Where Does Your Organic Ground Beef Really Come From?

For more than a month, reporter Amy Westervelt has been a leading a collaborative crowdsourcing investigation into private label brands for The Faster Times.

And now we need more help.

Amy's investigation has delved into the world of private label organic beef, focusing on whether organic dairy cows are being slaughtered and pawned off on consumers as organic beef. From a recent post:

This weekend I tested out a suggestion from a reader-recommended source, about how to trace where private label meat comes from. On every package of meat, the USDA places a code that can be traced back to the source of the product. Unfortunately, in the case of private-label products, the code only gives you the location of the packing house, not the origin of the meat. Nonetheless, it's a good first step in trying to figure out a question we raised in an earlier investigation post: Are organic dairies illegally pawning off old dairy cows as certified organic ground beef?

Amy has got sources -- one with the awesome moniker of Beef Throat -- who can identify where organic beef is coming from, if we give them enough information. This is where we need your help, to help us track the beef.

As a first step, we're buying and tracking packs of ground organic beef and tracing the USDA bug on the package -- it's a little decal at the bottom of any meat product, and we're hoping you can help as well.

Once you've got the number, just go to Google or Scribd and type in USDA# and then the number. I tried it on a package of Trader Joe's brand organic grass-fed beef and found it came from Culver City Meat Company, which is affiliated with Golden West Trading Company.

This is our first Faster Times Reader Investigation, a new experiment in melding crowdsourcing with professional reporting that captured the attention of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Tips and beef information can be sent to You can also check out our latest post -- an interview with author and sustainable ranching advocate Nicole Hahn Niman.

You can also read more about The Faster Times in a recent New York Times Magazine article here.

Please support this and future investigations by becoming a member of The Faster Times today. You can join for as little $12 and you'll receive at least $25 worth of gifts -- plus the good feeling that comes with supporting a team of independent journalists who are trying to create a new model for the newspaper.