Organic meat constitutes only a small part of the entire meat industry globally; however, its increasing demand has attracted the attention of all. The demand for organic meat increased by 51% in 2005 in North America.
The ever increasing demand of organic meat is a proof of increasing consumer preference for the product. Consumers normally pay a high premium for natural meat and organic meat. This premium is about 30% for natural meat and anything between 15% to 200% for organic meat.
Let us have a look at the organic beef industry. Organic beef accounts for only 1% of the total retail beef volume and 2% of the total retail sales in the US. However, ever since reports of US and Canadian livestock being affected by BSE in 2003 were revealed, the sales of organic beef have increased dramatically and doubled each year.
To combat the increasing demand of organic meat, US organic meat processors are importing organic meat from other regions such as Australia, Canada and Latin America. According to Organic Monitor, such high is the demand that imports of organic pork doubled in the year 2005 in the US.
Numerous companies are venturing into organic meat sector to tap this opportunity. The conventional meat producers are either buying the already existing smaller organic meat players or starting their own organic meat divisions. Though the European organic market is dominated by only 15 players, small organic meat farms also have created their niche.
From where do people buy organic meat? Supermarkets are the most common sales channel and accounts for over half of the organic meat sales in the many countries. Special organic meat retailers have also made their presence. In contrast, consumers in Germany and Italy prefer to buy organic meat from organic food shops and butchers.
Which Types of Meat Do You Use To Prepare Your Favorite Meat Recipe?
Meat comes from different animals and we know most of them. This article does not cover the types of animals, but the way the animals have been grown. Traditionally animals were grown in free space / outdoors, but now most of the animals are grown in a factory mode of operation where they are force fed with specific feed including hormones and animal by-products, not allowed to exercise, and forced to remain congested in a small area till they are butchered.
Due to the alleged problems with conventional meat, people are now moving towards organic meat. Consumers are also demanding natural meat and grass fed meat as they are normally considered healthy and rich in nutrients.
The issue with natural meat and grass fed meat is that there are no standards for these products set by the USDA. Hence, while producing these types of meat, the manufacturers have a free hand, though they have to indicate the important aspects of the production methods on the labels.
Characteristics of Different Types of Meat
Given below is a comparison of conventional meat, organic meat, natural meat and grass fed meat on different parameters. This table will help you make an informed decision about the type of meat that you purchase. What you purchase is now up to you.
|Conventional Meat||Organic Meat||Natural Meat||Grass Fed Meat|
|USDA Definitions||No special definition||Produced according to USDA National Organic Standards||No artificial ingredients, minimal processing||None|
|Usage of Hormones||Yes||No||Vary||Vary|
|Feed Grown with Chemical Pesticides and Fertilizers||Yes||No||Vary||Vary|
|Necessary to Allow the Cattle to Graze on Pastures?||No||Yes||No Standards (Normally farmers allow cattle to graze)||No Standards (Normally farmers allow cattle to graze)|
|Animal Confinement||Yes||No (Outdoor access not necessary, if weather is not favorable)||No Standards (Normally farmers provide outdoor access)||No Standards (Normally farmers provide outdoor access)|
|Animal by-products Feed||Yes||No||No Standards (Normally animal by-products are not fed)||Vary|
|Presence of GMOs in Feed||Yes||No||No||Vary|
|Safety Inspection by USDA||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Meat Irradiation Carried Out||Vary||No||No||Vary|
|Usage of Preservatives||Vary||No||No||Vary|
References: Organic Prairie
Free range meat
Free range meat production involves providing open air access to animals instead of confining them to barns. They should be free to roam in open fields along with other animals and should receive natural light. Open pasture access (for at least 120 days in a year) is an important criterion for organic meat production.
However, you should note that free range meat is not organic meat. Free range meat does not involve any guidelines for the animal feed. A good thing is that there are stringent guidelines for medication of free range animals as well and these are more or less similar to those in organic meat production.
What does Freedom Food Label mean?
