A few days ago we were asked by a customer from the market, what the difference was between certified organic meat and natural meat. This is a question that we are often asked and so we thought we would explain the difference between natural and certified organic.
To be certified organic you have to be certified under an independent organic certifying body. Certified organic farms are audited and inspected annually by third party independent inspectors from their certifying body. We are also subject to spot inspections from the certifying body. We have to meet the stringent standards set out in the Canadian National Organic Standards, that are administered by the Canadian Food Inspection (CFIA). All our feed suppliers have to be certified organic and inspected.
Natural farms have no inspections and do not have to meet any specific standards. It is up to the producer to decide what makes them natural. This can vary widely from producer to producer.
GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) are not allowed in organic production. Therefore all products used in the production of the animals and any products such as spices, honey and maple syrup used in the sausages are GMO free. All feed that we give our animals must also be certified organic and non-GMO.
GMO’s are not prohibited in natural production as there is no set of standards that regulates what natural is. Therefore it is very likely that if the animals are fed non organic feed then GMO’s are present in the feed. Common feed sources that are genetically modified include, corn, soy, canola meal or alfalfa. Any products that are used in the making of sausages, or other meat products could also contain GMO, an example of this is sugar. If sugar is added to the natural sausages it could come from GMO beets. http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/what-is-gmo/
The Canadian Organic Standards have an animal welfare component. This includes no caged chickens, no pigs in gestation crates or animals in feedlots. Animals have to have access to fresh air, sunshine and grass as is weather appropriate. We have to meet these standards in order to pass inspection. We have taken the extra step of being certified humane through the BC SPCA. Our farm goes beyond the organic standards by following the even higher standard of the BC SPCA (http://www.spca.bc.ca/welfare/farm-animal-welfare/spca-certified/)
In Natural production there is no standard for animal welfare and there is no inspection to ensure animal welfare. Cages, gestation crates and feedlots can be used. Access to the sun, fresh air and grass are not mandated. It is up to the producer to decide what animal welfare practices are natural.
There are many things that are not allowed in organic production. Antibiotics are not allowed in certified organic production. They are not allowed to be added to the feed or administered to any animal that is certified organic at any age. Also the honey that we use is certified organic this means that no antibiotics or chemicals have been applied to bees. Artificial growth hormones or steroids are not allowed. We are not allowed to use any artificial growth hormones at any time during the life of the animal. Chemical herbicides, pesticides and fungicides are not allowed. This means that the land that the animals graze has had no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. The land has to be free of these chemicals for three years prior to certification. The feed that the certified organic animals are fed have not had any chemical herbicides, pesticides or fungicides. It also means that all the spices that we use and all the honey and maple syrup have had no chemical herbicides, pesticides or fungicides applied to them. We are inspected and tested to ensure this.
With no standard that defines what natural is, it is entirely up to the producer to decide what will or will not be used on his land and animals. Antibiotics could be used in natural production as an appetite stimulant. Hormones could be used in natural production as there is no standards that prohibit the use of them. Chemical herbicides and pesticides could be used in natural production. Herbicides and pesticides could be used on the land, animals and feed given to them.
In certified organic products, artificial colours, artificial flavours, msg, and chemical preservatives such as nitrites nitrates, sodium eryrobate, sulphates and sulphites are not allowed. We do not use celery salt extract or cultured celery extract as these are a form of nitrite. In natural products the ingredients can include any of these products. There are no regulations that state what can and cannot be used in products labelled natural.
The differences between natural and organic is a question that we often get and I think the best way to put it is that Certified Organic products have a set standard of rules that they have to follow in order to pass inspection and be able to call themselves Certified Organic. For natural products there are no rules and no inspection. It is entirely up to the producer to decide what makes them natural.