Top 3 frequently asked questions regarding Certified Organic Oats
What is behind an Organic Certification?
Here at GF Oats, we are proud to be able to source Certified Organic Uncontaminated Oats for everyone here in Aus. Since we first imported the product in 2016, this product has now outstripped the Traditional Oats in sales, declaring it’s popularity. Aussies are hungry for Organic and so we should be. However, be assured there is little difference really between the Traditional and Organic. Both varieties are free from Glyphosate (roundup) and also GMO. Traditional farms are not certified organic and during their cropping, they apply a liquid Nitrogen to the soil. I have written a more comprehensive article about the difference between Organic and Traditional which you can read HERE.
Each year GF Oats are audited with the ACO. This enables us to access the label we have on our packaging, giving us a unique certification number. This is not a difficult process for us as our growers in the US, GF Harvest have to really do all the work. We just have to show we are protecting that certification through our processes and supply chain.
Let’s Look at the Process
To give you an idea of how we protect the product certifications let’s look quickly at the process. GF Oats import the Certified Organic Oats in 50lb or 22.67kg bags. We could choose other ways which may be cheaper, eg. Large bulk tote bags, which is just a giant bag filled with steamed rolled oats and sealed at the top. We assessed that these could get contaminated or broken and compromise our uncontaminated and organic status. Once these bags arrive in Australia, we deliver to Endeavour Industries in Toowoomba who have a certified organic packing facility where our oats are packed into the variety of sizes you see in our online store and in the market place. They are then stored back at our warehouse in a dedicated area of our shed indicated in the image with the green paint.
A certified organic label basically indicates that a product has been certified against specific organic standards. The label carries the name of the certification body and the standards with which it complies, (e.g. Certified 11711). To the informed consumer, this label can function as a guide. GF Oats choose ACO Certification Ltd. ACO Certification Ltd (Previously Australian Certified Organic) is Australia’s largest certifier for organic and bio-dynamic produce and has over 2000 operators within its certification system. ACO provides certification services to operators from all sectors of the organic industry. Certification ensures compliance with national and international production standards and allows trace back of all products to their origin.
What are certified organic products and what does that mean?
Certified organic products are those which have been produced, stored, processed, handled and marketed in accordance with precise technical specifications (standards) and certified as “organic” by a certification body. Once conformity with organic standards has been verified by a certification body, the product is afforded a label. This label will differ depending on the certification body but can be taken as an assurance that the essential elements constituting an “organic” product have been met from the farm to the market. It is important to note that an organic label applies to the production process, ensuring that the product has been produced and processed in an ecologically sound manner. The organic label is, therefore, a production process claim as opposed to a product quality claim.
Why is organic food more expensive than conventional food?
Certified organic products are generally more expensive than their conventional counterparts for a number of reasons:
- Organic food supply is limited as compared to demand; however, we are seeing a trend towards cheaper pricing as demand improves.
- Production costs for organic foods are typically higher because of greater labour inputs per unit of output and because greater diversity of enterprises means economies of scale cannot be achieved. The elimination of mainstream chemical use to control bugs and weeds attacks and farming practices are overall more intensive.
- Post-harvest handling of relatively small quantities of organic foods results in higher costs because of the mandatory segregation of organic and conventional produce, especially for processing and transportation;
- Certifications and compliance around organic add to the cost of the end product.
- Prices of organic foods include not only the cost of the food production itself but also a range of other factors that are not captured in the price of conventional food along with lower financial returns of rotational periods which are necessary to build soil fertility;
Finally, my last comment about growing and producing Organic Oats is the farming practices implemented to assist with weed control and nitrogen levels in the soil to improve crop yields. GF Harvest farmers use Alfalfa as a rotational crop to improve nitrogen levels in the soil. Occasionally we have seen some of the Alfalfa in the processed steamed and rolled oats.
Unfortunately, there is no way around eliminating all the seed from the grain before it goes through the steaming and rolling process, we are therefore left with some burnt flakes in the Organic Oats. These are generally at minimally accepted levels and do not add to any contamination from gluten to the product. The other ingredient you may see are yellow flat flakes in the Organic Oats. These are Field Peas. Field peas are used at the base of the oat plant during the growing season to minimize weed growth and as an organic fertilizer.
This kind of under-crop is very common with organic crops and depending on the field some batches may have more or less of these picked up during the harvest. GF Harvest specification sheet for the Organic Oats states that “Naturally occurring oat crop variations and growing conditions may result in deviation from these specifications”. Their guarantee is that GF Harvest Oats are free of the top 8 allergens in the marketplace.
Sources: http://www.fao.org/organicag/oa-faq/oa-faq3/en/ https://aco.net.au/Pages/ABoutUs/about.aspx