Warning: This article is LONG. I am warning you because I know that attention spans are short...but you should read it, ok?
The short version is that we are upgrading our butter (again! Never stop upgrading!) and re-prioritizing our certifications. When we have the opportunity to get Organic Butter that meets our standards, we will release it in limited batches.
Organic. Our trusty ol' stand bye. Once upon a time, it meant you could rely on a certain quality. Once upon a time, it meant that the product inside was better than conventional counter-parts...but this is not a fairy tale. This is your food and we are VERY serious about it.
So, when we tell you that we are dropping this certification, your first reaction might be disappointment or worry, but before you go there, please stick with us as we walk you through this extremely-important decision.
For some time now, the Organic Cream supply in the US has been shrinking. This is not so much due to lack of cows or farms, as it has to do with two really big things (and some others, that we won't go into detail on here):
- Climate Change and Poor Grazing Practices
- Monopolization of Organic cream
To start with number 1: Climate change has made dairy farming challenging as cows are forced into hot fields, where the cow gets stressed out. Stressed cows produce less milk. But this is kind of a snake-eating-its tail thing, where the feed grown, growing feeds are increasing emissions and speeding climate change further. Add to that, overgrazed lands, which become infertile, not properly replenished soils that die and a confusing lack of oversight from the Federal Government, and you have a program that is in trouble, and it has also become very expensive to meet USDA Standards, which are designed primarily with large corporate farms in mind. It is true that some of the cleanest, best milk produced in the country is produced by farms that cannot afford to be certified organic, either due to size, or other restrictions in transport. Don't take our word for it. Take a moment to google "the effect of climate change on organic dairy supply" and enter the wormhole.
Number 2 is a bit less well-known: A large, organic dairy cooperative, who shall remain un-named, has been growing at a huge clip and incorporating formerly independent, local creameries and dairy farms into their fray. The result is complicated. For farmers, it may create some stability and consistency in their practices and sales and help to offset production costs and help them to compete in a large market. The downside has to do with narrower margins and, lack of process choice to the consumer. In the case of the unnamed cooperative, who's dairy products are likely in your fridge right now, they do not allow cream to be sold outside their cooperative, and because they make so many dairy products, that means that smaller producers, like us, cannot get cream or butter from them, since they view us as a competitor. This also means, that our old-school creameries, that we have been buying our butter from, for years, have slowly lost their ability to supply us, because, simply...they cannot get the organic cream anymore and only have the bare minimum for their own cheeses and cream-based products.
What is Organic for, Anyway?
As far as dairy is concerned, the main benefit of organic was insuring that the cows were not given feed that had pesticides or GMO's. It did NOT insure Grass-fed status, and in fact, there are factory farms that use organic feed and organic logos. It did NOT insure humane treatment, though it had higher standards than conventional factory farms. It DID make sure you were more likely to avoid pesticides, antibiotics and hormones in your dairy. As far as veggies go, on a commercial scale, we still recommend Organic.
So, What Now?
We were forced, by a dwindling supply and our own ethics, to look at other options. We are SUPER happy to say that we found an AWESOME one. As they say, "necessity is the Mother of invention" and in this case, necessity is the catalyst to a better butter and an even better Ahara Ghee®. First, we will be adding the Truly Grassfed® logo (SEE GRASSFED STANDARDS AND NON-GMO HERE), which is a 3rd party verified certification with HIGHER grass-fed regulations and anti-chemical regulations than The American Grass-fed Association® mark (check out their standards here), and is the ONLY Grass-fed Certification to take Animal Welfare fully into account. Did you know that "Grass-fed" is a claim with no oversight at all? The USDA dropped its evaluation of this and literally any producer who uses a dairy product where the cows set foot on pasture, uses this claim. In reality, no one is even checking to see if that happened. A statement from the dairy producer is all that is required, UNLESS they are 3rd party certified. Take a moment to look at your products boasting the "Grassfed" claim and see how many of them have a 3rd party certification... We will wait.
Yeah. We thought so. So, those products are made by cows grazed between 1-365 days a year. Pretty wide range...
Our Loyal followers love us because we are transparent...like, to a fault. I have spent many many long phone calls talking about cow breeds, discussing silage percentages and square footage per cow with our concerned customers. We have always been there to tell them our LIMITATIONS as well as our accolades. It is totally true that Organic, Raw, 100% grass-fed and on SUPER rare occasions, Cultured butter still exists. The issue is that it no longer exists at a commercial scale...I mean, it actually never did, which is why these claims are all a bit dubious. A small farm producing such a product cannot even produce enough cream to make the butter for us if we were ABLE to pay the $12/lb the stuff costs and get you to buy it at 3x our current price. Our desire for the perfect dairy, as consumers, far outmatches the United States ability to regulate the practices of the industry. Beyond that, savvy marketers have convinced us all that we CAN have it all...local, Organic, 100% grassfed cows with old world cultured butter in a 100% A2 herd. This is simply not so. For the reasons above. The Great news, is when you eliminate USDA and the United States Federal Government as the oversight body, you have all the other options and they all get sweeter, as the farms get smaller.
Our new butter supplier has tied themselves in knots to make sure that they have the best Animal Welfare standards, the Best Grass-feeding Practices and the Strictest Non-GMO standards in the industry. They have started making cultured butter JUST FOR US and we will be releasing it towards the very end of the year, and fully converted by 2021. We will be following suit and using the Animal Welfare Approved® logo by A Greener World, as opposed to the Certified Humane® for similar reasons...the certification is MUCH more meaningful and it's direct impact on animal welfare is tangible. More about that here.
Last, but CERTAINLY not least, is our NON-GMO certification. We are only able to use the NON-GMO verified project as our 3rd party certifier. This takes a bit longer than we had to make this change. We expect to be officially certified in early 2021. In the meantime, you should know that we are 100% opposed to GMO food, and won't eat it ourselves, let alone sell it to you.
At the end of the day, and at the beginning, we are an Ayurvedic Food company, and we have a fine balance of Ahimsa (doing no harm), the concept of Ahara (feeding the vehicle and the energy for the container of the soul), Our care of the earth and our commitment to you, the consumers of the end product. We promise to tell you the truth. We promise to do our best. We promise to never stop improving on these principles.
"Buildings and Bridges are made to bend in the wind. To withstand the world, that's what it takes. All that steel and stone, is no match for the air, my friend, what doesn't bend, breaks" - Ani Difranco