Organic food sales reached a record high in 2020 with the meat, poultry, and fish category seeing the second highest growth rate of nearly 25%1. With a growing demand and interest in organic meat, The Organic Center released a report this year to showcase The Benefits of Organic Meat and help explain what "organic" meat means and why it's important.
WHAT DOES ORGANIC MEAT MEAN?
Livestock that is raised to USDA Organic Standards must adhere to a strict set of requirements that address a variety of factors such as soil quality, animal raising practices, and pest and weed control. The main difference between USDA Organic and non-organic products is related to what the animals eat, where they spend their time, and how they are treated if/when they get sick.
Organic meat means
- No antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, GMOs, or pesticides
- The health and natural behavior of animals are prioritized
- All livestock feed must be 100% organically produced
- Cows are pasture-raised and grazed throughout the grazing season
- Organic meat farmers use holistic, preventative health care practices
- Organic meat production helps protect the environment
WHY IS ORGANIC MEAT IMPORTANT?
"When people eat meat, it is even more important to think about organic because of the full chain of production that supports meat. It's not just about the animals, but also everything going into producing feed for those animals." - Dr. Jessica Shade, Director of Science Programs at the Organic Center
The Benefits of Organic Meat report found that the organic standards followed by organic meat producers can result in...
Greater nutritional benefits in organic ruminant meat more good omega-3 fatty acids, less cholesterol, and more antioxidants
While research in the United States is limited, European Union studies have shown organic ruminant meat, such as beef, can contain more of the good omega-3 fatty acids, less cholesterol, and more antioxidants than non-organic ruminants, due to grazing and feeding practices required by organic regulations.2
A lower risk of exposure to antibiotics, growth hormones and pesticides
The use of antibiotics is prohibited in organic meat production. However, it is still common in conventional meat production and a major contributor to the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance. With nearly 3 million Americans getting sick from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, resulting in thousands of deaths3, antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing human health concerns today.
Reduced negative environmental impacts such as climate change contributions
The National Organic Program requires ruminant livestock to spend more time on pasture than conventional animals on high-density feedlots, and when they aren't on pasture, they are required to eat a 100% organically produced diet.
More time on pasture can help mitigate climate change, because pasturing ruminant animals helps store carbon in the soil, and growing feed without the use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer is key in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.
Livestock production that relies less on grain-based feed and more on pasture also has the potential to use less energy and emit fewer greenhouse gases.2
HOW ORGANIC MEAT PLAYS A ROLE IN THE APPLEGATE MISSION
One of the commitments Applegate has made to progress its mission-Changing The Meat We Eat®-is to invest in more organic agriculture. That means...
- Steadily increasing the number of partners who raise organic and humanely raised pork, beef and poultry
- Supporting organic fraud-prevention programs and efforts to strengthen organic standards, especially around animal welfare
- Working with partners to use every part of the animal, which returns higher value to organic farmers who don't want to just sell parts of a hog for bacon and ham
- Building a strong organic supply chain and providing a secure market for products that farmers and processors need so they can confidently make the switch from conventional to organic
The Organic Center. (2021). 2021 Organic Industry Survey
The Organic Center. (2020). The Benefits of Organic Meat
3CDC. Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2019. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2019.
USDA. (2013). Organic Livestock Requirements
Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. (2019). Nutritional properties of organic and conventional beef meat at retail