Sign up for the
Weekly Harvest Newsletter!

Published every Wednesday, the Weekly Harvest e-newsletter is a free Web digest of sustainable agriculture news, resources, events and funding opportunities gleaned from the Internet. See past issues of the Weekly Harvest.
Sign up here

Sign up for the Weekly Harvest Newsletter

What Is Sustainable Agriculture?

Master Publication List

Search Our Databases

Urban Agriculture

Energy Alternatives

Beginning Farmer

Field Crops

Horticultural Crops

Livestock & Pasture

Value-Added Food Products

Local Food Systems

Food Safety

Marketing, Business & Risk Management

Organic Farming

Pest Management

Soils & Compost

Water Management

Ecological Fisheries and Ocean Farming

Other Resources

Sign Up for The Dirt E-News

Home Page

Contribute to NCAT


Newsletter sign up button

· Privacy Policy · Newsletter Archives

RSS Icon XML Feeds

RSS 2.0: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities Atom: Events, Breaking News, Funding Opportunities


NCAT strives to make our information available to everyone who needs it. If you are a limited-access or low-income farmer and find that one of our publications is just not in your budget, please call 800-346-9140.


How are we doing?


Home  > Question of the Week

Question of the Week

Permalink Which hair-sheep breed has the most tender and flavorful meat?


Answer: On September 20, 2003, the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in conjunction with Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service held a Sheep and Goat Field Day. One of the presenters was Jason Apple.

Dr. Apple summarized a large body of research results regarding factors that influence quality and acceptability of goat and sheep meat. In general, he said, there is little difference in sheep breeds with regard to tenderness and juiciness; however, there may be differences among goat breeds, especially with respect to tenderness. Castration tends to improve the tenderness of both goat and sheep meat. Tenderness tends to decline with increased age and slaughter weight for both species. Tenderness is directly related to the amount of back fat. However, flavor of sheep tends to increase with back fat, whereas flavor intensity tends to decrease with back fat in goats. The meat palatability characteristics of sheep raised on grass were not significantly different from those of sheep fed in a feedlot.

Below are some articles discussing hair sheep, including meat quality. The Katahdin and Dorper are probably the most common hair-sheep meat breeds, since both were developed for the meat market.


Anon. 2001. Evaluation of hair breeds of sheep for low input management. Small Farms Research News. Spring. 4 p.

Bactawar, Basil. 2003. Characteristics and general production parameters of hair sheep breeds. British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fish. Fall. 4 p. (PDF / 235 kb)

Schoenian, Susan. 2002. A cornucopia of sheep breeds: Which one do I pick? Maryland Small Ruminant Page. 4 p.

Schoenian, Susan. 1999. Perhaps, you should consider hair sheep. Maryland Small Ruminant Page. 3 p.

Schoenian, Susan. 2005. Hair sheep research and information. Maryland Small Ruminant Page. 2 p.



Permalink Are there sanitizers I can use as an alternative to chlorine in an organically certified poultry processing facility?


Answer: According to the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) June 2004 OMRI Generic Materials List:

Processing sanitizers and cleaners are used to remove dirt, filth, and foreign matter from food and food handling operations. These materials are also used to control microorganisms that may contaminate food. Use of processing sanitizers and cleanser must meet the NOP Rule Section 205.270 organic handling practice standards and comply with all applicable health and food safety laws.

The OMRI Generic Materials List states that the following processing sanitizers and cleaners are allowed (A) or restricted (R) in their use. If restricted, they may be "used following restrictions set out in Section 205.605 and provided that they do not contact food or food ingredients. If used on food contact surfaces, an intervening event such as hot water rinse or purge must occur."

Steam and hot water sanitizing is allowed. However, steam is expensive, and hot water sanitizing may not be suitable for all processes.

Chemical sanitizers are most widely used. It is very important to rinse thoroughly after sanitizing to remove any chemical sanitizer residues before any food is processed. One or two extra hot water rinses are recommended for organic processing runs.

Acetic acid (vinegar) (R) is allowed as long as it doesn't come in contact with food or ingredients. If it is to be used on food contact surfaces, the surfaces must be rinsed with hot water.

Ethyl and isopropyl alcohol (R) are allowed as long as they don't come in contact with food or ingredients. If it is to be used on food contact surfaces, the surfaces must be rinsed with hot water.

Chlorine (including calcium hypochlorite, sodium hypochlorite, and chlorine dioxide) (R) is also allowed in organic processing for food contact surfaces. However, the rules for its use restrict the residual chlorine levels in the discharged water to the maximum residual disinfectant limit under the Safe Drinking Water Act. Currently that is 4 mg residue per liter of discharge. Levels of chlorine used to prepare water to be used to disinfect / sanitize tools, equipment, product or food contact surfaces may be higher than 4 mg/L and should be at levels sufficient to control microbial contaminants. Therefore, chlorine use at the beginning of the applicable water cycle in an organic operation is not limited to 4 mg/L. The final rinse water for food contact surfaces must be less than 4 mg/L.

Citrus products (including limonene) (R) are allowed as long as they don't come in contact with food or ingredients. If it is to be used on food contact surfaces, the surfaces must be rinsed with hot water.

Hydrogen peroxide (A) is allowed. However, hydrogen peroxide should not be used in the chicken chill water, because it might cause bloated skin on the birds.

