What is organic and how does it relate to beer?

Organic has two primary origins: “Relating to or derived from living matter; organic soils.” And “(of food or farming methods) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other artificial agents.” Organic is the production of products using an ecologically-based system.

Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony.

Organic Process flow for grains

‘Organic’ is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principal guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole. Certification is standardized by the USDA National Organics Program. Independent agencies are used for certifying organic operations. The current National Organic Standard is 7 CFR Part 205.

Organically-produced foods cannot use genetically engineered materials, sewage sludge, or ionizing radiation. Growers, handlers, and producers must be certified organic and must maintain the integrity of organic materials. The United States is the only country to certify products in 100% organic form, thus requiring heavy documentation.

Traceability and pest control are two areas where basic documentation is required. Traceability requires 100% disclosure of all transactions, readily understood and auditable, as well as a clear audit trail from incoming ingredients through the sale of finished goods. From a pest control standpoint, facilities are required to manage practices to prevent pests, as well as document measures taken to prevent contamination of organic products/packaging.

Segregation, contamination, and co-mingling avoidance are essential elements of an organic program. Facilities handling both organic and non-organic are required to have programs in place AND demonstrate their ability to maintain organic product integrity. Chemical usage/sanitation practices must be in place and not compromise organic standards.

Organic ingredients must be certified by a USDA-accredited certifying agent and non-agricultural ingredients/processing aids are limited to those on the “National List.”

In 1990, Briess was the first malting company to be certified organic.  Our organic certifying body is Oregon Tilth (prior to 2005, it was the Organic Crop Improvement Association).  The program and its documentation are overseen by Leona Propson, our Quality Systems Supervisor.

Briess offers over 100 product variations under organic certification, making us the largest organic ingredient supplier in the United States used in brewing, food, and pet food production applications. View a complete listing of our organic products used in brewing applications or check out our food and pet food organic ingredients.

Here is an example of organic certification:

In closing, we hope this blog has provided some insights about organic ingredients and certification. If you have any questions, please contact your Division Manager.

Thank you and Cheers!