What does “Organic” mean in terms of compost?

How is compost anything but organic?

Recently we had a response to a blog post about our compost and how it is considered Organic.  The question was, “How is compost anything but organic? You put the term organic in front of it so you can charge more for the same thing.”

This is a great question!  This is an answer that is probably helpful to a lot of interested consumers about the necessity, purpose, or value of the “organic” label.

To a certain extent, you are correct: most compost – if it truly is compost – is what we call “lower case ‘o’ organic” – meaning it is made from natural, carbon-based ingredients like plants or manure.  We, too, have seen some other companies and products on the market that refer to their compost as “organic compost”, perhaps to – as you say – be able to charge more, but are nothing other than compost – and of varying quality.

What do we mean by Organic?

When Purple Cow Organics refers to its compost products as Organic (conversely, we use the phrase “capital “O” Organic” to describe Purple Cow products) we are referring to products that are approved for use in USDA Certified Organic production and/or OMRI Listed for Organic Use.  The process in which we craft the aerobically-made compost – taking into account time, temperature, turning – is highly standardized to insure quality and consistency every time.

UOMRI Green Logo smallnlike food, which gets the designation “USDA Certified Organic”, products like compost that are used in organic production need to be approved by a certifier.  Having a product OMRI Listed allows certifiers and growers expedite the approval process for those products.  OMRI is the Organic Materials Review Institute, which is a private, nonprofit organization that does independent vetting of products to make sure they are approved for organic production.  Our composting process and compost products are subject to one of the most stringent vetting processes to insure consistency, quality, safety, and sustainability.  You can see a list of approved (OMRI Listed) products at www.OMRI.org.

Purple Cow compost not only meets, but exceeds the standards set forth by OMRI and the US Compost Council’s Seal of Testing Assurance (USCC-STA) in terms of maturity, quality, consistency, growing emergence and vigor, particle size, etc.

OMRI is the organization that we use for pre-approval, but there are others including NOP (https://www.ams.usda.gov/about-ams/programs-offices/national-organic-program)

Thanks again for the question!










2 replies
  1. Dan Krings
    Dan Krings says:

    What are the ingredients for all of your compost and/or soil amendment products (anything with the big “O” organic label)? What is the source of the feedstocks or bulk materials that are incorporated in each step of the composting process from the start to the finished product? Do you use third party inputs (e.g. blood meal, bone meal, cottonseed or alfalfa meal, animal manure, feather meal, worm castings, etc.) and from what sources? Is there any GMO material used in any stage of any process (in your internal processes or those of third party suppliers) from animal feed (if animal derived material is used) to plant matter from GMO sources or other inputs? I am familiar with NOP and OMRI standards for soil amendments and other non-food products, some of which are summarized here: http://www.omri.org/sites/default/files/app_materials/13CORNOPComparison1F_0.pdf, https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/5021.pdf); I am asking beyond what is approved, do you use GMO feedstocks knowingly or unknowingly anywhere in production of products listed under the “Organic” banner?

    • Amy Ziegler
      Amy Ziegler says:

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for the question, all of our ingredients are listed on the back of our bags. The base materials for our products are composed entirely of OMRI Listed products or certified organic foods or fibers. May I ask if you are with a business or company or if you are a residential grower? If I can better understand your situation and your needs I’ll better be able to assist you.



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