Monday, December 8, 2014

Quality Grading of Food and Feed

Jackson County is not GMO free by law.   While there was much debate about the health pros  and cons of this move,  there is another mostly untold story. The story of economic win for higher quality. It is an american principle that quality brings higher prices. This is built into the forces of capitalism. And today it is very true that most people are willing to pay reasonable prices for quality (in the day of $3.50 coffee!)

One thing missing is a way of "thinking about" quality in agriculture. Sure there are country fairs with competitions for body shape, growth rate, etc. But are any of the judged qualities applicable in the real work of the market? NO!  Have you ever purchased pork, lamb, beef and seen the actual picture of the animal so you could choose the cut by body shape?  I strongly doubt it. No, we need a way that consumers can tell, all the way up and down the food / supply chain, how quality compares.

I propose this method below.  This is a set of classifications that can give a good feel for health value, taste, and overall quality of any agricultural product, meat, veggies, fruit, etc.

Agriculture value classifications

Quality rating/ health Benefit
Beyond Organic
Outstanding Quality - Medicinal Health Benefit
No chemical usage at all  plus sea minerals, probiotics, and yearly organic animal based fertilizer, usually with a reasonable amount of weeds
Good quality -
 health positive
Organic practices (organic fertilizer. limited use of approved chemical pesticides / herbicides)
Barely Acceptable  Quality - 
Health Neutral
Petroleum based chemical fertilizer but no poisonous herbicides / pesticides during growing period
Bad Quality - 
Negative health effects
Petroleum based chemical fertilizer plus poisonous herbicide / pesticide
Horrible Quality - Severe negative health effects
Petroleum based chemical fertilizer plus extra high levels of  poisonous herbicide / pesticide plus genetically modified genetics

With slight modifications this chart could apply to things like honey, processed foods, canned goods, etc. I am not saying that this is anything near complete, but rather a starting point, a way of thinking about things that makes sense from consumer to farm.

In general, the higher the quality, the higher the profitability.  This holds true for retailer, producer, even raw material supplier. For instance... 

  • Consumer demands and is willing to pay extra for organically produces raw milk, 
  • Goat Farmer agrees to purchase only organic feed to meet consumer demand and is willing to pay higher prices for feed
  • Alfalfa Farmer agree to produce organically and supply alfalfa at a higher cost per bale. 

All through the supply chain the prices are higher for better quality. Profit usually follow prices as long as efficiency remains constant. At the end of the day.. the consumer gets a higher quality product, the goat farmer has higher profitability, and the alfalfa farmer has higher profitability.  Everyone wins, including the environment!

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