We market our livestock as naturally raised, without use of hormones and antibiotics. What does that really mean? How is organic different? Those are great questions and are quite confusing even when you are the one growing the livestock. According the the Washington State Dept of Agriculture, livestock products can only be labeled as organic if you comply completely with all of the organic requirements.
Organic certification means that an independent, third party has verified that the requirements of organic production and handling have been met. Under the National Organic Program (NOP), all products sold as organic in the United States must be certified by an NOP accredited certification agency. Source: WSDA Organic Food Program
So, there is a lot involved in obtaining organic certification. Below are some, but not all of the organic certification requirements:
Animals must be fed 100% organic feed from the last third of gestation until the day of slaughter. Right now, we feed local grass and alfalfa hay and a local grain mix of grain products. Neither are certified organic feeds.
Animals must not be given antibiotics. We don't use antibiotics on our animals. Organic guidelines also state that you can not withhold needed antibiotics from an animal to preserve the "organic status". You must give the antibiotics if needed for the health of the animal and then market it as non-organic. In four years, we have given one animal antibiotics months in advance of slaughter and we disclosed this to the buyer.
Animals must not be given hormones. We don't use hormones on any of our livestock ever.
May use approved vaccines and biologics as needed. We do vaccinate our cattle for common diseases. This would not change under organic certification.
Animals must have access to the outdoors. Organic pasture is required for ruminant livestock. Our livestock does have access to the outdoors. We do not currently have organic pasture for our cattle. Although they have a large outdoor area, the are not on pasture. We have a small amount of pasture (about 3 acres total), but not enough to maintain even one animal all summer long. This would be the toughest for us to comply with to change to organic certification. There just isn't more pasture land available to us.
There are other requirements for organic certification including detailed record keeping requirements. At some point we may be able to transition to an organic operation, but right now we only partially comply with the organic requirements.
We hope you find this explanation of use and please ask if you have any questions! We look forward to updating on the process of moving toward our long term goal of organic certification.