Good, Clean and Fair

July 30, 2007

I am reading Carlos Petrini’s Slow Food Nation: Why Our Food Should be Good, Clean, and Fair. He articulates our work better than anyone. As producers of grassfed beef, we are often misunderstood. People ask why we are not certified organic. Petrini understands the hurdles small producers face to become certified organic:

“Organic farming is undoubtedly a very good thing: it is an excellent alternative to agroindustry, and I do not like to find fault with people – my friends (at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market) of that morning – who sell products that are so naturally good. But perhaps it is better to have doubts. Reality is complex and resists labels.” (p. 134)

Our reality is that we lease four of the five ranches we run cattle on. Two of them are state parks and one is also used for conventioanl strawberry farming (by the owner) – making organic certification of the land a task that involves many more people than ourselves. When you do not own the land, it is difficult to control every aspect of what happenes on it. The pastures we manage are – of course – free of pesticides, GMOs and other organic certification violations. Our butchers, too, the “processors” portion of our production model, must also be certified organic in order for us to use the USDA label.  As small, family-owned artisan butchers, not all of them are certfied organic, although all are inspected by the state or USDA and run immaculate facilities.

As we grow, we plan to have these areas certified, but Petrini understands the “complex realities” we face.  With two and a half people running the cattle, managing the land (8,000 acres), maintaining the infrastructure, keeping the books, servicing the customers, and marketing the product – the time and energy to get certified organic is simply not there.  To date, the first person relationships we have with our customers have served as a better verification than a third-party label.

We have worked to establish national “grassfed standards” with the USDA, something we believe will be more applicable to our product than the organic label becasue it will address humane treatment and access to open spaces – two crucial elements of our process that organic standards do not cover. Log on to www.americangrassfed.org to learn more about these standards and to our website, www.morrisgrassfed.com to see our open spaces and organic (non-certified) pastures.

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Lake Tahoe Moon

July 29, 2007

Local food in Lake Tahoe is delicious. Our annual sojourn to the lake after 11 months of working on the ranch rejuvenates us. Last night we feasted on barbecued spare ribs from a farm in Northern California and a fresh, organic spring mix salad – paired with a glass of Mirassou Pinot Noir from Modesto.  Granted, summer vacation seems to make all things taste better and the views of Lake Tahoe do not hurt the atmosphere. Last night’s moon was a sliver shy of full and the sky was clear, leaving a glowing reflection on the lake below.  We are so spoiled to be surrounded by such beauty and good eats that I never cease to feel a sense of easy contentment while here.

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