Is Organic Meat Worth Its Price?


by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.

Whether you’re vegetarian or not, this is must-know information that most people aren’t aware of, including many pro-organic best-selling book authors.

Grab “Is Organic Meat Worth Its Price?” below:

 

Download PDF NOW!

 

Conveniently download this 22-page science report. Contains links to extra reading materials and scientific references.

Topics covered in this report:

  1. Hormones used in farm animals
  2. Misinforming the masses: What many experts and best-selling books authors don’t know
  3. How to use this document if you live in the EU, the US or another country
  4. What’s forbidden in the European Union exactly?
  5. What does the EU prohibition cover?
  6. What’s the science on the use of hormones in livestock?
  7. Antibiotics and other drugs
  8. What does the UK law say?
  9. Organic produce: EU vs US, head to head
  10. Organic legislation in the EU
  11. Non-organic feed for organic stock
  12. What’s the non-organic feed limit?
  13. Does organic mean chemical-free?
  14. Your key takeaways
  15. References and resources

 

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And let me know in the comments below what you think about organic vs. non-organic meat - I'd love to hear from you!

The-Health-Sciences-Academy-Alejandra-Ruani-small1-right
Alex Ruani leads the research division at The Health Sciences Academy, where she and her team make sense of complex scientific literature and translate it into easy-to-understand practical concepts for students. She is a Harvard-trained scientific researcher who specialises in cravings and appetite neurobiology, nutrition biochemistry, and nutrigenomics. Besides investigating and teaching the latest advances in health and nutrition science, Alex makes it easier to be smarter with her free Science Catch-ups every other Thursday.
Connect with Alex via email.


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25 Comments

  • jeanette Southam

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    I found this article very interesting. However, I live in Australia – I’m of the opinion that our meats have no added hormones (but may be wrong) but don’t know about antibiotics. Can anyone enlighten me?

  • jeanette Southam

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    After saying that I didn’t think hormones were added to livestock in Australia I’ll eat my words – they are. But it is illegal to add hormones to poultry here.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply January 15, 2015

      Good job for finding out, Jeanette! My ultimate goal is that our readers become savvy researchers themselves :-)

  • Martin Novotny

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    Dear Alex, your summary is brilliant and I find it very useful! Just wanted to say that I for every health-conscious being I would leave the comment about “organic vs commercial meat worthiness” for US in the same group as EU. Leaving apart all that nasty hormonal stuff, commercially raised kettle stock is still full of trace amounts of antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides and due to its way of raising (99% of time locked in sheds) it has completely different nutritional profile compared to the grass-fed, all-organic meet that you can buy here in EU. Yes, it is 70-100% more expensive, but it is totally worth the money – full of vit. D, A, K2, best protein source available and if you go for all and introduce bones (bone broth prepared in slow-cooker) and organ meat into your diet, you can gain even more!!!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply January 15, 2015

      Martin – glad to hear you’ve found it useful. It’s a delight having you in our community :-)

  • Mark Cole

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    After reading the article it seems i may have to change the way i look at the British meat and it may save myself a lot of money.
    My wife has been ill and decided to try the Paleo diet but reading most journals it states that you must eat only grass fed produce .Now am i right in saying that this would strongly apply in the US but not so much in UK or is organic and grass fed completely different ?
    I would like to know what people think as this could save an absolute fortune in meat buying for us but on the other hand need to get this right.
    Thanks

    • Alex

      Reply Reply January 15, 2015

      Mark – thanks for sharing! Yes, organic and grass-fed are two different things, one doesn’t imply the other. E.g., you can find non-organic grass-fed (per Anne’s farm in the comments here). Grass-fed animal produce tends to be quite sound nutritionally, typically higher in CLA, but again it depends on the quality of the soil. For example, Dutch cheese is generally yellow or orange because of the high concentrations of carotene in the grass :-)

      • Elizabeth Plant

        Reply Reply January 15, 2015

        It does depend. There are some smallscale producers in the UK for instance who go beyond ‘organic’ in their management and care but these are not found in the mainstream supermarkets.

  • Anne

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    Thank you Alex! I am a farmer in England and our meat is grass fed and our chickens free range, but we do not buy the organic certification as it is very expensive. And this is another misconception out there, people think that organic means grass fed and free range, but it doesn’t… in reality the large organic producers use battery farms and dont have pastures for the animals, so they may sell organic but the way animals are treated is awful. We may not be certified organic but my animals are happy wondering around and getting all the sunshine, fresh air and nutrients from our soil. I wanted to thank you for raising awareness on a subject that is close to my heart!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply January 15, 2015

      Anne – This is so interesting. Indeed, “organic” doesn’t mean that the animals are entirely grass-fed or free-range. The ethical treatment of animals varies from producer to producer, organic or not!

