Why choose organic meat? Because the organic standards result in clear, tangible differences in the quality of meat and the impacts of production on our environment. Organic allows people to benefit from the improved nutritional profiles of meat, while avoiding potential hazardous compounds.
- Has an improved nutritional profile
- Avoids pesticide residues
- Does not contribute to antibiotic resistant bacteria
- Bans the use of growth promoters
- Protects our environment
What does “Organic” meat mean?
There are unique regulations that organic poultry and livestock farmers must follow to ensure organic meat is produced sustainably, with the health of the animals and the health of the consumers in mind. While there are many distinctions between USDA Organic and non-organic, the main differences are related to what the animals eat, where they spend their time, and how they are treated if/when they get sick. Here are the specifics:
Management of organic livestock
PASTURE ACCESS: Organic ruminant livestock, such as cattle, sheep, and goats, must be grazed throughout the entire grazing season-- at least 120 days per calendar year. The pasture they are grazed on must be organically managed, so it can’t be sprayed with toxic synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizer. Pasture-based diets are important for animals, because more grass in the ruminants’ diet leads to more balance in gut microbes, less acidity in the rumen, which is the largest chamber to process roughages, and overall improved digestive health.
FEEDING AND GRAZING: The diet for organic livestock needs to be completely organic, meaning that it can’t contain growth promotants of any kind, antibiotics, genetically modified feeds or ingredients (GMOs), or slaughter by-products from mammals or birds. During the grazing season, organic ruminant livestock must get at least 30% of their diet from grazing on organic pasture.
LIVING CONDITIONS: In organic production, the animals’ stage of life, the climate, and the environment need to be taken into consideration when providing year-round access to the outdoors. The outdoor environment must include shade, shelter, exercise areas, fresh air, clean water for drinking, and direct sunlight. Continuous total confinement of any animal indoors is prohibited. Yards, feeding pads, and feedlots may only be used to provide ruminants with access to the outdoors during the non-grazing season or for supplemental feeding during the grazing season.
ANIMAL HEALTH: On organic farms, preventive healthcare practices are used to deter illness. If those efforts fail, organic farmers can use other restricted medicines, but antibiotics and most synthetic chemicals are prohibited.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH: Organic farmers and ranchers must use practices that minimize impacts to the environment surrounding the farm. They often recycle manure into crop and pasture production to help avoid nutrient runoff and increase carbon storage in their fields. They also use beneficial farming practices such as crop rotation and cover crops to maintain soil fertility and help protect soil and water quality. Organic production may also have a lower contribution to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Synthetic fertilizers or pesticides—leading drivers of climate change within the agricultural sector, are prohibited in organic production.