Increasing Popularity for Organic Foods

It’s been a great start to the new year, and with this new year has come a renewed interest for many in making changes for ourselves and our families.  Undoubtedly you are very familiar with seeing many types of fruits, vegetables and meats marketed as organic.  Even if you don’t load your cart with all organic food, you have probably had that moment when you selected an organic avocado or tomato over a non-organic, disregarding the price difference, because you internally wanted to make a different decision about what your family is eating.  While organic is now a mainstay on our grocers’ shelves, we wanted to take a closer look into the nuances of what makes organic, “organic,” and how we here at Where Food Comes From play a part in that verification process.

What does organic mean?

There can be some confusion when it comes to understanding what organic means.  Some consumers assume it means natural, but the word natural doesn’t really get into the details of what organic is.  Organic foods are foods made without synthetic chemicals or modified components like fertilizers or irradiation.  As part of the certification process the USDA even requires organic farmers to consider impact to the environment by improving the quality of water and soil.  This also includes helping to preserve wildlife, wetlands, and woodland areas to promote ecological balance.  As you can see, the requirements don’t just focus on the actual food but also on the environment related to the growth and processing of that organic food.

Reasons Consumers Want Organic

Many consumers have switched to organic because they believe it’s the healthier option and even tastes better than the non-organic counterparts as organic foods do not contain imitation flavors.  Other consumers are buying organic because they are simply concerned about antibiotics, chemicals, additives, and pesticides used in the production of their food and feel that certified organic foods provide them the necessary transparency to feel confident in the foods they purchase.  In 2017, the Organic Trade Association reported organic food sales hit $45.2 billion and is projected to increase in the coming years.  As a result, manufacturers will need to get creative with the increasing demand.  Consumers want more than just traditional food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner and, because of this, even organic snack foods are increasing in popularity.  Organic snack foods range from items such as potato chips and tortilla chips to bagels, pretzels, cookies and even chocolates and raisins.

Organic Labeling

The USDA has a strict process when it comes to organic products.  In order to carry the label, there are certain criteria that products and processors must meet.  This includes the following:

  • Produced with No genetically modified organisms – Read the Policy to Learn More
  • Produced with Only allowed substances – View List Here
  • Follow All USDA organic regulations and overseen by a USDA National Organic authorized certifying agent

How Does WFCF Support National Organic Program (NOP)?

The organic market is growing rapidly and is not showing any signs of slowing down.  Today, the USDA reports there are more than 22,000 organic approved farms in the United States.  In order to carry the organic label, a product, its ingredients and all of its manufacturing processes must be evaluated to the USDA National Organic Program as required by law in the United States.  Where Food Comes From plays a unique role in ensuring these standards and processes are upheld for consumers through its two organic Accredited Certifying Agencies – A Bee Organic and International Certification Services, Inc. (ICS). Each of these divisions specializes in organic certification for all types of food products.  ICS has been a leader in establishing organic standards and processes in the United States for the last 35 years, and A Bee specializes in certifying quite a few unique product categories, include apiary, hydroponics and wild harvest crops.

To learn more about the world of organic certification, visit the sites below:

Visit the NOP website here.
View the ICS Organic website here.
View the A Bee Organic website here.

Behind the Scenes of the Poultry Industry : Miller Poultry & James Lambright’s Story

Welcome back to another exciting audit with Where Food Comes From (WFCF)!  In the second installment of our audit series, we head to Northern Indiana, a state known for farmland and fast cars, and in our case, the long standing family-owned Miller Poultry brand.  They are one of the few in the industry that is integrated through all aspects of raising their birds – from hens laying eggs to full grown chickens ready to head to town. On this trip we had the opportunity to sit down with James Lambright, one of the farmers raising chickens for Miller Poultry, to learn more about how he and his family go about raising happy and healthy birds.  But first, let’s discuss how Miller Poultry operates!

Getting to know Miller Poultry

As we mentioned above, Miller Poultry is known as a vertically integrated poultry company, which means they have complete control of their entire supply chain.  Miller Poultry owns its breeder flocks, which is the stage where the eggs are laid prior to heading off to the hatchery.  At the hatchery, as you might expect, the eggs are incubated, hatched, sorted and then delivered to a broiler farm, which is what James Lambright operates (broiler is the standard term for any bird raised for meat).  Once the broiler chickens are approximately 42 days of age, which is when they are fully grown, they are transported from the farm to a processing facility in town.

Farms like Lambright’s provide day-to-day care and management of the chickens with close oversight from Miller Poultry, whom provides all feed and any other necessary products to ensure the health and wellbeing of the birds.  Miller Poultry also sends team members to each of their partner farms on a weekly basis to assess the flocks.  While there, they observe feed, water, litter conditions, air quality and bird health, and work with the farm on any necessary adjustments to their management to ensure the chickens are thriving.

Behind the Scenes with James and Miller Poultry

Family man, entrepreneur, wood-worker, and partner farm for Miller Poultry, James Lambright is quite the successful and busy man. James has been raising chickens for Miller Poultry for over a decade, and loves the opportunity it has provided for him.  He certainly enjoys the time working from home to provide for, and spend time with, his family.  But, James doesn’t limit himself to just raising poultry on his farm, as he also raises cattle and sheep, and tends to a small orchard.  Aside from being a farmer, James also owns a woodworking business making custom furniture and cabinets…a busy man indeed.

During our time with James he shared a memorable story about an interaction in a local super market with a shopper.  As James was shopping, he noticed a woman trying to decide which chicken brand she should select.  She read the labels carefully on both packages and placed the Miller Poultry chicken in her cart.  James smiled and kindly approached her to thank her, while explaining that he raised chickens for Miller Poultry and, in turn, she thanked him for providing such a great product. This kind of interaction is a perfect example of the strong community ties to the farm and the passion that James has for the work that he does.  James knows that Miller Poultry cares deeply for their employees, neighbors, and community, and is proud to be a part of the Miller Poultry family and brand.

Auditing Services
Our WFCF team audits the Lambright farm to the Certified Organic and Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating (GAP) standards.  These programs are evident at farms across the Miller Poultry supply chain, as they take animal management and care very seriously, which is evident in their dedication to these third-party verification standards. In addition, Miller Poultry also utilizes other auditing services to ensure their chickens meet a very specific set of requirements, such as No Anti-biotics Ever, the National Chicken Council standard, and the Non-GMO Project standard for feed.

Our Story, Our Choices

Each time you go to the grocery store you are able to choose what food to bring home to your family.  Knowledge is power, and when you purchase third-party verified chicken products, like the Miller Poultry brand, this gives you the opportunity to support the hardworking farms you can trust and believe in.

We’re happy that you could virtually come along with us this week to Northern Indiana to learn about James and Miller Poultry.  Miller Poultry encourages their customers to share their experiences with their brand.  So, if you’ve recently purchased their products, be sure to give them a shout! They’d love to hear from you because they only achieve their goal through their customers.  If you want to learn more about where you can purchase verified foods or learn more about our programs, visit us at www.wherefoodcomesfrom.com. And, as always, be sure to keep an eye out on our blog for more exciting stories along our audit trail!

      

   

 

From Seed to Shelf – A Glimpse Into Hemp Verification

As you may have recently read over the last few weeks, in December Where Food Comes From was named the Program Administrator for the new U.S. Hemp Authority TM verification program. Where Food Comes From and Validus Verification Services, known for socially responsible practices like animal welfare, will serve the hemp growers and those seeking to display the certified designation on their labeling, advertising and marketing. It’s truly an interesting time for the hemp industry.

There is no doubt that hemp is here to stay.  This multipurpose plant has the capability to produce all kinds of resources from clothing to food to paper.  With the demand increasing for hemp-based products and hemp in general, it’s quickly growing in popularity across the globe.  As hemp continues to grow, no pun intended, there’s much to learn including educating consumers about the misconceptions of hemp.

“Our selection to administer this program puts Where Food Comes From at the forefront of a major new health and wellness movement in the U.S. today.”

John Saunders, CEO of Where Food Comes From, Inc.

The development of the U.S. Hemp Authority TM  Certified program demonstrates commitment toward high standards and transparency with hemp cultivation.  Once growers pass the third-party audit they will be licensed with the certified seal of approval.  This lets you know as the customer that the hemp product you’re purchasing has been checked for quality, safety, and consistency.