  • Emma

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    Brilliant report!! I’m a schoolteacher and last year my students and I worked on a project to find out if British produce has GMO. The project consisted of defining GMO and the European regulations, and we visited the top 6 UK supermarkets, inspected the labels of all meat products, but could not find a single label that stated “this product contains GMO”. In Europe and the UK, it’s mandatory that the label has the acronym GMO if the product contains it. But so far, we haven’t seen any label with that statement. Which means that British farmers aren’t really using such methods. And since US meat imports are banned, I’m not concerned that GMO meats will land on our shelves. Thanks for accurately informing readers about these issues and for clarifying such important misconceptions!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply January 15, 2015

      Nice school project, Emma! We also track labels and haven’t seen GMOs on UK supermarket shelves (yet). GMO is a complex topic and probably deserves its own space in a separate report :-)

  • Greg Nicholson

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    While there are many types of organic certification present, the following are some of the criteria from the Soil Association:

    “Most arable, horticultural and grass-based farms will go through a 24-
    month conversion period when the land must be managed to full organic
    standards. However, sometimes the conversion period may be increased
    or reduced.”

    “Prohibited inputs for land would include, for example, all synthetic
    fertilisers, herbicides and synthetic pesticides. Prohibited inputs for
    livestock include all organophosphate treatments, the unauthorised use
    of routine veterinary treatments, such as routine worming, and the
    unauthorised feeding of non-organic feedstuffs which might contain
    genetically modified (GM) material. ”

    “Organic chickens and turkeys are able to behave naturally – grazing, pecking the ground, scratching and dust-bathing. Organic poultry must have continuous and easy daytime access to pasture or range covered with suitable vegetation, except in adverse weather conditions. Organic poultry cannot be permanently housed, though shelter and protection from predators must be provided at all times.”

    “The ideal situation is that all organic livestock should be fed 100%
    organic feed. However, the standards currently allow the use of a limited
    proportion of approved non-organic feedstuffs where the farmer is
    unable to source fully organic feed…This non-organic allowance is set to decrease over the next few years. The 10% cent non-organic allowance will be in place until 31 December 2009, when it will drop to 5%. If sufficient organic feed ingredients are available it is expected that poultry will have to be fed 100% organic feed from 31 December 2011.”

    The Soil Association certainly doesn’t just “encourage” organic animal feed, it has a definitive requirement that needs be met. The land must go through a 24 hour conversion period using organic principles, and so the animals would not be grazing on non-organic land. I think the most important point to consider is that organic guarentees that GMO’s have not been used in the animal feed. While EU law requires GM ingredients in foods to be labelled, this clearly isn’t always the case, as GM foods without labelling have already began to find their way onto our shelves:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2826108/Frankenstein-foods-slip-M-S-Anger-store-puts-GM-food-shelves-despite-opposed-engineered-products.html

    Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and the Co-op recently ended bans on giving ‘Frankenstein Feed’ to farm animals producing meat, milk and eggs. The three retailers were the last of the big food chains to be holding out against the use of controversial GM crops on their farms. The change means that the vast majority of meat, milk and eggs sold by Britain’s supermarkets will come from animals raised on a GM diet:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2308369/Sainsburys-M-S-tear-Frankenfeed-ban.html#ixzz3OtGRFnH0

    On top of this, the European Parliament has just passed a law allowing the cultivation of GMO crops by EU member states, by 480 votes to 159, with 58 abstentions. Green UK MEP Keith Taylor said: “This agreement is not all it seems. While giving EU countries new powers to ban GMOs, I believe what this will mean in reality for the UK is more GMOs not fewer. This is because our pro-GM Government are now able to give the go-ahead to more authorisations.”:

    http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2711268/europarl_votes_in_new_era_of_gmo_farming.html

    Also you must consider the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If this goes ahead, you can guarentee there will be more GM feed being imported from the US such as corn and soy:

    By 2012, 88 percent of corn (maize) and 94 percent of soy grown in the United States were genetically modified, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

    http://phys.org/news/2013-06-gmo-corn-soybeans-dominate.html#jCp

    Therefore, it is inevitable that we are going to see a rise in GM foods in Europe and Organic certification is the only way you can avoid this, unless you buy from local farmers who specifically state that they do not use GM animal feed, but not all people have that luxury.

