Organic? Local? Small Farms? What’s the best choice?

While refining Taking Stock’s description across our social media platforms, I found myself obsessing over the wording of our local, sustainable, small, and slow food message. It’s hard to reduce such a big thought into a small blurb. I decided to move this topic over to the blogosphere, where it can stretch out a bit.
Taking Stock was built to be a ‘for us, by us’ business. We want our customers to have a sense of ownership in our brand. We encourage ownership by basing our business growth on customer feedback versus simply analyzing market trends. In one instance, we were reminded by vegetarians that we have no broth available to offer them at this time. To amend this, we have been developing a rich and tasty vegan mushroom ginger broth. The development of this broth has been given the same thought and consideration as our classic broth. Dialogue with our customers informs many of our business moves, so please keep the feedback coming. We are listening!
We also listened to customer feedback when we switched from antibiotic, hormone free, air chilled chicken to certified organic, free range chicken. We were prompted by our customers wishes for us to use organic chickens, and for us to continue our investigation into the best product available that will yield the most wholesome broth.
We were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to tour the farm that we used to source our chicken from, and were impressed with the family company, the treatment of the chickens, and the transparency – we even toured on slaughter day and saw where the chickens live!
Then our customers came forward and let us know that they want certified organic and free range chickens.
When we were asked what our position was on sourcing organic food, we had to delve into what being a certified organic product means. Certified organic products adhere to sound principles that encourage healthy food systems. There also happens to be a wonderful organic poultry farmer in the region, which has made our transition seamless.
To add yet another layer to this topic, Taking Stock Foods has a long term goal to source chickens from even smaller farmers, with flocks of 2,000 or less. We visited a couple these farms this spring and were rewarded with a new sense of understanding of what small agriculture looks like in Minnesota.
Despite the amazing experience that we have had at these small farms, we know that working with small farms requires more work than working with large farms does. We run the risk of our broth being less consistent in taste and color because of the variety of flocks and environments that small farm sourcing ensures. Small farmers may not have the capitol to fund organic certification, even if the farm uses organic practices. And, the logistics of gathering chickens from small farms all over will need to be handled by someone who does that type of work professionally – It’s a job within itself!
How, then, do we decide what is best for our business? Larger farms have the infrastructure that makes it very easy to consistently get a product from them, especially as our business grows. Smaller farms have the ‘story’ that we like, but may not be able to afford the organic certification that many of our customers want, and can come with other headaches.
As it turns out, this is a rich discussion, rife with preferences. We always want you to know that we do our best to create an atmosphere where our customers’ opinions are heard and matter. We’d love for you to weigh in with your thoughts about organic/conventional/small farm/local food debate. We’d like to know your overall thoughts, as a consumer, on how you weigh a food product based on these different categories.
Thanks! We value your opinions!

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