By Laura Broadley
The path that our food takes from the farm to our plates is often lost in the bright lights and elevator music of grocery stores. Bread doesn’t grow in the ground, oranges don’t juice themselves, and beef certainly doesn’t appear in neatly sliced filets lining the butcher counter. The variety and quantity of food markets allows people to have products that they wouldn’t normally have access to. An amalgamation of food lowers the price, but at what cost?
When the lives of living things are altered for the worse because of convenience it is time to questions the practices that make life easier. Farm animals are at the losing end of an industrialized farming system. Organic farming connects people to their food. The connection is essential to the well being of people and animals.
“Organic foods are grown and harvested without the use of synthetic (man-made) pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), antibiotics and growth hormones. Organic foods are also less ‘processed’. This means they have fewer preservatives like sulphates and nitrates. Instead, organic foods are grown with natural or non-synthetic pesticides.
The failure of organic meat to fully integrate into mainstream stores is both a salute and curse to organic farmers. It maintains the integrity of the farming for customers to travel to the farms to purchase their meat from the place that it was born, lived, and ultimately died to give them food. This practice takes time and drives up the price of meat. According to an informal survey the reason that people wouldn’t want to eat organic meat is not because of price but because of taste and because they believe that it is healthier than the alternatives.
The question remains as to why the organic meat is not catching on in the mainstream psyche and plates of the public. The former Deputy Acting Undersecretary for the USDA, Dr. Scott Hurd DVM, believes that the answer lies in research that says that organic meat is no better for you.
Dr. Hurd’s research concludes that organic meat is not better than conventional because it does not have significantly less antibiotic resistant bacteria or food borne pathogens than conventional. When asked about the ethics of conventional over organic, he wrote:
The blog discusses the issue of Antibiotic Free farming and the ethics of not treating animals who are sick. While the point is justified, there is no mention of farming practices that do use antibiotics when there is a requirement or the ethics of just letting animals live without interference.
On the other side of the spectrum, organizations like PETA believe that any sort of farming, even organic, is unethical. In a blog post by PETA UK the author writes that organic labelling means nothing because there is very little regulation with farmers using it as a way to drive sales. One commenter wrote:
Obviously there are labels thrown onto every product in an attempt to increase market value and those products are unethical. Simply by being overused, the genuine meaning of organic is rendered ineffective. What about the farms who truly do treat the animals well? Organic certification aside, a farmer who treats his or her animals with respect deserves the comfort of knowing his or her customers will keep coming back.
There are over 600 Certified Organic farms in Ontario alone. This number is steadily declining according to data released by the Organic Council of Ontario. A map of some of the available organic farms in Southern Ontario can be found here. This map does not represent all of the options available to people looking for organic food.
Whole Circle Farm in Acton, Ontario is an example of what a farm could and should be like. Johann and Maggie Kleinsasser have been the stewards of the farm since 2002.
The farm offers Community Supported Agriculture, Organic beef and pork, as well as Organic grains and produce. The farm is based on sustainability, health and ethics to provide people with nutritious food. This Whole Circle Farm CSA member believes in the power of organic farming for animal welfare.
The example I want to use its like an orchestra. So there’s the musicians making music and they’ve got the conductor… who leads the orchestra and guides them. This is what I see my role as in the farm. Each part of the farm is like a musician making music… my task or… my sacred responsibility is to guide that music.
Cows and chickens can be seen running around late into the evening at Whole Circle Farm and it is hard for one to believe that there is a better way to raise animals that humans intend to eat. It is farms like this that must be protected if humans are to maintain a connection with animals and the food they eat.