastured animals get more fresh air and exercise, and spend less time crowded together. “If you work on concrete all day, your feet and back hurt,” points out Organic Prairie farmer Ernest Martin. “It’s the same with cows.”
Cattle and Grass
Pasture has benefits for all types of livestock, but it is especially important for ruminant species such as cattle. With their multi-stomach digestive systems, cattle are literally born to eat grass—not high-protein, starchy grains. Unlike humans, they are very efficient at turning fibrous plants like grasses into protein. Grain helps them gain weight, but can also lead to digestive problems, discomfort, and disease. Pasture-fed cattle are healthier than cattle fed in confinement. Fred Pedretti notes, “The herd is so much healthier and cattle do so much better when they can move around. The nutritional value of fresh grass is better than when it’s been stored and heated.”
Many conventionally raised beef cattle start out grazing, but by the last half to one-third of their life, most of them end up crowded and confined in giant feedlots of 1000 cows or more. They’re fed a diet of grain—mainly corn—laced with supplements and medicines to ward off the problems that come with feeding grain to animals whose digestive system is designed for grass.
Pasture-based farming means the cattle are fed primarily outdoors on pasture. They may be fed entirely on pasture when it is in season. Beef cattle, unless they are 100% grass-fed, usually finish on a mix of hay and grain for the last 3 months of a 18 month to 2-year life cycle, in order to provide the choice grade fat and marbling that consumers still associate with good flavor. A key difference from conventional production is that during this time, pasture-based cattle are free to roam on pasture, even in the winter, and are eating as much fresh grass as possible, with grain and cut forage as a small part of their overall diet.
On his farm, Ron Rosmann noticed the difference right away. “These are contented animals. They’ve got all this fresh grass with rotational grazing, and the calves are growing like crazy. They have the slick hair coats. They’re happy.”
Genetic diversity also plays a role in producing healthy animals, as well as meat that is tasty and tender. Before WWII, U.S. farmers sought out breeds that grew well and tasted good on grass. The advent of hybrid corn and increasing industrialization in agriculture resulted in so much surplus corn that it was cheap and plentiful enough to feed to cattle. But the older breeds got too fat, too fast, on corn, and were often less healthy. So farmers shifted to breeds that could eat more corn, and began using antibiotics to manage diseases that resulted from the grain-based diet. Now, farmers and ranchers are once again seeking out the old breeds, and developing natural genetics for cattle that finish well on grass. Many think this will be the key to great-tasting, healthy, ecological meat in the future.
For cattle, pasturing means nutrtion, free roaming, and fewer vet visits —happiness.
- by Ron Rosmann, Organic Prairie Farmer
Hogs and Pasture
Pigs benefit from being pasture-raised too. Their diets are less dependent on grass, but confinement feeding of pigs takes the same toll on the environment and on animal health. Large-scale industrial confinement pork operations have quickly overtaken family farm production in the last 10 years, and today control over 75% of the market. Communities near large confinement feeding operations report air so acrid it is difficult to breathe or work out-of-doors. Confining thousands of hogs under one roof means more disease, more antibiotics, and more issues with waste-management and pollution. There are real questions about whether it makes sense to raise animals this way, when compared to the benefits of pasture-based farming.
“There are huge differences,” says Tom Frantzen, who raises pork for Organic Prairie. “If you take the life of average confinement hogs, they are born on a slat floor, and see little else but stainless steel. From there, it’s off to a flat floor and concrete walls. It’s an extremely mundane environment. My pigs, they’re born outside. Later, they are in a hoop building with fresh air, sunshine, and they get a fresh shot of bedding every two or three days.”
- by Ron Rosmann, Organic Prairie Farmer
Benefits to the Environment
Pasture-based feeding is an ecologically efficient method of farming. Instead of producing tons of grain for feed—which requires extensive land, fertilizer, pest management, and large equipment for cultivating, harvesting, drying, storage and feeding—pasture-based farming lets the animals do the work. They harvest, fertilize, and feed themselves, overseen by the farmer in a carefully-managed system. The net result is significantly less fossil-fuel consumption, less erosion, less air and water pollution and greater soil fertility.
A study in Minnesota found that during one rainstorm, an acre of unplowed pasture lost 53 pounds of soil, while an acre of cornfield lost 10 tons of soil in the same storm. Less erosion means lower levels of sediment and fecal material in waterways, and nitrate-nitrogen runoff as much as 30 to 50 times lower from land planted to perennial grasses than from corn-soybean row crops. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have even found that rotational paddocks attract twice as many nesting songbirds as continuously-grazed fields.
Animals on pasture deposit manure throughout their grazing area, fertilizing the soil and helping to support healthy pasture growth. Manure from animals in confinement is deposited in a concentrated area, where it is collected and hauled away, or stored in large manure pits. Often it is dumped nearby or spread in high concentration where it overloads the soil with concentrated nutrients and pollutes surface and ground water, as well as affecting the air quality. Studies also show that compared to plowed cropland, pasture can bind up many more tons of carbon dioxide in the organic matter of soils. This is an important factor in the reduction of greenhouse gases, meaning that increased amounts of land in pasture may even help to slow global warming.
When the acreage required to produce corn for feed is taken into account, along with grazing on land that is not suitable for cultivation, pasture turns out to be a more efficient use of land than many other types of production. Although there are some areas where grazing is not appropriate, overgrazing is almost always the result of bad pasture management, not grazing itself.
