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Organic and Natural Meat

Updated on June 18, 2014

Why Buy Organic or Natural Meat?

The interest in organically or naturally grown meats and fish is growing. People are looking for alternative to meats grown and processed in large mechanized factory farms. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are found in the animal feed. Also livestock waste and other filth are not treated properly and work their way into the food chain. Pesticides are also applied directly and liberally to the animal in order to kill off pests. Recent recalls of tainted meats infected with e-coli, salmonella and other problems have concerned consumers searching for safer alternatives.

The worry is that the large farming complexes are polluting our environment both land and water with the fertilizer, pesticides and massive fecal wastes. Vegetable crops, aquifers and waterways are found to be contaminated with fecal material and other farm related pollutants.

Smaller family farms are being squeezed out of business, not being able to compete on their own. If they join with one of the larger mega companies they have to follow different rules. The more people get involved and buy safer produced meats and fish the more businesses will take notice.

Terminology for different types of meat is confusing, especially with businesses trying to get the highest price they can by trying to convince you their product is much more natural, organic or sustainable than the other ones on the store shelves. They try to use terminology that means in essence nothing. This lens will try to alleviate some of the confusion.

Organic Meat

Organically grown beef have paperwork that is tracked. They cannot be fed confined and they cannot be fed antibiotics or growth hormones.

Organically raised chickens eat organic feed without antibiotics and growth hormones.They cannot be feed animal by-products or fillers.

Organic Pork is also raised without antibiotics and growth hormones.

Organic Fish is a label that U.S. regulations do not cover. There is a battle raging about allowing farmed fish who eat non organic food ( smaller fish) to be called organic. Fish farmed under special guidelines in the UK can be certified organic.

Organically grown meats are given 100% organic feed and have access to the outdoors and pastures to graze or forage. The farms are inspected and certified to make sure USDA regulations are in effect.

Natural Meats

According to the USDA these meats should be minimally processed which is a very vague term. They should be free of preservatives, artificial ingredients and added color. But saline solution and some other preservatives are allowed. There is no specifics on how the animal is raised or the type of feed. The package label would have to list why the meat is considered natural and whether it was fed grains or grass or that there were no growth hormones or antibiotics. You could look up the company website to see their philosophy and farming practices for a better understanding.

Grass Fed Animals

Grass fed animals are allowed to graze on pastures which is more natural for them . Of course how much depends on the farm philosophy. Farmers rotate the pastures they graze on to protect the land. Some advertise 100% grass fed with no soy or corn feed and the meat has less saturated fat than grain fed meat. You would have to look at the label and website to see their particular feeding method.

Historically animals used to graze in open pastures but now they are mostly confined for several reasons. It helps prevent contamination from the animal droppings on food crops. The livestock are protected from wildlife that might be carrying diseases. It is safer from predators and thievery and from toxic plants. The snake root plant caused the devastating milk sickness of the 19th century. Birthwort was implicated in horses coming down with kidney failure after grazing on it. People who ate bread and other products accidentally made with birthwort contaminated wheat also came down with kidney disease and a rare cancer of the urinary tract.

Free-Range and Pastured Chicken

Free-Range chicken are supposed to have access to the outdoors. But depending on the farm set up and the amount of chickens, they really may never get outdoors. Other than that they can be raised the same way as totally caged chickens. How humane or not would depend on the individual farm.

Pastured Chickens are kept in bottomless pens which are moved around pastures to get to different grasses. The cages protect the birds from predators while the movement also to get away from their waste and allows for the regrowth of new pastures.

Wild Caught and Farmed Fish

Wild fish are caught from fresh water or salt water, depending on the type of fish. Since it is caught in the wild it cannot be called organic. The concern is mercury and other pollution that is found in the waters.

Farmed fish are raised in aquaculture be it fresh or salt water. The concern is all the artificial antibiotics and growth hormones that are used. Also disease that is bred in such environments that are said to be dangerous to wild fish. Farmed fish can escape and infect wild fish. In the case of Asian carp, they were brought to the U.S. fish farms to help curb algae. They escaped during floods and are now considered a dangerous invasive species even though they are eaten and bred in Asia.

Wild or Farmed Fish

Do you distinguish between wild or farmed fish?

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100% Organic

Products labeled as “100 percent organic” must

contain (excluding water and salt) only organically

produced ingredients and processing aids

Buying Organic Meat

Do you buy organic meat?

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Products labeled "organic" must consist of at least 95

percent organically produced ingredients (excluding

water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients

must consist of nonagricultural substances approved

on the National List.

Video on Raising Organic Chickens

Do You Eat Natural or Organic Meats?

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    • EcoGecko LM profile image

      EcoGecko LM 6 years ago

      Awesome lens you mostly only ever see the organic "happy" animals where I live (in the countryside) but you know that they are tucked away in some barn somewhere wild meat such as venison (not to be confused with veal which is a completely different animal) is what I prefer (I don't really eat a lot of beef but that's only because game is cheaper for me). Its another humane kind of meat as the raising process is skipped completely (if wild not farmed).