The Organic & Cage-Free Myth

How many times during your grocery shopping trip do you idly scan shelves in hopes to select the most organic and environmentally-friendly product? I do this an average of 5 times per trip and most of the time it occurs in front of the egg and meat aisle. We’ve all heard that happy food comes from happy animals; therefore, these animals are not raised in cramped cages or killed inhumanly. Knowing this, I do my best to buy products that are dubbed organic by the USDA and featured the words “grass-fed” or “cage-free”. I assumed I was doing my part as an ethical carnivore until I read an article that made my rethink my buying habits.

The article featured on PETA’s site wrote:

Many organic and free-range farms cram thousands of animals together in sheds or mud-filled lots to increase profits, just as factory farms do, and the animals often suffer through the same mutilations—such as debeaking, dehorning, and castration without painkillers—that occur on factory farms (PETA).

I was really hurt by this information and felt I was being tricked by companies that trusted. I’ve always tried to buy organic beef but the FDA said that this meat can be labeled as organic as long as the cows are given organic feed; therefore, these cows are deemed organic but still sent to factory-farm feedlots to be fattened prior to slaughter.  Cows on organic dairy farms may still be kept in inhumane enclosures though their milk is labeled organic. I also read that some organic and “cage-free” chickens have their beaks cut off. According to my own opinion, this is not what I or the USDA should consider “organic”. I’ve always believed organic meant that animals were raised properly and never mistreated; however, this definition is becoming misconstrued and twisted into something more of an antonym of its core meaning.

What really is "Organic"?

The only advantage of organic products is that they do not contain antibiotics, hormones or arsenic-based addictive. The flesh may be somewhat healthier than non-organic animals but to avoid all of these unethical animal behaviors is to avoid all meat, eggs and dairy. This is difficult for someone like myself who doesn’t eat a ton of red meat but loves eggs. Realistically, there’s no win/win in this situation. I look for “organic” and “cage-free” eggs and buy from suppliers that I trust. There is no perfect answer and my advice is just to do the best you can when selecting your produce.


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