  • Allison

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    What great report, thank you for doing the hard work and making this whole area so much clearer. :)

  • Jane Magan

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    I found this report very informative as I was not aware of all of the facts surrounding the legalities of organic meat – I have desired to be able to buy organic but have not been able to afford it – I mainly buy free range chickens and grass fed beef – it’s good to know that this is good quality and I shall do some more research on producers. I have visited Sheeps Grove Farm a few years ago who raise organic poultry and cattle – they are totally organic in their feed their soil and even how they treat their animals – so I had assumed that all organic producers were the same thanks for opening my eyes! An excellent report.
    Jane

  • Ms. Beef

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    Thanks for posting the report. I am a huge advocate of hormone free/organic beef and appreciate you raising awareness. The EU has allocated a duty-free quota for non-hormone treated cattle which includes the US.

    • admin

      Reply Reply January 15, 2015

      Thanks, Tara! There’s been a long-running dispute over hormone-treated beef imports into the EU and still remains a complex political issue. Maria, Research Analyst

  • Susan

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    Hi Alex, thank you for such an interesting piece of information. I found it an absolute eye opener!It makes you wonder how many of the general public will be aware of this. I feel I now need to spread the word as it has certainly changed my opinion of organic products. Thank you once again.
    Kind Regards
    Susan

  • Alexis

    Reply Reply January 15, 2015

    I live in Arizona in the US and I always buy organic, sustainable grass-fed meats. I never thought about the chemicals already in the ground and in the water that is being used to supply livestock with appropriate feed. It saddens me to think that organic doesn’t really mean organic in some cases. My goal is to finish this course and hopefully be on my way to make more of an impact in my community and eventually branching out to more of the US in total. I’d love to work alongside policy makers to encourage total organic farming. The US spends more money on health care than any other country in the world.. its not a coincidence. How does the FDA let things like this happen??? It’s all about greedy policy makers who care about the wrong kind of green.

  • Claudia

    Reply Reply January 16, 2015

    Always a pleasure learning from your research. Do you know the hormone laws in Canada? I know most of our milk here in BC is hormone free, but I don’t think our meat is.

    • admin

      Reply Reply January 16, 2015

      Thanks so much for sharing your lovely feedback! Yes, certain hormones are still allowed in non-organic Canadian animal products, but not all of them. For example, like in the EU, Canada banned the use of rBGH. Canada can export meat into the EU, but only up to a certain quota and only for non-hormone treated meat. In your case, it may be worth that you look at your local organic farming laws and see which products may be worth buying organic. I found this resource for you, as it may help as a starting point: http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/organic-products/eng/1300139461200/1300140373901 Maria (Research Analyst)

    • Megan

      Reply Reply January 19, 2015

      I am from Ontario and I have read that in Canada, growth hormones are only given to beef cattle (and not dairy cattle). There are no growth hormones used in poultry or pork production.

      Antibiotics, on the other hand, are used more often. They may be used in poultry, pork and fish that are being raised for food. Antibiotics may also be sprayed on fruit and given to honey bees.

      For animal products, if a cow is treated with antibiotics because of an infection, the milk they produce while being treated is not sold. When hens are given antibiotics, the eggs they lay are thrown away.

      Growth hormone and antibiotic levels are monitored for safety

      The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regularly tests food to make sure that antibiotic and hormone levels are safe for humans. These levels have been determined by Health Canada. If foods contain antibiotic and hormone levels that are too high, the foods may be removed or recalled from the food supply. Both domestic and imported foods are tested for food safety.

      Thanks for this article. I’m interested to see what others from Canada think??

      • admin

        Reply Reply January 19, 2015

        Thanks for sharing, Megan! Maria

  • Judith van Praag

    Reply Reply January 17, 2015

    Thank you Alex for providing this paper, and inviting responses. I’m impressed with the input of others and hope to become more active in this community. As others have pointed out (with valuable resource links) pesticide free and organic have become relative labels. Still I’ll always choose to buy meat and fowl that’s raised without anti-biotics and hormones and in the most ecologically sound and humane manner. But here in the U.S. where I live that’s not possible for every family. Prices can be prohibitive, especially for people who think in big portions. As a native Dutch person living in the U.S. I know that I’m satisfied with much smaller portions of the easy protein sources, meat and fowl, as nutrition therapist I hope I’ll be able to play a role in re-educating U.S. customers.

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