From a detailed application to on-site inspections, the process for getting a USDA Organic Certification for farmers, producers, and handlers involves a number of steps. Let’s take a look at the standards livestock producers must meet for their beef to qualify as Certified Organic.
Overview of Becoming Certified Organic and Steps
The USDA Certified Organic program helps ensure the integrity of organic products, which means producers must follow a lengthy and stringent process.
A field is eligible for organic status if no prohibited materials have been applied for a period of 36 months. Certifying the land is one of the first steps toward producing Certified Organic meat after a producer follows organic practices for at least three years. That process can be divided into the steps1 below:
- The producer fills out and submits an application to an independent certifying agency. As part of the application, the producer must provide several pieces of documentation:
- Organic System Plan (OSP), a description of your farm and explains the practices farmers use to manage their farms.
- An accurate map of all farm acreage and production units
- A description of their operation
- For first time applicants, a history of materials or substances applied to the land or fields
- Operator agreement agreeing to adhere to the USDA organic regulations
- A report, estimate, or organic yield and sales report or estimate, to assist with future audits
This helps the certifying agent figure out whether the producer can meet the necessary requirements.
- An agent reviews the application for compliance. Once the certifying agent determines the producer may qualify for Organic Certification, the certifying agent sends an inspector to the ranch or farm.
- Note: A certifying agent is an organization accredited by the USDA responsible for ensuring all USDA organic products consistently meet standards. For example, many thinkpure® organic beef products are certified by Quality Assurance International (QAI), an independent, USDA-accredited organization.
- An inspector conducts an on-site visit and inspects the entire operation, including land, sales, and purchase records for livestock, birth and health records, feeding plans, including harvest or storage or feed-purchase records, animal living conditions, and preventative health measures. inspectors also review the number of cattle and current wellbeing of the animals, and compliance with USDA regulations.
- The certifying agency reviews the inspection report and issues organic certification to the producer or suspends or revokes organic certificate for failure to meet standards.
Producers must renew their certification each year, which includes updating their Organic System Plan, addressing any unresolved noncompliance issues, paying the annual fees, and completing the annual inspection.
Organic cattle requirements include the following:
- Feed that contains 100-percent organic agricultural products
- Living conditions that accommodate the health and natural behavior of the animals
- Access to outdoors, direct sunlight, fresh air, and room to exercise
- Access to pasture during the grazing season—at least 120 days of the year
thinkpure Certified Organic Beef
With both natural and Certified Organic products, thinkpure prides itself on fostering a positive relationship with our animals and our land. Cattle in our organic program are fed 100% organic feed and forage with room to roam and the opportunity to engage in their natural behaviors.
What’s more, thinkpure organic beef products are an excellent source of protein and 10 essential nutrients, which every person needs for a healthy lifestyle. Learn more about our natural and Certified Organic beef products and raising practices.
Check out the where to buy page to find thinkpure Certified Organic beef near you.
1Organic Certification of Farms and Businesses Producing Agricultural Products. Ann H. Baier, NCAT, November 2012.