A few weeks ago, after the announcement of the USDA's new standards for grass-fed meat, I came up with a lame little graphic to depict how I place different approaches to food production on a bummer-better-best continuum.
I should have known that people who've been wrestling with these concepts a lot longer than I have would have already come up with a much better representation. Via the Food Karma Alert blog, I ran across this wonderful pyramid from the Organic Valley co-op of family dairy farms (click here for big version):
On their website, Organic Valley tells newly conscious eaters that the USDA organic seal is just a starting point, with "emphasis on foundation. It’s only the beginning of where you might find yourself in the years to come as your organic lifestyle evolves. If you consider the deepest spirit of organic (committed reverence for the interdependence of all life, humane animal treatment, fair trade, green business practices, etc.) and look closer at some of the organic brands, you’ll encounter many varieties of organizations behind the brands — corporations, cooperatives, family-owned businesses — and many levels of commitment to organic among them. They all begin at USDA Organic. Some stop there, but some go far beyond. You can, too."
To that I would add, don't assume that just because food doesn't have the seal, that the farmer doesn't meet or exceed the standards. Bottom line: You can't just buy an easy conscience with a label. And on that note, don't forget to vote with your voices, not just your wallets — bug your senators this coming week to back Dorgan-Grassley in the Farm Bill!