Many of you must have come across freedom food label on meat products. The freedom food label means that the animals have been raised taking their welfare into consideration. This labeling scheme has been set by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in 1994 in the UK.
Certified Organic Meat
According to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), requirements for certified organic meat include the following:
Animals that have been transitioned to organic production techniques cannot be used for certified organic meat production, In other words, an animal that is used for producing certified organic meat should be raised according to organic means right from its birth.
The livestock animals that are used for organic meat production should be the offspring of an animal that has been managed according to organic standards from the last three months of pregnancy.
The animal should be fed only certified organic milk, without the use of any substitutes.
Poultry which has been raised in an organic way from the second day of life can be used for organic meat or organic eggs.
The feed of livestock meant for organic meat should constitute organic feed.
Animals fed with transitional fields will not qualify for organic meat.
Treatment with antibiotics and hormones is strictly prohibited.
The slaughterhouse in which the organic meat is processed should be certified as organic and inspected by the USDA.
If whole livestock that is raised through organic means is sold to a customer, it does not require the organic certification or USDA inspection.
The USDA has given similar certification requirements for organic meat processing. These standards have been explained by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.
Organic Grass Fed Beef
Research has shown that grass fed beef has higher nutritional value as it has more Omega3, Vitamin E, and CLA content than conventional beef. In fact, presence of these nutrients in organic milk is one of the most important reasons for increased demand of organic milk. The USDA does stress the importance of pasture access for production of organic dairy products.
On the other hand, grain fed bovines can also qualify for organic certification, provided they are raised and processed according to organic standards. Thus certified organic beef, that has been grain fed, lacks the nutritional value of grass fed beef.
The best way of gaining the nutritional benefits of grass fed beef and at the same time gaining the health benefits of organic beef is consuming grass fed organic beef.
Organic grass fed beef thus has the following benefits:
More Omega 3: Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid which helps in reducing incidence of Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid which helps in reducing incidence of various diseases including heart disease, inflammations (in skin diseases such as eczema), cancer, arthritis, etc.
Higher Vitamin E content: Vitamin E is useful for protecting your body cells from free radicals and thus delays ageing. It also reduces the incidence of various chronic diseases including heart diseases, diabetes and cataract.
Higher CLA content: Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) increases metabolic rate, immunity to diseases and muscle growth. It also reduces abdominal fat, cholesterol, and allergic reactions. Since human body is not able to produce this substance, you should always prefer food items that have higher CLA content.
Non-altered E. coli: Research has shown that animals that are fed grains have an acidic environment in their digestive tract which increase the population of E. coli there and also makes them more acid resistant. When we consume grain fed meat, our digestive system is not able to cleanse out these acid resistant bacteria and hence become ill. Grass fed beef, on the other hand, does not cause alteration of the E. coli bacteria and is therefore healthy.
Organic beef has its regular benefits of no pesticide and fertilizer contamination. It does not contain artificial substances such as hormones, GMOs and antibiotics.
Organic beef also has higher polyunsaturated fatty acid content due to organic feed, which is good for health.
What is animal welfare?
People are increasingly becoming concerned about the extensive cruelty caused to animals in conventional meat production. Hence nowadays meat producers are using animal welfare methodologies.
Animal welfare, in organic meat production or otherwise, calls for implementing various guidelines including:
- Providing more space to animals and reducing the number of animals per acre or barn
- Provide access to sufficient open fields, water, and food
- Ensuring a holistic food instead of feeding just energy rich diet
- Greater healthcare facilities and reducing the stress levels
- Prohibiting the use of electric prods
Farm Animal Welfare Council, an UK based organization, has laid stress on five types of freedoms for animals, whether on farm, or in transit or at the slaughter house. These five freedoms are:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst: The livestock should be given a free access to fresh water source and diet.
- Freedom from Discomfort: The animals should be given a comfortable shelter.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease: Healthy conditions should be maintained and immediate attention should be paid to diseases and disorders.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behavior: The animals should be given free space and company of their own species.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress: Conditions that result in mental suffering for the livestock should be removed.