Organic Direct has been very good to me, providing me with beef, lamb and chicken with their once-per-month deliver service. However, it was hard to know how much I would need to order, and would end up running low, and have to supplement from the local, pricey butcher... Cut to the end - it just wasn't convenient.
I had been keen to make a direct-to-farm connection for quite a while, but since I prefer to use the Internet, and farmers aren't always great at maintaining an online presence, I struggled to find a farm that inspired me. However, a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across Gippsland Lean Beef, now run through The Farmers Market by Farmer Dan. As he espouses via his site, he believes in farms that maintain very high standards of sustainability, nurturing and nourishment. His animals are humanely raised and treated, given access to range freely in uncontaminated pastures, allowed to feed on grasses and are not supplemented by grains at any point, free of hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. And the added bonus - this "beyond organic" approach is not only the healthiest and most environmentally-friendly option around, but he even manages to offer his customers affordable prices thanks to his choice not to purchase organic certification! His site also draws on supplementary supply from other like-minded beef and lamb farmers that meet his strict criteria, so it's great to know I'm supporting a community directly with my purchases.
Farmer Dan (above, left) & I had an email back & forth before I made my first order (which you can view in its enormity in my previous post), and here is his answer to my big question:
GGP: So what's the difference between your product & what's certified as 'organic' in the Australian market today?
The difference between us and organic is quite simple. We grow our cattle and lamb naturally in a free range environment without the use of hormones, antibiotics or rumen manipulators.
1. Our prices are much cheaper.
2. We do not use grains to finish our cattle – We finish them on pasture. The rumen of cattle is not designed for grain but for pasture. Grain is an unnatural method of fattening cattle. We grow our cattle using natural methods. If you use grain you must use a rumen manipulator.
3. Certain parts of the organic standard allow for exemptions which we don’t agree should be allowed.
4. You purchase cattle from someone else that have had chemical on them and keep them on your farm for a period of time and they are classified as organic – this is not right.
5. You can use Gibberelic acid to spray on your pasture to make it grow quicker and then feed it to your cattle and you are still organic - this is wrong.
6. The organic standard does not go far enough in the way animals are treated throughout the production process.
7. Have a look at the organic standard and you might be surprised.
Of course, we would easily make the standard. What stops us is the cost. We have to pay very large fees to register and then they want a gross percentage of our turnover. I object to this. This is the reason organic products are very expensive. There are a group of people setting a standard that they perceive to be right and they want a gross percentage of my turnover. To them it is a business proposition. They make money to keep themselves in a job. For us it is a passion. We love what we do knowing that we are providing a food source that has been humanely produced without the use of chemicals or hormones. I don’t think they understand how hard the work is to produce a quality animal. All these big businesses are the same, they want easy money while someone else is doing all the hard work. We are happy to supply excellent quality meat at a reasonable price. I would rather take a lower price and make our produce more widely available than to exclusive to a few. We are not the only farmers out there that think this way. All we want to do is remain sustainable and maintain our lifestyle not to make a million dollars.
I was planning a trip to Farmer Dan's farm to check out his workings for myself but, as luck would have it, another blogger has done the job for me! The writer of Cows In Clover chose Dan for her first farm to check out in her search of happy and healthy meat (also her pen-name), and has constructed a detailed review of the workings of the farm. Perfect! And, judging by the Farmers Market site, Dan is using his connections with like-minded local farmers to expand his delivery service's offerings. Cows In Clover suggests that offal will soon be readily available - Dan already threw in a lamb kidney in my delivery, so I'm looking forward to using that in an up-coming culinary experiment... Hopefully I'll have a chance tomorrow to play around with a couple of ideas I've been theorising, regarding two certain old favourites that still make me drool when I'm at a party... Hint hint!