Industrialization of agriculture has enabled us, human beings, to produce more food and distribute our products worldwide. We have learned to make artificial fertilizers which greatly improve growth of our plants; we have learned that animals grow bigger in a shorter amount of time if we inject them with growth hormones. We have also learned that this was not strictly speaking - the healthiest food in the world. The animals’ health suffers, our health suffers, and the environment suffers. Indeed, we have learned a great deal, despite huge advancements in food production.
For this reason, increasing number of consumers are turning to healthier, organic food. This trend directly inspires more farmers to start organic production of food regardless of the origin – animal or plant. Now, most people don’t see the difference between the free-range farming and the organic farming.
The first is a form of traditional farming that was common before the industrialization. Basically, the animals are left out on pastures most of the day (approximately 120 days on average); they are allowed inside only at night or on a bad weather. This is quite opposite to conventionally grown livestock that stays indoor at all times and practically never sees the light of day... Pretty repressive and many animal rights enthusiasts will agree with this assessment!
Organic animal farming is very similar to free-range, but with some added requirements. To get the “Organic” label for your product, your farming needs to meet several, rather strict, standards:
- Animals must be organically bred from the day of its birth. You cannot just switch to organic at any random point.
- Use of antibiotics is strictly forbidden. On the other hand, vaccines are allowed.
- Use of hormones is also a big “no-no”; and not just growth hormones, but any type of hormones.
- Feed mustn’t be treated with any chemicals, pesticides and artificial fertilizers.
- Livestock must be taken out on pastures.
- Feeding livestock with animal byproducts is forbidden by all means.
- GMO feed is also out of the question.
Free-range produced food can also be organic, but most of the time farmers give their animals antibiotics when they get sick or the feed isn’t always organic. Of course this is no longer considered organic.
Organic farms are much smaller than conventional, they have more livestock species and they are commonly self-sustainable. For example, animal reproduction is quite common on organic farms, and since the farms have limited capacity, the farmers are often forced to sell the offsprings, which is a good economic return. Another good economic return is from products like dairy and eggs. Most organic farms produce both animal and plant products. Since the animals were fed by organic feed, their waste can be used as a natural fertilizer, plus the environment stays preserved, plants get their healthy nutrients and minerals from naturally fertilized land, and the farmer doesn’t have to spend money on manure disposal. Everybody wins!
Organic farming isn't easy. It takes a lot of time and effort to take care of the animals and the land. But in the end, everyone benefit; consumers get healthy meat, animals spend much happier life while being outside, and the farmer gets his financial reward since organically produced food is more expensive than the conventional and for a good reason too!