The 2014 Farm Bill allowed farmers to start pilot programs for hemp alongside their agricultural programs. As of 2018, a new bill allows farmers to grow hemp with all the protections traditional farming receives.  This Farm Bill allows farmers to legally grow hemp, which  means more CBD products on the shelves. Through this bill, hemp will no longer be considered a controlled substance but rather take its place alongside all other types of traditional farming.

In addition to legalizing hemp, legislation also includes medical quality of cannabidiol also known as CBD, which is becoming widely accepted to treat certain medical issues. CBD is known to treat chronic pain, anxiety and many other things. Bloomberg reports the legal market of CBD could reach $20 billion by 2020.  Perhaps this will change individual perception about this useful plant.

We know hemp has an even bigger role to play in future, including being the catalyst for other innovations and practical everyday uses.  In order to get there, the U.S. Hemp Authority TM  offers a training program to guide farmers and growers through the certification process.  This includes concepts such as ISO quality standards, good agricultural practices and quality management amongst other sources.

Where Food Comes From is extremely excited to be a part of the hemp boom alongside the U.S. Hemp Authority TM  to provide a new verification program that will instill confidence in hemp products. As we partner with farmers and growers we look forward to bringing certifications from seed to shelf.

Cattleman’s Choice Feedyard’s Story

 

It’s 2019 and we’re so glad that you’ve been following along and even rang in the new year with us together. For the last several weeks we’ve been promising to bring you some of the great stories behind where your food comes from and we’re excited to get to kick that off this week! Our mantra has always been, “every meal has a story” and if you’ve been reading along then I’m sure you realize that a story can touch many people, processes, farms and animals.  Our first story of the year features Cattleman’s Choice Feed Yard, Inc and the recent WFCF audit that took place there just a couple weeks ago.  Every meal has a story, and we’d like to tell you one that starts with the Moore family at CCFI.  

The Moore Family and Cattleman’s Choice
Originally, Dale Moore grew up as a typical Missouri farm kid—who ironically hated tractors. He began his career washing water tanks in 1990 in Scott City, KS, eventually learning every job there is on to learn on a feedyard. Mary Moore grew up in Overland Park, KS, and was a very successful real estate closer before giving it all up to follow Dale’s dream into an industry she knew nothing about. But almost 20 years later, she now knows more about it than most managers.

Dale and Mary purchased Cattleman’s Choice in 2000, starting with just 650 head of cattle. One hundred percent were customer-owned from the previous feedyard Dale left to pursue CCFI. And for the last two years, CCFI has been 100 percent full, averaging roughly ten thousand head with about 95 percent of customers preferring to retain ownership due to the success of participating in WFCF programs.

Dale and Mary’s dedication over the years has developed into a passion for helping cattleman improve cattle for the consumer. CCFI helps do this through fine-tuned feeding, strategic sorting, carcass data and genetics feedback, and overall herd management.

They never forget it was the customers who got them to where they are and are continuously inspired by their personal stories around their businesses.

Auditing Services
Where Food Comes From, Inc. audits the feedyard, Dale and Mary’s cow/calf operation, and roughly 90 percent of CCFI’s customers. Feeding programs include NHTC, Verified Natural Beef (previously referred to as NE3) BQA and the Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step Animal Welfare Review program for Whole Foods.

Benefits of WFCF
Originally, the Moore’s began working with WFCF after they started seeing the change in the industry from the consumer side. The reality of financially struggling trying to feed conventional cattle was there, so Dale and Mary knew they needed to adapt. The typical CCFI customer already met most of the requirements needed to qualify, so it was an easy decision and transition. The Moore’s see the benefits of third-party verification from both the success of the feedyard and customers in a very tough industry. They’re aware not all feedyards or ranches can do what they’re doing and still end up on top.  The Moore’s also acknowledge the consumer appreciation for what they do and are looking forward to seeing how WFCF helps the advancement and sustainability for the industry.

Every Meal Has A Story
Dale and Mary certainly have a truly unique and inspiring story and WFCF is grateful to be a part of it.  It is easy to see how their hard work and customer dedication has helped CCFI grow and succeed over the last two decades.  We’re excited in the coming months to have the opportunity to continue tell additional stories of farmers and ranchers who we work with to provide you transparent and authentic communication about by whom and how your food is produced.

