An organic entrepreneur who’s brought organic to America’s fast-food lovers has been chosen by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to receive its 2015 Rising Star Award.

Michael Berger, managing partner of Elevation Burger, is being recognized by OTA for his ground-breaking work in making affordably priced and delicious organic options available to the American public and advancing the organic industry. The 2015 Organic Leadership Awards will be presented at OTA’s annual awards dinner on September 16 at the Port Discovery Children’s Museum in Baltimore as a kickoff event to Natural Products Expo East.

“Michael has truly changed—and is changing—the organic world and the way we eat through his commitment, creativity, and hard work,” says Laura Batcha, OTA’s executive director/CEO. “We are honored that he has been nominated by his peers and chosen for this well-deserved recognition by OTA’s Board of Directors.”

Berger has led the rapid growth of Elevation Burger and its popular organic offerings to America’s fast-food lovers, first starting with organic grass-fed beef and expanding to include organic chicken and organic bacon.

Under his leadership in establishing the Elevation Burger franchise, the restaurant chain has grown its organic beef supply program into the largest such program for any restaurant group in the United States and is one of the largest organic beef programs of any U.S. retailer or end user. The company historically has partnered with farmers and ranchers to sponsor certification of their herds to grow their supply, resulting in a purchasing program that includes more than 120 different family farms, up from 30 farms approximately five years ago.

In addition, Berger was recently responsible for leading the development and implementation of Elevation Burger’s organic chicken supply program and has helped make the company’s organic bacon offerings the largest for any U.S. restaurant group.

“We have proved that an unequivocal commitment to organic meat is not only better for people and our planet but is also good business. Michael has been a true pioneer in developing a completely organic, sustainable protein supply chain that provides our guests with not only the finest organic, grass-fed beef in the world but organic bacon and chicken as well,” says Elevation Burger CEO Rick Altizer.

OTA is honoring three individuals this year for their contributions to organic. In addition to Berger, the other organic award winners are Thomas Harding, president of Lehigh Valley Organic Growers, winner of the Growing the Organic Industry Award, and Benny McLean, production manager of Uncle Matt’s Organic, winner of the Farmer of the Year Award.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the U.S., representing over 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers, and others. OTA’s board of directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public, and the economy.

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