Certified organic meat, dairy, and poultry products come from farms that follow strict standards for the humane treatment and feeding of animals. Organically-raised animals are fed a certified organic diet and never fed by-products of other animals nor are they given artificial hormones.
For a farm to be certified, animals must be allowed outside for fresh air and exercise as well as to graze for some of their food. As a result, some certified organic milk cows have a productive life expectancy two or three times that of their commercial counterparts. Free-range birds are stronger, cleaner, healthier, and have better colour and disposition than those raised indoors in crowded pens.
By raising livestock organically, animals are given feed that comes naturally to them. Ruminants are designed to eat grasses; but, in factory farms, they are given grains to fatten them up quicker. It used to be that steers were four or five years old when they went to slaughter; but, today, they are usually fourteen to sixteen months old. For them to gain this much weight in a shorter period of time requires grain, protein supplements (in the form of other animal proteins), antibiotics and other drugs, including growth hormones. These results are passed on to those who eat the meat.
Moreover, it is the animal that suffers the most. Switching cows from grass to grain significantly disturbs their digestive systems that it can kill them if not done so gradually and with a continual administration of antibiotics. The antibiotics also reduce the E. coli 0157:H7 bacteria common to cattle held in feedlots and fed grains. The fat in grain-fed cows is also saturated, containing little or no omega-3 essential fatty acids. Grass-fed ruminants have a high omega-3 content in their flesh, as well as a much higher vitamin E content both of which are valuable nutrients in the prevention of heart disease.
However, it is important to realize that grass-fed is not the same as organically-fed, so consumers must know where their food is raised.
- Cyber-Help for Canadian Organic Farmers – Links to a wide variety of livestock information.
- Worldwatch Institute – Report on the sanitary conditions of the meat you eat.
- Australia Feedlots – No different from those in other countries like the US and Canada.
- Conscious Choice – Article on the choice between Vegetarianism and Mindful Meat Eating
- John Robbins – Article on grass fed beef.
- Sustainable Table – Article on the benefits of pasture-raised food.
- Factory Farming Photos – A photo gallery