Phosphoric acid (R) is allowed for cleaning of food contact surfaces and equipment only. The surfaces must be rinsed with hot water.

Potassium phosphate (tribasic) (R) is allowed for use as an equipment cleaner, as long as it doesn't come in contact with food or ingredients. If it is to be used on food contact surfaces, the surfaces must be rinsed with hot water.

Soap (R) is allowed as long as it doesn't come in contact with food or ingredients. If it is to be used on food contact surfaces, the surfaces must be rinsed with hot water.

Sulfuric acid (R) is allowed as long as it doesn't come in contact with food or ingredients. If it is to be used on food contact surfaces, the surfaces must be rinsed with hot water.

In organic processing, no "quats" (quaternary-ammonium based sanitizers) are allowed, because quats leave a residue that doesn't rinse off well.

Ozonated water is being used in the chill tank for killing microbes in an organic poultry processing facility in Michigan. See the link below for a project fact sheet discussing using ozone as an effective anti-microbial sanitizer in poultry.

Also see the information about the product Citrofresh™. The company claims it is "the world's only 100% organic anti-bacterial."

It is important that you discuss your sanitizing plan and ingredients with your certifier before using. It is also important to include them in your organic plan.


Amon, Richardo. 2004. Recycling chiller bath rinse water in poultry processing. PIER Project Fact Sheet. California Energy Commission. 2 p. (PDF/ 154 kb)

Anon. 2005. Citrofresh™. 4 p.



Permalink Are there organic controls for field bindweed?


Answer: Bindweed is very difficult to control organically. Field bindweed roots of two inches or more that are not brought to the surface and dried out by the sun can re-grow. Repeated tillage for several years should decrease the numbers of bindweed, but it is difficult to control with tillage only. The ATTRA publication Field Bindweed Control Alternatives discusses a five-year, non-chemical strategy developed by Fred Kirschenmann using cultivation and cropping rotations to control field bindweed. The University of Nebraska Extension booklet (below) offers other suggestions that may be useful.

The use of bindweed mite, Acercia malherbae, is an option to consider. The mites feed on bindweed only and have proved useful in helping control bindweed in certain dry land sites. The Colorado State University Extension booklet (below) provides useful information about
the mite's use.


ATTRA publication:
Field Bindweed Control Alternatives

Hodges, Laurie. 2003. Bindweed identification and control options for organic production. University of Nebraska Extension - Lincoln. NF03-585. 5 p.

Hammon, Bob. 2004. Managing field bindweed with the bindweed mite Aceria malherbae. Colorado State University Extension. 4 p.



Permalink Where can I get information about sustainable duck production for eggs?


Answer: Ducks are very well suited to a sustainable production system, as they are hardy and can maintain themselves with little supplemental feed. However, ducklings will grow faster and reach market weight more quickly if fed a supplemental ration. Ducks kept under free-range conditions where they have access to pasture are generally freer of disease and parasites than those kept in confinement. Dr. Michael Hellwig (see Resources, below) warns against using medicated feed for ducks, especially for ducklings. He also states that ducklings have a very high niacin requirement, so if you are unable to find a commercial feed formulated especially for ducklings, he recommends that you provide them with either niacin or a B-vitamin supplement. Dried nutritional yeast may be used.

Dr. Sandhu and Dr. W. F. Dean of the Cornell University Duck Research Laboratory are good contacts for more information on ducks and have several publications available on areas of duck management.

The Web sites linked below contain information about various breeds of ducks and geese, as well as basic management requirements of waterfowl.

Very little information on marketing waterfowl is available. The most recent information is a market study done in British Columbia in 2002. There is a link below to the section on waterfowl.

A good source of information on the various threatened duck breeds is The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy at Pittsboro, North Carolina.

There are many books available from hatcheries, libraries, book stores, etc. on all aspects of raising ducks, including feeding, flock health, breeding, incubation procedures, and other management practices.

Ducks should be penned at night to protect them from predators. The pen need not be elaborate, but must be predator proof, including the roof. It is easier to catch ducks if they are fed some grain in the pen every night; often they will be waiting before you get there. If you feed them in the pen, then they must have access to water to rinse their bills after eating.


Michael Hellwig
Cob-Vantress, Inc.
P.O. Box 249
Siloam Springs, AR 72761

Dr. Sandhu or Dr. W.F. Dean
Cornell University Duck Research Laboratory
P.O. Box 217
Eastport, Long Island, NY 11941

Holderread's Waterfowl Farm and Preservation Center
P.O. Box 492
Corvallis, OR 97339

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
P.O. Box 477
Pittsboro, NC 27312

Anon. 2004. Humane husbandry criteria for ducks. Animal Welfare Institute. 7 p.

ATTRA publication:
Pastured Poultry Nutrition (available by calling 1-800-346-914)

Nova Scotia Agriculture and Fisheries. 2001. Ducks; Feeding and watering program for growing ducks; Lighting for pullets and layers: Brooding ducks; Care and storage of duck hatching eggs: Incubation of duck eggs, and Processing ducks. 14 p.

Nowland, Warren. 2001. Duck raising. New South Wales Agriculture. Agfact A5-0.1. November. 32 p.

View West Marketing Inc. and Zbeetnoff Agro-Environmental Consulting. 2002. Market study on the British Columbia ratite, waterfowl and game bird industries-Final report. January. p. 1-2, 43-56. (PDF / 752 kb)



Question of the Week Archives