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Farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations raise organic meat and poultry. Organic farmers must also adhere to the following standards:
Conventional meat and poultry is raised with the help of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, which have been known to make their way into the meat and potentially into those who eat it. Therefore, organic meat and poultry is thought by some to be healthier and more nutritious than food produced by industrial agriculture. In addition, animals raised in a sustainable manner are not subjected to the high levels of stress found on factory farms, which can lead to healthier animals and therefore healthier meat and poultry.
There is some evidence that sustainable techniques of pasturing enable animals to eat the grasses and greens that their bodies are naturally adapted to eat, resulting in healthier animals and leaner cuts of meat. Moreover, some experts believe that since cattle are meant to eat grasses, the acidity levels in their stomachs are altered when they eat grains, making them more susceptible to bacteria and infections.
On factory farms, animals are fed corn and grains, as well as additives and byproducts to make them gain weight. As a result, factory-farmed meat can often have a high fat content. In contrast, meat from pasture-raised animals is often lower in calories, and contains a better ratio of good fats to bad fats. Even free-range poultry and eggs frequently have less fat than their factory-farmed counterparts.
Understanding the following terms can help you when shopping for meat and poultry.
For more information on labeling of organic products, see Understanding Organics: Labeling.