Just about anyone who pays attention to the sources of the food they eat is well aware of the horrors of the meat industry. Industrialized agriculture has brought with it the use of artificial hormones in order to maximize output and antibiotics to remedy the diseases associated with the livestock’s living conditions. Besides the artificial additives to our food, factory farms are infamous for their mistreatment of animals and unethical slaughtering practices. The ecological impacts of “conventional” meat production have also become more conspicuous than ever.
As a response to these issues, many consumers turn to buying organic meat. It is often assumed that because the meat carries the official USDA label, the ecological, health and animal treatment problems disappear from their food choices. However, simply using this label to make your choices at the supermarket is not enough. As organic.com notes,
“Keep in mind that even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA Organic label is voluntary. At the same time, not everyone goes through the rigorous process of becoming certified, especially smaller farming operations. When shopping at a farmers’ market, for example, don’t hesitate to ask the vendors how your food was grown”
If your main concern is keeping hormones and antibiotics out of your body, USDA-approved organic meat is a decent alternative. However, organic meat production has little to do with the ethical, humane treatment of the animals. According to actionforoutplanet.com,
“Although some of the animals will receive a better standard of living from being free to roam pastures, their death will be anything but natural. When it is time for the animal to be slaughtered the organic status of the animal is completely disregarded as the animal is beaten, mistreated and killed just like animals on factory farms.”
The environmental improvements of organic meat, particularly beef, are minimal at best. While a grass-fed cow will certainly produce much less methane (a powerful greenhouse gas) than one raised on corn, the amounts are anything but negligible. Additionally, the natural resource cost of raising cows organically may be even higher than in factory farms. Raising a cow on grass uses much more water, as more land is needed to feed each cow.
Organic beef sourced from South America is also becoming more commonplace in the American market. It is no secret that a primary reason for deforestation in the Amazon is to keep up with cattle production. Now imagine how much more pasture space is needed to accommodate the needs of organic cattle. This alone displaces many of the good intentions of the organic label.
Unfortunately, the truth is that when it comes to eating ethically sourced food, meat and other animals products are difficult to fit into the definition. Short of switching to vegan lifestyle, you must investigate individual farms and slaughterhouses to find out the best way to indulge in animal proteins. When it comes to meat, the organic label is simply not enough.
Check out these farms that produce meat as ethically as possible: