When young Cleveland butcher, Joe Heinen founded Heinen’s Grocery Store in 1929 he was focused on meat. More specifically, he was focused on finding the best sources of meat in order to sell the best to his local customers.
90 years later, Heinen’s continues to find the best and sell the best when it comes to meat, but the variety of quality beef and poultry has surely evolved since Joe Heinen’s time, especially with a growing demand for organic.
When our customers became interested in organic meats, Heinen’s team of experts set out to find sources that met our high quality and sustainability standards. Today, we have surely found the best of the best in organic beef and poultry with our long standing partners, Australian Organic Meat and Smart Chicken.
We had a chance to chat with our partners for a behind-the-scenes peek into the dedication, skill and care that goes into the organic meat we know and love to enjoy.
Australian Organic Meat
When it comes to cattle farming, few people have more experience and passion than Simone and Shane Tully and Matt and Julie O’Leary, founders of Australian Organic Meat. They have quite an impressive resume, too. Simone has spent all of her life on farms and discovered a passion for organics while backpacking through Colorado, and the O’Leary’s are pioneers in the organic industry as one of the first farmers in Australia to receive an A Grade Organic Certification.
With nearly 100 years of farming experience, these two families joined forces to form an organic beef production network to meet the growing demand for organic food. Even more so, they wanted to set the standard that Organic beef production could be both sustainable and economically sound.
What started as the Tully’s 200,000 acres of farm land has become a sustainable operation of 55 farms throughout Eastern Australia all committed to producing high-quality organic beef.
Each of the 55 farms within the Australian Organic Meats organization are family-owned and operated by second, third and fourth generation farmers, much like Heinen’s. Their commitment to producing high-quality organic beef is no small feat. In fact, each of these farms had to go through a rigorous 3 year transition from conventional to organic cattle farming.
So, what makes the beef from Australian Organic Meat organic? To make it simple, the cattle are raised as naturally as possible, in the way nature intended on plush grassland pasture of Australia.
Over the years, it has become common practice for cattle around the world to consume pasture (feed) that has been treated with pesticides and herbicides, in addition to treating the animals themselves with antibiotics and growth hormones.
The cattle from Australian Organic Meat comes in contact with zero chemicals. This skilled team of farmers has discovered that healthy cattle come from cultivating healthy soil and open space to graze on a diverse salad of natural grasses and grains.
Not only are the cattle healthier and happier, but by consuming Australian Organic Meat, you are making a difference for yourself, the environment and the farmers whose livelihood is supported by cattle farming.
Organic and grass-fed meats are filled with healthy fats and omegas, and because the meat is free of chemical additives, they have minimal endocrine disruptors. The lack of chemicals also makes organic meat production environmentally sustainable because the soil is cultivated naturally on each of the 55 farms.
Australian Organic Meats is clearly a unique organization that is making its mark in the organic meat industry with its commitment to animal welfare and sustainability, but what makes it truly special is their equal commitment to their partnered farmers. Overtime, the meat industry has become corporatized making it challenging for niche farmers (ex. Organic farmers) to survive and plan for succession. By working with Australian Organic Meats, these family farms are allotted stable pricing and the ability to plan for succession by knowing that there is a continuous demand for their product.
Much like Heinen’s, Australian Organic Meats cares about its product and its people, which has made this decade-old partnership transparent, collaborative and truly valuable.
If you’re looking for organic poultry, you simply cannot go wrong with the delicious tenderness of chicken from our friends at Smart Chicken in Nebraska. Heinen’s and Smart Chicken began their partnership back in 2010 and over time have developed a long term relationship with a foundational focus on quality and customer service. The partnership has clearly made an impact as the product has grown tremendously within Heinen’s stores.
What’s even more impressive than the quality and taste of their product is the humane treatment and innovation of their production.
Much like Australian Organic Meats, Smart Chicken saw an interest and demand for organic meat, so they took action, but they did not simply set out to produce organic chicken, they wanted to produce organic chicken in a way that was technologically savvy and humane. In fact, Smart Chicken was the first to be certified organic and humane.
Becoming certified organic is a very involved and continuous process that includes designating range areas, planting grass with certified seed that is free of pesticides and herbicides, cleaning and/ or flushing feed, waterlines and bins with approved organic materials and inspecting the farm once before the placement of chicks and once before processing to ensure organic integrity has been maintained. To make things simple, all of the organic chickens at Smart Chicken are free- range and consume non-GMO feed. In fact, all of their grain resources come from the Midwest and they use an aquifer system which allows for an unlimited supply of water.
Smart Chicken always keeps a focus on maintaining their organic certification and they place equal care and consideration into humane practices thanks to new innovative practices. When the birds arrive to Smart Chicken’s state-of-the-art processing plant, just five miles from the farm where they were raised, they are placed into a Controlled Atmosphere System (CAS System). This system has a high level of CO2, which relaxes the chickens until they are asleep allowing for a painless and stress-free processing experience for the chickens and the human employees who work with the animals.
Once the chickens are sacrificed, they need to be chilled. Smart Chicken uses a process known as air chilling, a process that that they brought to the United States from Europe. Rather than immersing the chickens in water, which is industry standard, the chickens are chilled using cold air. The great thing about this method is that the chicken does not absorb chlorinated water as well as never touches each other during the chilling process, thus eliminating the opportunity for cross contamination. Smart Chicken is the only producer to be “USDA Process Verified as Pure Air-Chilled, No Added Water.”
What makes this process even more attractive is that makes a noticeable difference in the tenderness of the meat.
When it comes to raising and producing organic chicken, Smart Chicken is surely a leader in the industry, and they take their role very seriously. They conduct regular audits to ensure that standards are being upheld and they take pride in their clean and innovative facilities. They’ve even received a Safe Quality Foods Level 3 Certification, which means that they pay extra attention to food safety and management.
Next time you’re in the market for organic meat, be sure to stop by Heinen’s Meat Department for a selection of organic beef and chicken that is humane, sustainable and truly trusted.