UPDATE: The First Organic Coconut Kefir!
I wanted to start by thanking you all for your support of thirty-two degrees! In the past month we have expanded our presence in the Midwest thanks to the help of a Minnesota distributor that has an affinity for local products; hopefully this has made our products more accessible to some of you! We were also recently certified USDA organic by the Minnesota Crop Improvement Association, making us the first ever organic coconut kefir; we were the first before the certification as well but we believe it is important to show our customers that we adhere to the national and global standards of the USDA's National Organic Program. Again, we want to recognize all of you for your commitment to authentic foods, each of your orders means the world to us, which is why we will continue to take great care in the production and shipment of our products.
So what is the USDA anyway? The United States Department of Agriculture is the executive department responsible for the development of regulations pertaining to agriculture and food, ensuring food safety and stewardship of the land. They are also directly involved in the protein and processed egg product operations throughout the United States, meaning an agent of the USDA is on site at all times to ensure food safety parameters are followed.
But most of us know the USDA as a little green seal on packaged products and produce. What does this actually mean though? Let's reference the National Organic Program's Final Rule to find out:
Organic production is "a system that is managed to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity."
In other words, organic means much more that simply using organic ingredients. It takes commitment along every step, from soil-manufacturer-retailer. For example, the farms that produce our organic coconuts were required to go through a three year transitionary period before they could market their coconuts as organic. This process aims to ensure that the land being used has been cycled thoroughly, removing the potential for residual synthetic fertilizer and herbicide contamination. They are not allowed to use synthetic fertilizers, meaning they must cycle organic waste back into the soil in order to produce the nutrients that foster the growth of the next crop. Furthermore, they maintain a very natural environment, as close to that found in untouched areas of the world as possible. This system fosters advantages like natural disease resistance and more flavorful, aromatic coconuts. The most amazing part about this is that it is a market force! The USDA does not mandate adherence to these advanced practices, rather the farmers are naturally inclined to do so because their trees will yield more productively, and more of that yield will be premium quality.
So what factors dictate whether a manufacturer, like thirty-two degrees, is producing organic products? Well, beyond the obvious of using organic ingredients, we must comply with regulations that dictate our sanitation and food safety programs, effect the manner in which we label and market our products, and monitor steps within our process that could lead to contamination by inorganic and prohibited substances.
Our products are 98% organic, but what about the other 2%? This 2% is composed of the wonderful bacteria that make our products so efficacious. Bacterial cultures are not objectively organic or inorganic, meaning they fall under the National List. Other commonly seen additions to this list are items like salt, vitamins and minerals, and Arabic gum. This means that they cannot officially be deemed organic nor can they be classified as inorganic. However, this has created controversy as large brands aim to continue lean manufacturing processes while entering the natural foods aisles. Controversy over the addition of items like xanthan gum and carrageenan to the National list has been widespread. This brings back the question of whether big box brands' domination of the organic foods industry is entirely positive; organic food is more readily accessible, which incentivizes farmers to transition their farms, thereby benefitting the environment, but it also creates the opportunity for lobbying efforts that allow questionable substances and practices into the National Organic Program.
That's where things stand with thirty-two degrees for now. We will be launching new products in September-October in addition to unveiling a new shipping program that will provide much better rates, finally!
We love to hear from you all, let us know how we can help you attain your optimal being!