"Since the animals are not fed powerful and harmful drugs, the consumer in turn does not ingest them," says Morgan Berrington, eco-friendly extern from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, who is working at farm-to-fork restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns.
According to James A. Riddle, endowed chair of agricultural systems at the University of Minnesota, organic feed mills must be inspected and certified to ensure that feed is free of antibiotics, hormones, slaughter by-products and insecticides that may be added to non-organic rations. Mills must also ensure that rodenticides and insecticides used in the facility do not contaminate organic feed.
Not only are organically raised animals not genetically modified, they do not eat genetically modified feed.
"Traditional means of raising cattle use many non-renewable fossil fuels," explains Berrington. "Factory farms can deteriorate the land and cause much waste. The land used for organic cattle does not use pesticides or fertilizers, and the manure from these cattle is used on the farm for other farming techniques."
Organically raised cows are fed organic feed, not the ground-up remains of other cows. The latter is a practice that may cause the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease). "It is totally unnatural to feed [cows] animal by-products and manure, but that is exactly what high-output industrial factory farms, especially dairy farms, are doing, since these are cheap sources of protein," says Riddle.
According to Berrington, animals that live more natural lives create a better quality product for consumers. Organic meat and dairy typically tastes better.
Nature thrives on diversity. Small sustainable organic farms tend to raise a wider array of animals than factory farms, which rely on just a few species of livestock or poultry. Buying organic meat and dairy helps keep certain species of animals from dying off and preserves diversity.
Supporting organic farms is good for the environment because they use less energy, practice good farming practices, don't use pesticides on their acreage, and keep their animals drug, hormone and antibiotic free. Organic farms cause less erosion and don't pollute groundwater.
"By purchasing organic meat and dairy, you can be sure that you are supporting the proper treatment of animals," says Berrington. Factory farms pack animals in crowded quarters, often forcing them to stand or lie in their own waste. These unhealthful conditions result in greater use of antibiotics and other drugs, Berrington adds.
Because organic meat and dairy are raised naturally and without the use of drugs or other chemicals, consumers buy and eat a a more healthful product than their conventional shopping counterparts.
"Many organic farms are small family farms," says Berrington. "These take the time and dedication to treat their animals properly and take extra care to deliver an exceptional product. By purchasing organic dairy and meat, you are supporting these small farms." The best choice is locally sourced organic meat and dairy, a choice that supports your local economy.
Buying organic meat and dairy is not only beneficial to you and the farmers you support, but is also a choice that can inspire others to do the same. When you tell others that your meat and dairy of choice is organic, you plant a seed of thought that may entice them to bring organic foods into their homes, too.
To obtain USDA organic certification, meat and dairy farmers must meet rigorous standards, and must undergo detailed audits and inspections of their facilities and farmland. An organic label indicates that the meat and dairy products were produced in the most eco-friendly manner possible.
Raising animals in a way that's more in line with nature produces less greenhouse gas and can reduce the threat of global warming. The spread of organic farms increases open land area and the number animals that are raised responsibly, which in turn helps cut pollution.
Supporting sustainable agriculture and consuming organic products not only benefit you and the environment today, but also improve the health of your family and the earth for generations to come.
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