14 September - Organic Harvest & Terminology

Fall harvest...gorgeous weekend weather with cool nights planned. It was time to pick the vegetables and herbs we planted in May (see 5/15 entry.) I realize this is something common for some. But for me and my husband, this was like a 4th grade science experiment where curiosity of the outcome brought us...back to the basics. We found it incredibly rewarding to witness nature work her magic and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

It was imperative to share this experience with others, so we invited friends down for an organic themed dinner. We built the menu around whatever each couple desired to share, the only requirement being to use organic ingredients. We offered the last of our backyard produce -- seven different kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, various onions, herbs, beans, etc. But the question du jour was what exactly constituted "organic"? One asked if that meant all vegetarian? Or simply no pesticides or hormones? Or use only things from a farmer's market?

What do some of these buzz words mean? In finding some answers, I did some research online, though I still found differences in fact-checking. I also spoke with Proprietor Roger from Blackwing, an organic protein distributor, as well as my dairy consultant friend Mary.

Organic vs. 100% organic – Look for “certified” or "100% organic”. The term "organic" in dairy products must have USDA certification. "For a dairy farm to be certified as organic, there is a list of criteria a farm must meet. A cow that produces organic milk can never be treated with an antibiotic." In certified organic produce, the produce must be grown, stored, processed, packaged and shipped with the avoidance of chemicals (such as pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, food additives, etc.) for a minimum of three years. In 100% organic proteins, the lands where the animal grazes and what is fed follow the same suit – grazed and grown in land free of pesticides and chemical fertilizers for a minimum of three years. Organic certification procedures will require that the food producer and/or distributor keeps detailed written records (of where, when, and how the food was produced) and keeps the organic food segregated from non-organic food if working with both foods.

Cage-free – No legal definition or standard. Simply implied.

Free range – Don’t be fooled. To be called free range MAY mean that chickens have access to the outdoors. This could mean they are caged in a barn with only six inches to move left and right but have access to a window. There are no standards. Also, "free range" has nothing to do with "organic." It is not the picture I had in my mind of these fowl happily roaming free, discussing which grain they may try tomorrow while jogging. More exercise, more muscles and less fat? Not necessarily.

Hormone-free - The USDA prohibits any injection of hormones in chicken, so any claim to be hormone-free is no different than its competitor.

Humane-raised – Certain practices must be met, but again, look for the word "Certified". Animals must be allowed to move an 18" circumference. This also refers to how the animal is caught. Some are caught from behind, out of surprise so as to not scare or raise the hormone level of the animal.

So in clearing up terminology, we felt a bit more comfortable in setting the courses. Our final menu?

  • Apple Goat Cheese and Honey Tarts
  • Baked Portobella Bruschetta
  • Pomegranate Avocado Salsa

  • Mixed Greens Salad with a Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing
  • Orange and Lemon Stuffed Rotisserie Chicken
  • Piedmontese Filet Mignon
  • Tomato and Basil Pie
  • Grilled Vegetables

  • Profiteroles with Strawberries and Chocolate Sauce

We were in charge of the main course. The 100% organic chicken and Piedmontese beef was served with the simplest flavors to showcase the freshness of the proteins. In researching local farms and organic proteins, we came across the company Blackwing. The proprietors Roger and Beth were a wealth of information. Over 15 years ago, they began in the farming business in South Dakota raising ostrich, then added buffalo when they realized the "superb quality of the meat. Kosher animals have to be in perfect health." They then sold their four farms and breeders, contracted with the same farmers, opened their distributorship and now support farms in Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Pennsylvania and Canada. Their business and reputation for quality certified and healthy proteins boomed when Nutritionist, Author and Osteopathic Physician Dr. Mercola asked to partner in their offerings – his clients required clean proteins for their diet. Their line has now grown to offer buffalo, Piedmontese beef (just as flavorful and high quality as Kobe, but lower in fat marbelization), ostrich, lamb, venison, elk, chicken, pheasant, quail, duck and hen. Call them directly for questions on everything from nutrition, to recipes to differences in processes.

Through our research, we exchanged what we learned (as well as recipes!) and finished off a wonderful evening of good cheer. We enjoyed organic wine, warm chit chat by the fireplaces and a comfortable slumber under the stars.

Helpful sites: http://www.thegreenguide.com/, http://www.organic-food-for-everyone.com/, http://www.aspca.org/, http://www.omri.org/.
For more information on Blackwing, please visit http://www.blackwing.com/.

For recipes, please email me at mailto:a2009journey@comcast.net

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