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What does "Certified Organic" really mean? What sets Miller's apart?

written by

Nailea Tinoco

posted on

May 31, 2024


Imagine that you’re strolling down the aisle in a grocery store, scanning the shelves for something wholesome and nutritious and free of toxins to feed your family. A package proudly displaying the big bold label “Certified Organic” label catches your attention. You think to yourself, “Perfect. This is what I need to nourish my family.” But hold on a second, what if I told you not all organic food is created equal? 

What Certified Organic Actually Means 

When something is labeled as “organic,” it basically means that it’s made with a lot of natural ingredients (not necessarily all, but a lot). But, it’s not just about using natural stuff. There’s a whole process behind the certification. 

Farmers (or businesses) that want their food to be certified organic have to create an Organic System Plan. This plan lays out how they’re going to meet the standards set by USDA. Once that plan has been made, they have to put it into action. 

That’s not all. A certifying agent, who’s been accredited by USDA, will come out to check things out every year. They’ll make sure the farm is following the rules and meeting the required standards. 

The inspectors aren’t from federal or state government agencies. Instead, they’re private third-party groups approved by the National Organic Program (NOP). Every program has different specifics for inspections. It’s also important to note that the inspector typically contacts the farm in advance to set up a date and time, giving about 2 weeks notice. 

On a typical day, the inspector will start with a quick tour of the farm and discuss the Organic System Plan the farmer has in place. Their main concern isn’t so much about pesticides or how the animals are living or verifying labels. Rather, the most important thing with the visual inspection is that the farm isn’t repackaging non-organic produce as organic. 

The inspector reviews all of the farm’s sales and receipts. They’re making sure the total sales match the expected yields. Plus, they want to see if the farm is buying “certified for organic” fertilizer, nursery starts, and approved pesticides. It’s a whole lot of recordkeeping. 

On top of that, it’s a costly process. It doesn’t stop with the certification. There are inspection fees, renewal fees, and even travel costs for the certifying agents. It adds up and can be thousands of dollars per year! Farmers have to factor that cost along with the cost of running the farm. 

Certified Organic Requirements

I did a ton of research, trying to wrap my head around what it really takes to be certified organic. There was so much info, filled with big, fancy words that I don’t use everyday. It felt like they were trying to make it hard to understand on purpose. 

But don’t worry. I got you covered. I did all the hard work and made a simple chart (below) that breaks down what being certified organic actually means. Plus, I included a comparison to show how Miller’s Bio Farm goes above and beyond these standards. 

Does not need to disclose ingredients under 1% Discloses all ingredients and processes. Full transparency. 
GMOs allowed if they’re 0.9% or less of the final productGMO free
Organic corn & soy allowedCorn & soy free
No regulations on vaccinesNo routine vaccinations
Antibiotic freeAntibiotic free
Hormone freeHormone free
Steroid free Steroid free 
Synthetic nitrate/nitrite free (naturally occurring nitrates/nitrites like in celery juice powder are allowed)Synthetic nitrate/nitrite free (naturally occurring nitrates/nitrites like in celery juice powder are allowed)
Irradiation allowed (with certain restrictions)Irradiation free
Can be sprayed with any of the thousands of “certified for organic” pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides*Miller’s pasture & hay not sprayed at all. Produce and feed ingredients may be sprayed with carefully selected “certified for organic” products*
Lots of record keeping requiredWe keep a reasonable amount of records, as we feel they are needed
Does not need to be farmed regeneratively Practices regenerative farming and pays extreme attention to soil health
Humane treatment of animals is not requiredHumanely raised
Doesn’t require animals be pasture raisedAnimals are pasture raised as much as the weather allows
Not required to be 100% grass-fed (AKA grass-fed & finished)100% grass-fed beef, cow dairy, and buffalo dairy
A2/A2 dairy not required100% A2/A2 dairy
Homogenization allowedAll dairy is non-homogenized
Meat can be sanitized/washed in any of a multitude of approved substances, including chlorine and citric acid. Beef and pork is washed with organic apple cider vinegar. Chicken is air chilled and washed in only water. Turkey and fish is washed in only water.

*OMNI (Organic Materials Review Institute) maintains a list of chemicals and sprays that are allowed under the organic certification. The list is thousands of products long and continues to grow. Some are innately natural like clay or vinegar and some are not so natural like chlorine or citric acid.

How Miller’s Bio Farm goes above and beyond being certified organic.

At Miller’s Bio Farm, we’re NOT certified organic. It’s costly and time consuming. We’d rather make our own choices. We’d rather tell you everything you need to know about your food. Our site is packed with info, and we’re happy to answer any questions (and do research if needed).

That being said, we naturally follow the organic standards and, in many ways, go beyond the regulations. I mean, we’re trying to produce the most natural foods we possibly can!

So remember, when browsing through the grocery store, eyeing those “certified organic” labels, not all organic is created equal. Sure, it’s a good sign. It’s a step in the right direction. But, if you dig a little deeper, it’s not all what it’s made out to be. 

At Miller’s Bio Farm, we just don’t settle for the basics, for the standards. Nope. We go above & beyond. Giving you 100% transparency, and REAL food. 



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