Organic meats represent just one aspect of the growing organic food industry. However, due to the numerous concerns surrounding antibiotic and growth hormone usage in livestock, organic meats may be a much safer alternative to ordinary supermarket meat.
How Organic Meat Is Defined
The USDA has stringent requirements for companies labeing meat as "organic." While many people confuse "natural" with "organic" on package labels, the two are not the same. Natural meats only need to be free of added chemicals and preservatives. Organic meats, on the other hand, come with a slew of requirements about the farming practices of the feed the animals receive, as well as the ranching and processing practices from before birth until packaging as meat. In order to be labeled USDA organic, the animals must be:
- Born of a mother raised with organic pracitces from the last third of gestation
- Free of hormones and antibiotics
- Eat feed free of pesticides, bio-engineering, synthetic ingredients, fertilizers, non-organically produced foods, and mammal and poultry products
- Processed and packaged organically
Buying Organic Meat
Some grocery stores have begun to carry organically produced meats, including several major supermarket chains such as Whole Foods. Smaller grocery stores and co-ops may also carry organic meats. You can find such stores in your area using the Organic Foods Store Locator.
If you prefer to shop locally, you may have multiple options beyond the grocery store. Many small local farms offer organic meat at farmers' markets. To find a farmers' market near you, visit Local Harvest and perform a ZIP code search. These same farmers may also offer bulk meat sales, where you purchase part of an animal. In most cases, the farmers then process and butcher the meat, giving you an array of frozen cuts you can store in your freezer. To find farmers in your area that offer organic meats in this manner, visit EatWild and search their state-by-state directory of farmers.
Many organic ranchers also present their meats to a larger audience by making it availble via online ordering. These producers freeze the meat and ship it in dry ice packs. The meat arrives at your door, ready to go into your freezer. Some online organic sellers to try include:
Why Organic Meat?
Unless the presence of questionably safe steroid and growth hormones appeal to the buyer, many individuals prefer to purchase organic meats in order to avoid any potential health issues. With the rise of endocrine disorders such as diabetes and hypothyroidism, extra steroid hormones may seem like an unsafe bet for the ailing consumer.
According to Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, antibiotics in the food supply can present health problems with relation to antiboitic resistance. Non-organically farmed meat, poultry, eggs and milk are known to contain certain antibiotic residues that can act as antibiotics within the body of the person who consumes the purchased meat. This can contribute to antibiotic resistance, which the CDC states may lead to decreased effectivness of certain antibiotic medications when it really matters.
Purchasing organic meats means that you will not find antibiotic residues in your food.
The Effects of Growth Hormones
According to American Cancer Society, synthetic hormones in the food supply may increase cancer risk. Likewise, hormones in meat may correlate to early puberty in girls, which increases the risk of breast cancer. More study is needed to determine a strong correlation between the two. While a solid correlation has not been established between hormone residues in meat and health factors, this may be resultant of a lack of studies with conclusive results. Purchasing organic meat helps mitigate the risks, should further study prove a positive correlation between growth hormones and health problems.
Your local health food store or co-op may carry organic meats such as chicken and beef. Selecting organic meats is a personal choice, and only you can decide whether the benefits of organic meats outweigh way the additional costs associated with the product.