Meat & Seafood

The USDA states that a “natural” product contains no artificial ingredients or added color, and is only minimally processed, not fundamentally altering the raw product. This is a pretty good start, but we’re looking for a bit more. Sure, no artificial ingredients, added colors or hormones are a good thing, but what kind of life did that animal live? By free-range, does that just mean the animal had some access to the outdoors? Are these farmers making claims or do they really practice these farming methods? These are all questions that we ask and provide you answers to.

At Dawson’s, we take our meat and seafood standards seriously. We think that “natural” means the animal led a truly natural life filled with sunshine, access to fresh water, room to roam and space where normal animal behavior can be expressed. That natural life shouldn’t include any use of antibiotics or added growth hormones or consumption of animal by-products.

We also strive to ensure these standards by sourcing locally whenever possible, and we focus strongly on pasture-based animals.

Our meat and poultry:

  • Are never given any growth hormones or antibiotics.
  • Are always fed 100% vegetarian diets with no animal by-products.
  • Are never subject to nitrates/nitrites or irradiation.
  • Are raised and treated as humanely & compassionately as possible.
  • Are always at their highest quality and freshness.
  • Are raised and handled with minimal stress.
  • Poultry is never de-beaked.

Farmer relationships: The great thing about sourcing local meat and poultry is that we get the chance to head out and visit the farm. We see first hand the field conditions, environment and practices. Establishing a good relationship with the farmer ensures that he/she knows exactly what our expectations are throughout the entire process. Our team visits each local farm a minimum of once a year to continually keep our records, photographs, video, and product standards up to date. At Dawson’s, transparency is something we take seriously.

Room to roam: One of the most important factors we consider when purchasing (both locally & nationally) is that the animal, has access to the outdoors (free-range). But it doesn’t stop there — we actively seek farmers and ranchers that go far beyond just free-range. Farming practices such as free-roaming and pasture-raised animals allow animals much more freedom to the outdoors. With these methods, animals can come and leave their shelter as they please and enjoy the benefits of natural movement. It’s the most “natural” state for the animals and we believe it should always be like this.

Farm Animal Welfare Council: As part of a commitment to healthy and responsibly raised meat and poultry, we believe that an animal’s welfare, whether on farm, in transit, at market or at a place of slaughter should be considered in terms of ‘five freedoms’. These freedoms define ideal states rather than standards for acceptable welfare. They form a framework for the analysis of animal welfare within any system. Together with these steps they are able to safeguard and improve welfare within the proper constraints of an effective livestock industry.

The 5 Freedoms:

1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst – by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor.

2. Freedom from Discomfort – by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.

3. Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease – by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.

4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior – by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind.

5. Freedom from Fear and Distress – by ensuring conditions and treatment that avoid mental suffering.


Fishing sure has changed over the years. What once was catching just enough fish to feed your family that night, has quickly turned into a billion dollar industry giving consumers confusion on what to buy and where to buy. Within this industry there are hundreds of opinions, fishing methods and watchdogs to monitor it all.

At Dawson’s, we’ve come up with our own standards for fish and seafood.  No matter where we’re getting product from, you can rest assured that it’s from a reliable source that we trust and have a strong relationship with. Your buying choice should be clear, easy, and as transparent as possible. With each purchase you make, you should know what you’re getting, where it is from and how it was caught or raised. Monitoring this process and your safety is something we’re committed to.

Organic Fish/Seafood:  As of spring 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has yet to certify fish as organic within the United States. However, foreign agencies (such as the Certified Organic Associations of British Columbia in Canada) do certify fish as organic and some of this fish is sold in the U.S.

While organic fish farming remains an area of some controversy and confusion, there are fish farms in around the world that practice sustainable organic aquaculture methods. One example being the Loch Duart Salmon farm in Scotland – a farm in which we buy from regularly.

Farmed Fish / Aquaculture: Farmed fish differs in several ways from wild-caught fish. In aquaculture practices, fish are contained in controlled areas, typically by netting. Their diet, habitat and life span are controlled by the farm itself, regulating and monitoring everything from health and feed to water quality.

The benefits to aquaculture start with consistency in fish and product. The chances of by-catching (the capture of non-targeted fish) are nearly eliminated. When aquaculture practices are done correctly and with control, this high-quality seafood practice can remain a sustainable and balanced system. Aquaculture can also supplement over-fished species of wild-caught fish.

Farmed Fish are:

1. Never given any antibiotics, growth hormones or bone meal.

2. Never raised in over-populated pens or netting compounds. Fish have plenty of room to swim and move.

3. Are monitored to the fullest, keeping a close eye on contamination, water quality, cross communities, and health.

4. Are always displayed with country of origin and often state if caught or raised within the United States.

5. Are always from trusted fishermen who are dedicated to the same methods and practices that we stand for.

6. Are raised in a sustainable way that greatly limits negative environmental impact and promotes fish safety.

Mercury in Farmed Fish: One of the advantages in aquaculture practices is the low risk of mercury. Farmed fish live with shorter life spans compared to wild fish and have controlled, mercury-free, or low-mercury diets. The fish live a much shorter life and can not accumulate risky amounts of mercury.

Wild Caught Fish: We support wild caught practices that maintain thriving, abundant fish & seafood populations. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, world wide, commercial fishermen throw away an average of 25% of their catch. Tons of fish are sacrificed because they weren’t the intended fish to catch. Our fishermen’s catch methods are environmentally friendly, utilizing specialized gear to keep natural habitats intact and reduce the amount of by-catch, especially endangered species.

Fishing our Local Waters: We’re committed to supporting local fisheries, but at the same time, keeping you safe from toxins and pollutants. To complete both of these tasks, we closely watch the Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland’s Department of Health’s recommendations and label our fish accordingly so you can make informed choices. Our trusted local fishermen avoid risky and unsafe areas and always fish the cleanest waters that Virginia has to offer with the most sustainable methods possible such as hook and line fishing rather than net fishing. These sustainable methods greatly reduce the amount of by-catch.