Certifiable - why trustmarks matter

Certifiable - Why Trustmarks Matter

Wading through the hundreds of labels & claims on an item of food is a daunting task. There are trustmarks for everything....where it comes from (local, country of origin), it's pedigree (heritage, non-GM,)  the production method (free-range, free-run, pastured, biodynamic, humane, permaculture, ecological, natural, organic, shade-grown), how workers are treated (fair trade), cultural or religious requirements (kosher, halal) it's content (gluten-free, peanut-free) and many more.

While it would be nice to be able to take everything on face value, now that I'm on the farming & sales side of things, I see how some businesses and companies take advantage of the confusion over labelling to sell us 'food as usual' or even worse, outright lie.

Though it's challenging to make sense of it all, I believe that as ethical eaters who are concerned about the health of ourselves, our communities and our environment that we have a responsibility to try.  This is where certification and trustmarks are important because it means that an independent 3rd party has inspected the farm and CERTIFIED that the claims are true. 

In our post about '5 things to think about when buying chicken' we covered how chickens (or any meat for that matter) is raised and questions you can ask.  Not all of those have a certification, but here are several that our farm (which is just over a year old) has made the effort to achieve in order to validate your trust.  We're listing them in order that we received the certification, providing a brief description and and we're including the cost because one of the things you often hear is that 'it's too expensive' to get certified.

While writing this, we discovered this great website - www.lexiconoffood.com - that is dedicated to making sense of it all. 

As always, we're happy to answer questions and discuss the ins & outs and successes & failures of our food system. 
Dave & Em

 

 
CFI Artisanal Chicken
In Canada, chickens are supply-managed (like dairy & eggs) and to raise more than 300 you need quota.  Anyone can raise under 300, but they can only sell at their farm.  The Artisanal Chicken program is managed by the Chicken Farmers of Ontario and was introduced in 2016.  It allows small farms to raise up to 3,000 without buying quota.  Farmers pay a small fee per bird and get audited on 195+ criteria that covers safety, biosecurity, animal welfare and ability to manage reams of paper.
Cost:  $0.25 per chicken + HST
FeastON
FeastON is managed by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance.  It's a certification you're more likely to see with restaurants & caterers than you are with farmers.  They verify that restaurants are sourcing at least 25% of food and 25% of beverage from Ontario.
This year, our farm became a Preferred Purveyor, meaning that if a restaurant sources from us that it's guaranteed to be from Ontario (making their audit a bit easier).
Cost:  $1,000 + HST
MyPick
Managed by the Farmers Markets Ontario, this verifies that 100% of the food being sold by a farmer at a farmers market comes from that farm.
Cost:  $100 + HST

Certified Organic
*IMPORTANT* we are not certified organic!
So why am I including this?  Well, our birds are fed a certified organic grains and so I look for this certification.  This means that we can be confident the grains are non-GM and free from harmful chemicals like glysophate (aka Round-Up).  A recent landmark case shows why this important.  Non-GM feed is not good enough for us - it can still be sprayed with harmful chemicals and as farmers, we have to be concerned not just about the health of our farm and workers but that of our suppliers and customers.
Organic is a set of standards for how food is grown, transported & processed.  There are several certifying bodies that inspect a farm or processor.  We're not certified (yet) because we have to demonstrate that the sawdust we use for mushrooms are certified organic and that our processor & butcher can adhere to these standards.  All of that significantly increases our costs and we're not in a position to make this investment yet.
Costs:  $300 for local vegetable farmers that are only selling in Ontario (ProCert)
$3000+ is the estimated cost for our farm (there is no local affordable option for mushrooms or meat).