 

 

Behind the Scenes of the Verification Process

Playlist on repeat, last check in the mirror, out the door you go headed to see your favorite band. You arrive at the venue ready to find the floor seats you secured, but there’s a quick detour to bag check.  By now, we are all too familiar with having our bags checked or items inspected as part of daily processes in many areas of our life. Surely you recall the lengthy security process at the airport boarding your last flight home from holiday break. Whether attending an event, jet setting to a vacation spot or even resetting that often forgotten online password, there is a process in place to ensure our security, transparency and wellbeing.  So why wouldn’t we apply certain procedures to the food we put into our bodies?

As you probably know, food verification and auditing are already happening.  One check at the labels on the food you buy will turn up several claims that are being verified by third party companies like Where Food Comes From.  But what goes into that process?  While we can see security taking a quick look into our handbags or checking our pocket contents, we can’t see how the verification and auditing of our food works. Today we are here to put more clarity into that for you.  So, pull up a seat at the table and grab your fork, this week we explore behind the scenes of our audit processes.

Who approves producers?

Customer Verification Specialists verify that farms and ranches are meeting the requirements of specific programs. A Customer Verification Specialist (CVS) is responsible for obtaining all of the correct documentation from farms and ranches prior to scheduling an auditor to visit their location.  All programs, aside from Source Verification, which is done via a desk audit, are required to undergo an on-site audit.  The CVS makes the final decision on approvals and the auditor they send out to the ranch simply reports their findings back to them.

Does someone go on-site to verify these things?

The CVS team will schedule auditors to go on site to review the checklist for certain programs. These programs can be non-hormone treated cattle, verified natural, animal welfare programs and more!  Once the auditor is on-site, they spend time getting to know the operation.  They review records, go over procedures, and visit pastures and pens.  It is important to note that these programs are voluntary. The producer chooses to participate in these programs because they know that consumers care about where their food comes from and they want certain attributes in their food products – no hormones/antibiotics, animal welfare claims, non-gmo, etc.

Now you know!

The audit process can be rigorous and takes hard work and attention to detail on all sides, but without it, there would not be a way to provide transparency through labeling.  From documentation that a CVS must sift through, to producer going above and beyond the traditional ways of running an operation, to sending auditors on-site, the verification process requires many honest, passionate, hard-working individuals.  So the next time you choose to eat third-party verified products from Whole Foods or protein that has no antibiotics, you can rest assured that your product has been verified by many individuals that care.

Now that you are equipped with a bit more insight and knowledge on the actual audit process, we invite you to virtually follow along on some of the audits with us.  Beginning this month, we will be highlighting a specific farm audit in our blog and on social media to give you some great photos and stories from our farmers and ranchers.   We truly believe that every meal has a story, and we are excited to share them with you.

It’s (Almost) A New Year – What’s Will You Focus On In 2019?

By now, most of us are probably settling down from all the shopping craze and holiday festivities, which means New Year’s Day is just around the corner.  The beginning of the year is the perfect time to start your new diet or finally learn how to meal prep.  In 2018, 45% of Americans surveyed vowed to lose weight or get in shape. Were you one of those 45%? Instead of going with a weight loss goal this year, maybe it’s time to get more specific, like setting daily step goals on that new Fitbit you got for Christmas or something as easy as getting more educated and informed about the food you’re eating.  While we can’t help with the Fitbit, there are several ways to educate yourself on food origin.

Setting a new year’s goal to get more educated on your food might seem difficult to put into practice. Where would you begin?  As you think about your food situation at home, you may start to realize that most people are disconnected about the origin of the food that they eat.  With less than 2% of our population directly involved in food production it’s easy to understand why people feel so disconnected.  However, the positive news is that over the last few years socially responsible practices have become increasingly more popular.  This includes animal welfare, worker care, environmental integrity and other important aspects of food production.  That’s one of the reasons why Where Food Comes From cares about bridging the consumer education gap by partnering with dozens of programs and organizations to help you take the guess work out of food origin and welfare label claims.

For example, our Validus Certified programs cover everything from animal food and water quality standards to housing that promotes animal comfort and cleanliness to environmental and worker care standards.  Our Animal Welfare Review programs for beef, swine and dairy farms focus specifically on the following:

 

So, if 2019 is the year for you to start making more informed food choices for your family, we’d like to help.  Give us a follow on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to learn about the services and programs we offer as well as some great behind the scenes looks at the farms and ranches that utilize our services.

