Barnstorming: The Basics

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

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I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.

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Holy cow! I’ve learned so much today about organics, farming, and cows today. It’s literally going to take me days and days to recap everything on my blog. There’s so much to tell ya about!

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With so much information to share, I figured it would be best to start my recap with the basics. After breakfast this morning, Nancy gave the group a presentation about cows and what it means to be organic. I was pretty surprised by how much I didn’t know about both of these subjects! 😯

Cows 101

  • Cows are female.
  • Cows get pregnant once a year.
  • Cows have 305 days of milk production and 60 days of rest before “freshening” (giving birth to a calf).
  • Rest period is called “dry cow.” (During this time, organic cows hang out and graze.)
  • Milking does not hurt cows.
  • Organic cows are (typically) milked 2 times per day; conventional are milked 3 times per day.
  • Life average life expectancy of a conventional cow is 4 years; organic cows can live well beyond 10 years.

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What does ‘organic’ really mean?

  • Natural methods of pest control
  • Low-levels of environmental pollution
  • No GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
  • Humane treatment of animals (i.e. access to outdoors)

If the ‘organic‘ label is used on food, it must meet the USDA organic standards, which include a number of key attributes:

  • Prohibits the use of toxic and persistent pesticides, antibiotics growth hormones, GMOs, sludge, and irradiation.
  • Requires a 3-year transition of land from non-organic to organic. This means the land on which the cows are raised must not have prohibited substances applied for 3 years prior. Cows must be fed and treated to meet organic standards (access to outdoors, 100% organic feed, etc.) for a full 12 months before their milk can be sold as organic.
  • Adheres to one of the three types of organic labels

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Learning about the three types of organic labels was really interesting. I just figured that if something was labeled ‘organic,’ then it was organic. Well, it turns out that the USDA has created 3 different levels of ‘organic’ for consumers:

  • 100% organic: Products are made entirely with certified organic ingredients and methods. These products can display the USDA organic seal.
  • Organic: Products with at least 95% organic ingredients can use the word ‘organic.’ These products can also display the USDA organic seal.
  • Made with organic ingredients:” Products that contain a minimum of 70% organic ingredients can be labeled “made with organic ingredients.” These products can display the logo of the certification body that approved them.

If products have less than 70% organic ingredients, they cannot advertise it as organic. But, they can mention that the product contains organic ingredients (if that is the case). For instance, a cereal “made with organic raisins.”

I was particularly surprised to learn that the label ‘natural‘ means absolutely nothing! Even though this label is often associated with having no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, etc., it’s not regulated by the US government, so it can be placed on pretty much any product. I had no idea! I thought the term at least meant something!

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My goodness, I still have so much more to blog about!! This post is just the tip of the iceberg! Lots more to come! Stay tuned!

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48 Comments

  1. So interesting! I hate how food marketers can use any term they want to sell their product…we learned about it in my nutrition class…as long as it doesn’t say anything about preventing a specific kind of illness or disease, they can pretty much say whatever they want :-/

  2. ILOVERMONT! <3! Makes me want to be home visiting my fam right now!

    Creemees (soft serve) are a very popular Vermont summer treat – I wonder if any creemee stands are organic?! HAVE FUN!

  3. too bad nobody actually enforces these rules, for the most part, and “access to the outdoors” could mean a door that’s kept locked or that is too small for the animals to fit through.

  4. This post is such perfect timing- last night I had a conversation with one of my dad’s friends who worked on a dairy farm in the 70s, and a lot has changed in 40 years! Back then, all cows were only milked twice a day, and they lived in pastures when they weren’t being milked. It’s great to know that organic cows are still treated that way! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip!

