'Organic' label doesn't guarantee that holiday ham was a happy pig

phys.org | 3/13/2018 | Staff
cindy95240cindy95240 (Posted by) Level 3
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This holiday season, Americans will buy some 20 million turkeys and 300 million pounds of ham.

Some of these turkeys and hams will be certified organic, reflecting the common belief that organically raised animals live happier, more natural lives.

Reality

The reality, though, is more complicated.

Government regulations for organic farming contain few specific protections for pigs, poultry, egg-laying hens and other animals raised for human consumption. So conditions on organic farms may not actually be all that different from those at traditional livestock operations.

Food - Industry - US - Decades

The organic food industry has grown enormously in the U.S. in recent decades.

Organic farming began as a radical cause in the 1970s embraced by a small group of farmers in California and a handful of other states. These pioneers sought to grow food naturally, rather than assert their dominance over the Earth. As such, they eschewed synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Ethics - Part - Farmers - Vision - Thinking

Animal ethics were part of these farmers' vision, too. Rather than thinking of livestock only as producers of meat, milk and eggs, many organic farmers viewed animals as equal partners in a farm ecosystem that perform important functions like fertilizing soil and controlling pests.

Organic is now mainstream. Organic food sales in 2018 totaled nearly US$48 billion, up from $8.5 billion in 2002. Two-thirds of shoppers have tried organic products.

Agriculture - Commitment - Welfare

But organic agriculture has struggled to maintain its early commitment to animal welfare.

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Obama announced a new rule that enhanced animal welfare requirements for organic farms. Among other things, it set strict rules for outdoor access and prohibited what USDA called "physical alterations" of animals—what animal rights advocates call "mutilations."

Agriculture - Pigs - Tails - Pigs - Chickens

In mainstream agriculture, pigs' tails are often amputated, or "docked," so that they will not be bitten off by other pigs. Chickens have portions of their beaks removed to prevent them from pecking one another.

But the...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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