Natural Foods Merchandiser


USDA Finds Organic Feed Plentiful and Well-Priced
A U.S. Department of Agriculture report confirms that more than enough organic livestock feed is being grown to support current producers, refuting arguments that were used in an attempt to decimate the National Organic Program.

The July report notes that 2001 acreage could have supported twice the organic poultry industry that existed that year, with enough organic soy and corn to feed the nation's certified organic beef and dairy cattle. This year, the USDA predicts 10.5 million bushels of corn and 5.5 million bushels of soybeans will be produced organically. Prices for organic poultry feed averaged 1.5 times conventional prices.

Congress ordered the study in 2002 after a Georgia poultry producer said high organic feed prices were the reason it pushed legislation allowing chickens not fed organic to be labeled organic. "USDA has clearly found that there is ample organic feed and it's available for an acceptable price," said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association.

USDA used land grant universities' studies and Economic Research Service estimates for 2001 to project the availability of organic feed. The study predicts organic corn and soybean acreage will jump to 650,785 acres in 2004 from 268,000 acres in 2001.

Stellar Service Ideas from Virginia Inn
Make customers' problems your problem—so say owners of the Inn at Little Washington, a top hostelry in rural Virginia. Inc. magazine reports that the table captain assigns each party a "mood rating" from 1 to 10. It's communicated to everyone from the server to the kitchen staff—and no one leaves below a 9. "If guests ran into terrible traffic on the way over here, or are in the midst of a marital dispute, we need to consider it our problem," says owner/chef Patrick O'Connell.

Staff members at the Inn are forbidden to use the word no and discouraged from saying "I don't know" to customers. Instead, they must focus on the positive attributes of whatever the guest is asking about—describing what's in a dish instead of saying, for example, "No, it's not spicy." Each staffer becomes a house expert on something, from vintage port to wild mushrooms.

Inn owners learned the hard way that technical ability doesn't always predict a worker's success. Now, Inc. says, they hire for attitude. Applicants are sorted into those who liked their past bosses and those who didn't, and the ones with good things to say are the ones who get hired. "We found that over time," says O'Connell, "nice people can be taught almost anything."

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIV/number 9/p. 38

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