  5. It’s so awesome you’re doing this and sharing the information with people! After working in the health food/supplements industry for 15 years, I’m still amazed at the number of people who don’t know what organic means, the fact that “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean anything, etc. The industry has grown SO much over the last few years, but I still hear people throwing the word organic around in reference to any random thing in a health food store- it’s kind of funny to me, actually, but I still try to explain it to most people. I cringe whenever I browse through stores like the Body Shop (usually while I’m waiting at the airport, just to look) and their employees tell me everything is “natural” or “organic”- sometimes I just bite my lip, even though I probably should say something. “Chemicals” is another funny buzz word- If someone ever explains a product to you by saying “it doesn’t have any chemicals in it”, they probably have no idea what they’re talking about 😉

  6. I’m lucky to say that I’ve visited quite a few dairy farms — both conventional and organic, small- and large-scale. Most dairy farms, at least in the Midwest, milk their cows only once a day. That’s because most dairy farms are family owned, and they don’t have the time to milk their cows constantly. (A little dairy trivia — More than 90 percent of U.S. dairy farms are family owned, according to USDA.) Just one more clarification, the USDA’s “organic” label doesn’t mean that the product is more environmentally friendly or that the animals are more humanely raised. The “conventional” dairy farms I’ve visited do a great job of taking care of their cows and protecting the environment. I love dairy farms, and it’s so much fun to read a “newbie’s” perspective. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Hey Tina! Let us know if you hear anything about organic farms using ‘lye’ as a pesticide. Someone told me it is acceptable according to gov’t standards but I’m not real sure… THX!

  8. Wonderful and informative post!
    Seeing these two points makes me happy I only drink organic:
    Organic cows are (typically) milked 2 times per day; conventional are milked 3 times per day.
    Life average life expectancy of a conventional cow is 4 years; organic cows can live well beyond 10 years.

  9. Too bad that so many so called organic dairies are anything but. Thank you USDA for weakening organic standards of states that had good ones. Stonyfield is one of the good ones but anyone who buys Horizon milk is being snowed. Honestly if you have the option of a local organic dairy you should take it over the commercial ones, too many are dishonest and the USDA is weak at best.
    Thanks for the info Tina I like the stats on how much longer organic dairy cows live.

  10. aw! Looks like a blast! I bet you (and us through you!) will have a whole new appreciation for organic products after this trip. Missed seeing you last night at the Boston Blogger Meet up!

  11. i so wish i could have gone on that tour with you girls! and i love all the info…i definitely need to do more research on organics!

  12. Teehee, I kinda love the “cows are female” fact. Do people really not know that? And it’s fascinating to know that conventional cows are milked more often…

  13. Wow, I didn’t know that about the term “natural”! I’ll be looking more for the word organic as in “made with”, now! 😀 Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Wei-Wei

  14. I like how you defined what constitutes “organic” and “natural” and how “natural” doesn’t have any real legality in it. Basically when I look at something that says, “all natural,” I look at the ingredients list. Sometimes I’m less than impressed!

  15. I love this stuff! and I love that i knew everything you said here! i can’t wait for more info and tips. That whole ‘natural’ thing always makes me so mad! There should be standards for that!

  16. I love learning about this kind of stuff. More reasons for me to buy organic… 🙂
    Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  17. I can’t believe that the term “natural” pretty much means nothing!! And it’s very interesting that there are 3 levels of organic products. Thanks for sharing so much great info with us….I look forward to reading more! 🙂

  18. I am constantly telling people about the non-meaning of “natural” so I’m glad to see you mention it!

    I can’t wait to read more of what you’ve learned!

  19. When I wanted to switch to organic milk, I skipped the store altogether. I found a local farmer in my area who sells raw milk, went to visit the farm, met the cows, and know exactly where my milk comes from now. It tastes amazing and I know that the cows it comes from are grass fed on an open pasture.

  20. What a great post! I recently did a post about the situation with “organic” in Australia, what it means and how to make sure what you are buying is, in fact, certified organic! It sounds as though US and Australia share some similar laws/ requirments!

  21. The section under “Cows 101” does that apply to all organic dairy cows or are you speaking specially about Stonyfield farm?

  22. The section under “Cows 101” does that apply to all organic dairy cows or are you speaking specifically about Stonyfield farm?

  23. Thanks for the fabulous information! I did have a question though 🙂 Did they say what happens to the calves after the cows give birth? My sister is a very strict vegan and activist and we often have discussions about this (as I am not a vegan and drink local, organic milk). I would love to hear how they handle the calves. Thanks!

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