- by Ron Rosmann, Organic Prairie Farmer
Benefits to the Consumer
While pasturing benefits animal and environmental health, it also has a direct link to the health and safety of consumers.
Meat from livestock raised primarily on pasture has been shown to be higher in many nutrients—including vitamin E, beta-carotene, and the healthy fats Omega-3 and CLA, (conjugated linoleic acid)—than meat from animals fed primarily grain. A growing body of research points to health benefits associated with CLA, including a possible role in fighting certain cancers, diabetes, and obesity. A 2006 report from Union of Concerned Scientists found that “grass-fed beef and milk contain higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids, the so-called beneficial fats. Both grass fed milk and ground beef are also higher in CLA, a fatty acid shown in animal studies to protect against cancer.” The study also found that grass-fed meat is generally leaner.
Because animals on pasture tend to be healthier, antibiotics (which are prohibited in organic production) are rarely needed. This helps to counter the dangerous overuse of antibiotics which has led to strains of bacteria that are resistant to treatment, making once-reliable treatments less effective against human as well as animal diseases.
Recent concern over the safety of our food supply has highlighted a link between concentrated feedlots and pathogens like E. Coli that can be transmitted to humans through contaminated soil and water. Research shows that the incidence of E. Coli, which has been shown to be high in feedlot beef, is greatly reduced in cows on pasture.
- by Ron Rosmann, Organic Prairie Farmer
Benefits to the Farmer
This one’s easy. “You bring the cattle to the pasture instead of bringing the pasture to the cattle,” says Rosmann, with a laugh. “The cows are working for you, instead of you working for the cows.” Who can argue?
Changing over to pasture-based farming can free farmers from the large, expensive machinery used to grow feed crops, and they don’t have the waste disposal and disease issues that come with confinement feeding. Their farms become safer places for children to be around the animals and help with farm work. Pasture expert Bill Murphy observes that “When they come to pasture farming, it is such a relief for farmers. They get rid of all these problems: Crop failure, pesticide failure, huge debt.”
Allen Moody, an Organic Valley dairy farmer who grazes his cows, calls pasturing “an holistic approach that makes the farmer take a more active role, actually walk into the field, observe the animals, monitor the grasses. It’s not more time-consuming, but it’s a better use of their time.”
Because it makes the most of on-farm resources, pasture farming allows Organic Prairie farmers like Ron Rosmann and Fred Pedretti to support themselves and their families. In spite of differences in location and climate, they all say their animals are healthier; they enjoy farming more; and they are making money when many other farmers are not. They appreciate being part of a farmer-owned cooperative, as well. Having ownership in an outlet for their pasture-raised, organic meat means they can maintain a healthy livelihood with stable prices on a family-scale farm.
What’s Old is New Again
Pasture management is in some ways about old knowledge on production practices, taken to a new level. One Organic Prairie staff member calls pasture management a new generation of knowledge: “We need to be more aware of how we’re affecting everything.”
At Organic Prairie, we’re hopeful that pasture farming will continue to grow. As farmer Ron Rosmann says, it all fits together so well.
Sources and Recommended Reading
Abbott, A., M. Basurto, C.A. Daley, G. Nader, and S. Larson, “Enhanced nutrient content of Grass Fed Beef: Justification for Health Benefit Label Claim,” University of California Cooperative Extension Service, 2002.
Clancy, Kate, “Greener Pastures: How Grass-fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating,” Union of Concerned Scientists Report, March, 2006.
Clancy, Kate, “Greener Eggs and Ham: The Benefits of Pasture-raised Swine, Poultry and Egg Products.” Union of Concerned Scientists Report, October, 2006.
(See also UCS’s Pasture-Based FAQ)
FoodRoutes, “ Pasture-raised Dairy and Meat Products are Good for You and the Environment” www.foodroutes.org (December, 2004)
Huber, Gary. “Marketing Pasture-raised Products,” presentation at Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference, January 25, 2003.
Land Stewardship Project. “Grass-Based Beef and Dairy Production,” Feb 2004.
Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. “Consumer Perceptions of Pasture-raised Beef and Dairy Products: An Internet Consumer Study,” February, 2004.
Logsdon, Gene. All Flesh Is Grass: The Pleasures and Promises of Pasture Farming. Athens, Ohio: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2004.
Murphy, Bill. Greener Pastures on Your Side of the Fence, 4th ed. Colchester, Vermont: Arriba Publishing, 2002.
Pollan, Michael, Omnivore’s Dilemma; New York: The Penguin Press, 2006.
Robinson, Jo. “Grass-Fed Basics,” “Pasture Perfect,” and “Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Products,” www.eatwild.com, December, 2004
Schivera, Diane. “The Benefits of Raising Animals on Pasture,” Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener, Sept-Nov 2003.
Steinfeld, Henning, et al. “Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Opinions,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, 2006.
Tietz, Jeff, “Pork’s Dirty Secret: The nation’s top hog producer is also one of America’s worst polluters,” Rolling Stone, December 14, 2006.
Vermont Quarterly, “Management Intensive Grazing Focus of Research and Outreach” University of Vermont.
Web Resources for research and information:
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If you are not 100% delighted with our delectable organic meats, we will happily replace your product or issue a refund, as you choose.
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Organic Prairie’s premium protection packaging ensures that you receive products of the highest quality. Each quick-frozen item is carefully packed with dry ice, then surrounded by a premium, reusable polystyrene chest. The dry ice may have dissipated by the time your order arrives, but your product should be frozen or cold to the touch.
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