Thursday, March 25, 2010

Oh, Organic?

I'm cruising through the blog world the other day when I stumble upon a girls post about food.

Oh dear.

She was explaining why organic meat was more expensive and that non-organic animals were usually infected with disease due to the industries poor housing of livestock, and so on...

10 deep breathes later I wrote her a nice comment explaining my background and what sentences in her post I felt were a little misrepresenting of the livestock industry.

So, how about organic? What's up with it? I decided this would be easy and googled the term "organic meat" to grab the stats that I heard so often in college...except they didn't come up...but I found out where that girl might have found her information, sadly.

The USDA defines organic meat (it's the first link) as that meat which comes from an animal that has never received antibiotics or growth hormones. Before a product can be labeled, "organic" the place it was produced must be inspected to ensure they are meeting organic requirements.

OK, but why the price difference?

It's a matter of supply and demand. Some consumers want the choice of organic and are willing to pay more for it. Organic meat has to be worth more for a rancher to produce it, because through choosing to raise organic cattle he will have slower gaining cattle with a higher death rate.

Choosing to produce organic beef means a rancher or feeder doesn't give them any antibiotics or growth hormones, everyone's got that part. But, in not giving animals these products animals aren't as efficient, and more of them get sick and die. So, in reality, the healthier animals are the non-organic variety.

If they get sick, feeders are encouraged to wait a couple days to see if health improves on its own in some cases. If health doesn't improve the animal is doctored and no longer an organic candidate.

It drives my family's cattle feeder absolutely nuts to not doctor a sick calf. He feels having to wait a couple days results in a much longer recovery period for the animal and can lead to more sickness in the animal's peers.

We don't raise organic beef. We sat down and penciled out the additional income we would receive from marketing our cattle that way and compared it to the additional loss we would expect and economically it came out almost identical, so we stuck with our traditional program.

On the other side of the organic beef choice is the fact that non-organic cattle can and usually are treated with growth hormones.

Consider this about hormones-The average daily hormone dose in oral contraceptives is 2,500 TIMES higher than what is found in a serving of beef from an animal that received growth hormones. A man naturally produces 15,000 TIMES more estrogen than he would consume if he ate 500 grams of meat.

Consider this also, ranchers eat their product. I don't know of a single rancher who doesn't eat what he produces. If the beef he raised wasn't healthy he wouldn't feed it to himself, his family and his friends, let alone to the entire world.

There's almost always reason and logic behind why food is produced the way it is, and this is a great example of that. Most people believe they are encouraging the production of happier, healthier plants and animals through choosing organic, when the opposite is closer to the truth.

Organic is a choice, and I am in no way saying it's a bad one, but it's also important to remember that non-organic is a good choice too. Having the option between the two is another example of the effort American Agriculturalists put forth to provide the consumer what they want.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written, Miss H! I'll be interested to hear if the blogger you commented on responds!