Organic meat must meet strict cultivation standards to carry an organic label. The rules and guidelines vary slightly depending on the type of livestock being discussed. However, the basic expectations of minimal exposure to potential chemicals associated with conventional agriculture practices and minimal human intervention in the growth process guide the raising of animals intended for the organic market.
The popularity and demand from consumers for organic meat is growing. In fact, the popular fast food chain Carl’s JR recently started offering the All Natural burger that is made from grass fed beef.
In order to carry the USDA Organic label, livestock must meet the following criteria for the duration of their lifespan:
- May not be subjected to genetic modification, irradiation, or exposure to sewage sludge
- Raised using processes which preserve biodiversity and natural resources
- Raised using the guidelines provided in the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (Lists approved synthetic substances and unapproved natural substance for organic livestock cultivation)
- An authorized USDA National Organic Program certifying agent must monitor the producer which operates in accordance with all USDA organic requirements
In addition, livestock must be allowed to live in an environment, which allows them to maintain good health and exhibit their natural behaviors all year.
- Mammals must be treated organically from the last third of gestation and poultry from the second day of hatching
- Given access to outdoors year round
- Raised on land meeting and maintaining certified organic requirements
- Raised according to livestock health and welfare standard
- Feed must be 100 percent organic; exceptions allowed for vitamin and mineral supplementation to ensure animal health
- The use of antibiotics, supplemental growth hormones, and animal byproducts in feed is prohibited in addition to arsenic, manure, urea, and arsenic compounds
Organic farmers must take extra care ensuring the health of their livestock. Since their treatment options are limited to the use of permitted vaccines, they must focus on preventing illness.
Humane treatment is one of the most prominently reasons that many choose to eat organic beef, chicken and byproducts like eggs and milk. Some of the horror stories shown in the media of what goes on in the slaughterhouses of traditional cattle farms have really raised people’s awareness and concerns.
Benefits Of Organic Meat
Along with the benefits of “eating clean,” decreased exposure to toxins, antibiotics that increase bacterial resistance and synthetic hormones, organic meat offers nutritional benefits. Free range and grass-fed livestock supply the most of these heart healthy benefits.
When compared to conventionally raised livestock, grass-fed and free range livestock offer the following nutritional benefits.
- Lower in artery clogging saturated fats
- Higher amounts of omega 3 fatty acids
- Contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an omega 6 fatty acid, which may reduce cancer risk
- Grass-fed beef provides more lutein and carotenoids
- Grass-fed beef contains 22 to 39 percent less cholesterol
- Grass-fed beef also supplies significant amounts of the following nutrients, Vitamins B3, B6 and B12, Vitamin E, beta-carotene, selenium, zinc, phosphorus and pantothenic acid
- The ratios of healthy fats, omegas 3 and 6, to unhealthy saturated fats shifts to a less healthy profile, depending how much grain is included in an animal’s diet.
Where Can You Find Organic Meat?
Due to consumer demand, organic meat is becoming more common on grocery store shelves. It can also be found via local farmers. Some organic farmers form consortia or cooperatives through which their meats can be ordered, either in person, by mail or online. Expect to pay more for organic meats.
The production volume for organic livestock is lower and the demand for organic meat products continues to grow. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, 45 percent of Americans seek to include organic foods in their diet.
Not all labels are created equal. Although often used in labeling to appeal to consumers, the words natural, cage free, hormone free, antibiotic free and free range; do not necessarily require verifiable certification. They also do not guarantee a product to meet all organic standards.
For your protection, verify your organic meat seller before making a purchase. Always check for the USDA white and green organic label. You can also check the USDA website to verify the farmer or retailer is recognized as a source of certified organic products.