Finally, as that countdown to New Year’s Day ticks ever closer, Where Food Comes From is making it our resolution, through our programs, to bring you more information about the food you’re eating.  Follow us into the new year as we take this food origin journey together. From all of us at Where Food Comes From we wish you a very Happy New Year!

Your Holiday Plate

“Brine the turkey, mash the potatoes, stir the cranberry sauce, don’t forget to let the pies cool!” Are you prepping for that epic holiday party?  Incorporating everyone’s traditions and recipes can be a little overwhelming.  Make sure you don’t leave out grandma’s famous eggnog scones or moms sweet potato pie. Who could forget those delicious desserts? This year start by planning a smart holiday meal with no fuss.  Here are a few tips to help you survive the food coma this holiday season.

Before we start down the grocery store aisle, let’s simplify your trip by first planning out your ingredient list.  If you’re sticking to the traditional route, you will most likely need plenty of green beans, potatoes, and baking sweets.  Are you going to tackle a large turkey or perhaps a glazed ham or maybe even chicken is your bird of choice this year? Whichever direction you take, Where Food Comes From has products in retailers like Whole Foods, Nugget Market, and Heinens so you can find verified products for your holiday meal.  What about verified products that tell a story about where they came from?  We can give you that too!

Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean you have to slack off from making informed choices about the foods you’re preparing.  Remember to do your research and even check out our site to learn more about the verification process and what to look for.  Our good friends at Whole Foods recently shared some menu planning ideas that might be ideal for your upcoming holiday meals.  Maybe you want to add a little citrus to your turkey brine or even add a touch of lime to that sweet potato casserole. Head over to their recipe section to check out some twists and tricks for your holiday meal.

Now you’ve planned out the meal, the grocery list is checked, and the food prep is in full swing. Just like you’re behind the scenes in the kitchen, Where Food Comes From is behind the scenes in a different way. We help verify thousands of food brands, ranches, and farms each year for a variety of programs and claims and we help them tell their story. You may have even noticed our own source verified logo while checking food labels at your grocer.  Visit our Brands page to hear their stories! 

“We take great pride in the specifications that go into the sourcing of our food products. We only accept the very best for our customers. The Where Food Comes From® labeling program helps us to provide our customers information about the source of our beef and pork products, and lets consumers learn firsthand about where, how and by whom their food was raised.”
–Tom Heinen, Heinen’s Fine Foods

Finally, as your putting the final touches on your meal before friends and family arrive, remember that every meal has a story just like those holiday stories you hold dear.  On behalf of Where Your Food Comes From, we want to wish you and your family a very happy holiday season.  Remember to follow our journey as we continue into 2019, you won’t want to miss out!

Your Holiday Shopping Cart

It’s that time of year again!  You’ve just finished your Thanksgiving meal, you’re exhausted, and you can’t even imagine eating another meal, yet you know that in a few short weeks you’ll be doing it all over again for December holidays.  Well, we’d like to give you some things to consider next week while you’re picking out chicken thighs for your grandma’s soup recipe or selecting the perfect steaks for the family members who are craving something different than turkey again.  Many of the meats you might consider will have many claims on their packaging to help you make a more informed decision.

Over the last decade, utilization of terms like “raised with care,” “farm fresh,” or “natural” have increased on meat packaging; because of this, consumers have begun questioning what these claims mean.  Many customers know little about where their food comes from.  What kind of care did that animal actually receive? Where did the animal sleep, how tightly packed were they and what did their diet consist of?  What steps were taken to ensure proper handling and transporting of that food?

That’s where we come in.   Where Food Comes From offers third-party verification services to hundreds of claims, programs, and markets. This includes claims that you are probably familiar with like Organic Certification, the Non-GMO Project, and Gluten Free as well as programs that you may not be familiar with like Safe Quality Food Initiatives and other process verified programs.  So, what is the real difference between verified and unverified claims by food producers?

First, let’s take a look at a two of the most common claims that we see on our meat packaging today.

Humanely Raised– There are no defined legal definition for this nor are there agreed specific standards on what the term “humane” should actually represent.

