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Health Benefits of Organic Meats
The top three reasons people choose organic are environment, taste, and health. But does the added cost of organic for livestock products really translate as value where our health is concerned?
Organic livestock products are fundamentally different from their “mainstream” counterparts in significant ways. The same care and attention that go into raising your organic vegetables are given to grains and pastures that feed organic chicken, cattle, pigs, and other livestock. Soil is made healthy using organic fertility methods, and no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are permitted in organic feed production.
Mainstream livestock feed contains GMOs, could contain pesticide and herbicide residue, and can also contain waste from other livestock streams. For example the “litter” or waste from the chicken barn floor is worked into cattle feed.
Simply put, we protect more land and water resources when we choose organic livestock products. It takes 2- 4 acres per year to feed one dairy cow. That’s a lot of land managed organically in a single brick of cheese! So choosing organic keeps our ecosystems healthier, but what about us?
Organically-raised animals must also have outdoor access, weather permitting, and have access to sunlight and fresh air year round. Organic production sets minimal space requirements, preventing overcrowding so animals have enough space indoors and out to maintain their health.
Beyond feed and housing, organic producers take extra steps to protect animal health and ultimately consumer health. No antibiotic use is permitted in organic products. Antibiotics are used in mainstream agriculture to lower costs of production and speed growth. The administration of antibiotics for growth is partially responsible for the low meat prices reflected today in North America- but this comes at a cost.
According to the OMAFRA website, “non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture leads to the development of antibiotic resistance… These resistant bacteria may infect people, or their resistance genes may spread to other bacteria that infect people. Antibiotic resistance limits treatment options, delays recovery and costs more. The most troubling aspect is that antibiotic resistance can increase with continued and widespread use of antibiotics to improve growth (World Health Organization, 2003).” Choosing organic chicken is a great way to say “NO” to antibiotic overuse.
Scientists report that hormone residues found in meat can disrupt the consumer's hormone balance, cause developmental problems, interfere with the reproductive system, and even lead to the development of cancer.1 Children and pregnant women are most susceptible to these negative health effects.2 Hormone residues in beef are also thought to cause the early onset of puberty in girls.3 This puts girls at greater risk of developing breast cancer and other forms of cancer.
Healthy soils, healthy feed, healthy animals lead to healthful food products. It just makes sense!
Jodi Koberinski, Executive Director, Organic Council of Ontario