In popular supermarkets and non-health specific food stores, there’s a minority section that’s labeled ‘Organic’, and the items in this area are always a little more expensive than the much more abundant non-organic variety. The difference between the two, asides from availability and price, are not very obvious. However the difference in availability and price are the product of the differing methods used to produce each.
Products with the ‘organic certified’ label on them have to have been grown or processed according to a certain standard set by the country. The National Organic Program(run by the USDA) is in charge of the legal definition of organic in the United States and does organic certification. It administers the Organic Seal to products and producers that meet strict requirements.1[wikipedia.org] According to the NOP, when meat,poultry, eggs or dairy product are certified organic, you can be sure that the animals were raised without the use of antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic produce is grown with out the use of genetic engineering, most conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge or ionizing radiation.
What do all these terms mean for the consumer? In the meat, poultry and dairy department, the use of antibiotics is necessitated by the increased incidence of disease among the animals were the practice of factory farming presides. Factory farming also known as intensive animal farming, is the method used by most non-organic producers to achieve the highest output with the lowest input possible. On poultry farms, to minimize the amount of needed space, chickens are crammed into large warehouses by the thousands. Because of high density of animals in one place, resulting in less than one square foot of space for each chicken, the tips of the chickens’ and turkeys’ beaks are cut off soon after hatching to prevent injury from the irritable frustrated birds fighting. The fowl are often genetically alter and fed growth hormones to facilitate abnormally large meat output. However this altering is often to much for the birds. Because there are growing so rapidly their heart and lungs can’t keep up, resulting in tremendous losses. Their legs also periodically break under the unnatural weight. Beef, pork and veal are produced under very similar conditions.
This April 2001 Washington Post article describes typical slaughter plant conditions:
The cattle were supposed to be dead before they got to Moreno. But too often they weren’t.
They blink. They make noises, he said softly. The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around. Still Moreno would cut. On bad days, he says, dozens of animals reached his station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller. They die, said Moreno, piece by piece…
The U.S. Department of Agriculture oversees the treatment of animals in meat plants, but enforcement of the law varies dramatically. While a few plants have been forced to halt production for a few hours because of alleged animal cruelty, such sanctions are rare.2[FactoryFarming.com]
Veal Treatment Within moments of birth, male calves born on dairies are taken away from their mothers and loaded onto trucks. Many are sold through auction rings where they are subjected to transportation and handling stresses. The fragile animals are shocked and kicked, and when they can no longer walk, they are dragged by their legs or even their ears.Every year, approximately one million calves are confined in crates measuring just two feet wide. They are chained by the neck to restrict all movement, making it is impossible for them to turn around, stretch, or even lie down comfortably. This severe confinement makes the calves’ meat “tender” since the animals muscles cannot develop.3 [FactoryFarming.com]Pork ConditionsThe overcrowding and confinement is unnatural and stress-producing since pigs are actually very clean animals. If they are given sufficient space, pigs are careful not to soil the areas where they sleep or eat. But in factory farms, they are forced to live in their own feces, urine, vomit and even amid the corpses of other pigs.In addition to overcrowded housing, sows and pigs also endure extreme crowding in transportation, resulting in rampant suffering and deaths. As one hog industry expert writes:
Death losses during transport are too high – amounting to more than $8 million per year. But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out why we load as many hogs on a truck as we do. It’s cheaper. So it becomes a moral issue. Is it right to overload a truck and save $.25 per head in the process, while the overcrowding contributes to the deaths of 80,000 hogs each year?4 [FactoryFarming.com]
The result of all this mistreatment is that the product is much more abundant and therefore much cheaper.
Non- organic fruits and vegetables are farmed with pesticides and fertilizers that harm the environment and under the right conditions they can hurt humans as well.
So the question is: Do you prefer cheaper, juicier, meatier meats and produce, or rather more expensive , more natural products that support humane animal treatment and natural ingredients?
I for one definitely choose the latter.
Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia, Organic Food Article FactoryFarming.com Photo Gallery, BeefFactoryFarming.com Photo Gallery,VealFactoryFarming.com Photo Gallery,Pork