Today I will share with you a little bit of the reasons why we do not certify our eggs of our meat chickens. Now as you will see this can get a little tricky because we get into "who's telling the truth, and who isn't". Well my friends, I hate to sound like a broken record, but that is the primary reason you need to shake hands with your farmer and really get to know their code of ethics. Or as I say do the "kitchen cupboard or bathroom medicine cabinet test" that will give you a pretty good indication of where they are at when it comes to taking care of their own health and what they do with their health they are likely doing with their animals health.
Why don't we certify our chickens? Well due to some lovely laws put in place for supply management (and price stability for farmers who pay quota), small farms are only permitted to grow 300 meat birds per year. The lowest entry point to grow within a supply managed system, (or to grow more than 300) is about 90,000 birds per year. Quota is measured in "units" and is 74.00/unit (1 unit = 13kg). So as you can see the numbers can get pretty high really quick.
Given we are permitted to raise only 300 birds per year, we would have to pay extra for the certification, we'd have to pay extra for processing at a facility that is inspected and certified for that purpose. We already feed them organic feed, we already do not give them any hormones in their feed, we mix our own feed, and we request that our broilers be not vaccinated (which you can only do if they are not the white rocks, the certain breed of bird that is known for its rapid weight gain - as they apparently cant survive without vaccination, and they are not permitted to sell them without vaccination - according to hatchery). So we go with heritage breed birds. If we were to certify our birds organic we would be making even less than we are now on them. We don't feed corn, and we give them organic minerals and supplements. I am sure not to sell them as "Organically certified" birds, but they sure are raised on a certified Organic farm. We do sell Eggs into retail environments, but it is usually accompanied with a whole story about how they are raised and while its not the best, we hope that conscientious shoppers take the time to read how we raise our egg layers). Due to the watering down of the term by people who are using natural and organic and local interchangeably, we have opted not to certify them. However that requires that you and I need to have a conversation about whats important to you and how I raise the birds, to see if there is a match. I am careful not to sell the birds into an environment such as a retail environment that would make that conversation not possible because I wouldn't want to lose that connection to the consumer as I want to have them rest assured that we are doing everything we can to provide a healthy bird (above and beyond organic requirements - eg/ Vaccination is allowed in organic, we do not vaccinate). When you DO find organic chicken in the store, you can rest assured it was raised in a long barn, it was supposed to have access to outside, but I know of many circumstances where they do not. Often times even when they do have access to outside the birds have been so genetically selected for production their "chicken-ness" is gone, they don't bother walking around even when given the chance to. So I have to wonder if these "Organically Certified" large scale productions are really what the idea was behind organic labeling in the first place. On top of that if its relatively simple to get certified organic chicken, you have to wonder then what these naturally raised operations are doing, if its obviously less than the certification standard.
So there you have it, we aren't allowed to produce the quantity that would make our overhead costs worth it,(but on a responsible scale that would still allow us to produce a quality product) and so we opt not to certify, which may make us less credible at a farmers market, but in the long run its just not worth it. So is your farmer not certifying because his profit margins are so small or is he or she not certifying because the paperwork is too much, what is the reason? Are you ok with naturally raised, given there are so many varying degrees of natural?
Articles outlining the issues
Local Food Plus