 

No Hormones or Hormone Free– It’s important to note that every chicken processing plant could utilize this claim regardless of other conditions because USDA bans the use of hormones in all chicken production. It is also important to note that this doesn’t necessarily provide you the entire story about the chickens living conditions and/or health because it is not an animal welfare focused claim.

The terms food companies use, like the ones mentioned above, can seem a little misleading and are the statements alone are not validated by transparent third-party verification steps.  However, you shouldn’t let that discourage you from seeking out information about food claims that can be verified. Educating yourself is the first step to making more informed food choices for you and your family.

A few labels that are focused around animal welfare that are third-party verified include American Humane, Global Animal Partnership (GAP) 5-Step Animal Welfare Review and Validus Animal Welfare Review.

Global Animal Partnership 5-Step Animal Welfare Review –  this program defines animal welfare as 3 overlapping components – health and productivity, natural living and emotional well-being.  By defining animal welfare, it helped them identify and improve farming and ranching systems and practices. The program is tiered in a 5-Step system.

 

American Humane Certified – this program provides third-party, independent audits to help verify that certified producers’ care and handling of farm animals meet the science-based animal welfare standards of American Humane Association.  The program provides ongoing outreach to farmers in the implementation of the best humane practices for animals.

 

Validus Animal Welfare Review – this program is awarded to farms that follow strict guidelines concerning the ways and conditions in which animals are raised for meat, dairy and swine. The farms that receive this certification undergo a detailed assessment and audit of their on-farm practices.  To see specifically what gets evaluated on farm, you can view the standard online.

So, when you go to the grocery store next week, take an extra second or two to check out the claims on packages.  Look for claims that are verified.  If you find yourself questioning a claim you can head on over to our site to check out some of the other verification and certification programs we offer our services for.

Remember, verification matters!

It’s All About The Label

Non-GMO Project, USDA Organic, Gluten-Free, how do I know these animals were raised humanly – does this list of qualities sound familiar? If so, you’re probably trying to decipher the certification seals on your food products. The main thing about understanding a food verification label is knowing what to look for.  Once you’ve accomplished that it’s easier to make more specific choices for you and your family and they’ll be choices you know you can trust.  So, do you ever wonder “where does my food come from?”

If so, great news – you’re in the right spot!  Where Food Comes From is ramping up our effort to take you on a weekly journey of discovery, bridging the gap between farm and fork.  While we pride ourselves as being the most trusted third-party verification company and also a unique labeling program, we also realize there is a need to help consumers understand what labels mean for them and their family.  How do we truly help connect consumers to the food they eat like never before? Well, we are here to put your mind at ease and accurately tell you the story behind where your food comes from because, well, verification matters!

Let’s begin with our Where Food Comes From® Source Verified label.  Every product with our label has gone through an extensive audit and verification process to ensure the products are traceable back to the families that produced them.  You deserve to know where your food comes from just like they do.  Over the coming weeks and months, we will tell you some of their stories mixed with some insightful, and hopefully interesting, information about the food products that carry our label.   We’re not your ordinary label – we’re much more.

94% Consumers Indicated They Associated a Positive Emotion/Trait with The Where Food Comes From ® Label.    

                              – Where Food Comes From® Consumer Feedback 

As a consumer, you’re passionate about food more than ever, which ultimately leads to greater expectations.  Consumers like you need to know that Where Food Comes From approved companies and ranches have your best interest at heart when it comes to producing, processing and the transporting of your food.  This is why we partner with multiple brands, stores, and restaurants to share their authentic stories.

Get a jumpstart on putting your family’s 2019 lifestyle into action by following our weekly blogs and social media channels as we begin tackling common consumer questions – and if you have a question, reach out to us at socialmedia@wherefoodcomesfrom.com and we’ll do our best to get it answered.  Remember, every meal has a story, and we look forward to helping you discover them!

 

 

Certified American Grown Celebrates 4th Anniversary!

Certified American Grown celebrated its 4th anniversary this month, which coincided with American Grown Flowers Month, which was promoted at over 1,200 stores across the country!  CAG continues to see dramatic growth as it now represents over half of the domestic cut flower and foliage production.  Where Food Comes From has been the exclusive verification partner for CAG since August 2017 and we are excited for what the future holds.

Check out Certified American Grown’s most recent press release, and learn more about their upcoming award-winning Field to Vase Dinner Tours here.