In order for animal products to be labeled “organic,” producers must adhere to specific guidelines outlined by the USDA’s National Organic Program. Antibiotics and growth hormones are strictly prohibited. In addition, the animals must have access to fresh air and the outdoors. They must be given organically produced feed and the use of feed containing plastic pellets, manure or urea is strictly prohibited.
Animals raised according to the USDA’s organic standards must be allowed access to the outdoors. Ruminants (cows, sheep and goats) must be given access to pasture. This doesn’t necessarily mean the animals spend all of their time outdoors; they just need to have the accessibility. Producers must also provide animals with bedding materials.
In general, organic and natural farms tend to be smaller in size than industrial factory farms. This significantly reduces the amount of animal waste produced that can potentially pollute the nearby waterways.
In general, organic meat products do not pose the same degree of public health risk as conventionally raised meat products. Because antibiotic and artificial hormones are strictly prohibited, they do not pose serious risks to human health like antibiotic resistance (1). In addition, because they are only fed an organic diet free of animal byproducts , they are unlikely to be a source of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) also known as “mad cow” disease.
1. Clancy K. Greener Pastures: How grass-fed beef and milk contribute to healthy eating. Union of Concerned Scientists: Cambridge MA, 2006. Accessed March 14, 2007.