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Posts tagged: organic

USDA Graded Cage-Free Eggs: All They’re Cracked Up To Be

Certified Egg Facts infographic

AMS verifies cage-free claims for shell eggs by visiting the farms twice each year to ensure that the eggs are in fact coming from a cage-free flock. (Click to view a larger version)

When it comes to purchasing eggs, consumers have interests that go well beyond what they see in the carton.  For many buyers, where that egg came from and how it was produced are just as important as the finished product.  Organic, locally produced, cage-free, and free range are just a few of the marketing claims consumers will find on the carton, as producers try to communicate the attributes of their product.  To provide additional assurance to their customers of the validity of marketing claims, shell egg producers often enlist the services of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

In recent months, a long list of large volume food buyers – including restaurants, grocers, distributors and more – have announced they will transition to sourcing eggs and egg products only from cage-free production systems.  You can learn more about this trend in a recent USDA Blog post.  Many shell egg suppliers have already found a way to assure customers that products marketed as cage-free are indeed sourced from such systems: when USDA Graded eggs are also identified as cage-free, they must undergo a review process to verify the claim is truthful. Read more »

Growing Farmers

Suraj Budathoki

Suraj Budathoki grew up farming next to a Bhutanese refugee camp. MFA’s Farmer Training Program helped him to pursue his passion for sustainable farming in MN. Photo by Laura Hedeen, employee at Minnesota Food Association.

Fresh. Local. Honest. This motto underscores the guiding philosophy of the Minnesota Food Association (MFA). To achieve its goals of promoting healthy food and regenerative agriculture, the MFA offers workshops for farmers and helps immigrants learn how to farm sustainably in local conditions.

The MFA manages Big River Farms, a 150-acre certified-organic teaching farm. Farmers can enroll in a three-year training program, during which they’re taught about local soils and growing conditions, trained in organic certification and farming methods, and provided a large plot of land to manage. Many of the farmers are immigrants and refugees.

“I thought America was all cities and buildings. I didn’t picture the farmland,” said Suraj Budathoki, a Bhutanese refugee from Nepal. He is a recent graduate of Big River Farms. Read more »

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Understanding the USDA Organic Label

Amidst nutrition facts, ingredient lists, and dietary claims on food packages, “organic” might appear as one more piece of information to decipher when shopping for products.  Understanding what the organic label means can help shoppers make informed purchasing choices.

Organic is a labeling term found on products that have been produced using cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that support the cycling of on-farm resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – enforces the organic regulations, ensuring the integrity of the USDA Organic Seal. Read more »

Plenty! of Good Ideas for Growing and Sharing Healthy Food

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

Plenty! volunteers deliver homemade canned soup and apples to neighbors with school-aged kids. When schools are closed due to weather, families relying on school lunch and breakfast can really use this extra help.

In Southwest Virginia, a unique agricultural operation seeks to provide something that many in the community don’t have … plenty. The 18-acre combination vegetable farm/food bank/food hub on the Little River welcomes all to sample the bounty of sustainably-grown products.

Plenty! Farm began with a trip to a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). I was interested in taking extra beet greens to the local food pantry and was surprised to learn that no one had the ability to receive the vegetables or a means to distribute them. That’s when McCabe Coolidge and I began to collect unsold or extra produce from local farmers and gardeners. Read more »

A Moment in Time Look at Organic Retail Prices

Organic "dinosaur" kale grown at Ground Stew Farms in San Martin, Monterey County, CA

AMS plays an integral role by providing organic data, standards, and other resources to small producers and consumers across the country.

Consumers can find certified organic products at most grocery stores and demand for organic products continues to increase, with U.S. retail sales valued at more than $43 billion in 2015.  Organic products are grown, raised and produced by over 31,000 certified operations, and many of those operations receive higher prices, or premiums, for their products.

Recently, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) issued a report entitled Changes in Retail Organic Price Premiums from 2004 to 2010.  The report highlights the retail price premium charged for organic foods compared to conventional products.  For the report, ERS used a virtual shopping basket of 17 products and data collected from Nielsen scanners to calculate the organic prices and how they changed from 2004-2010. Read more »

A Conversation with USDA Leader Elanor Starmer

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service

Elanor Starmer, Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud that her agency creates opportunities and provides tools for American organic producers to sell their products at home and abroad.

Elanor Starmer is the Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which facilitates the strategic marketing of agricultural products in the U.S. and internationally. Prior to becoming AMS Administrator, Starmer was a Senior Advisor to Secretary Tom Vilsack and has been with the department since 2011. This interview focused on AMS’s National Organic Program.

“The USDA isn’t one or the other, it’s all of the above. We serve organic producers, non-organic producers and everyone else as well as we possibly can.” – Elanor Starmer Read more »