What about ORGANIC meat, dairy & eggs?
I received an email this week with a great question about organic animal-based foods. The writer has been eating organic food her entire life and was curious about whether or not I considered organic meat, dairy and eggs a part of a healthy lifestyle. What I discovered when writing Earth Milk: Delicious Non-Dairy Milks, Creamers & Shakes That Are Good For You And The Earth was the primary difference between cows used for organic milk vs. conventional milk exists in the diets they are fed. In both Canada and the US, cows must be provided with organic feed and have access to pasture for at least 30% of their diet to attain organic certification.
Unlike the conventional dairy system, “organic” cows cannot be given preventative antibiotics (but antibiotics can still be used if cows fall ill). Organic cows can also not be fed growth hormones (which are already illegal in Canada for all cows).
Studies vary on whether certified organic milk is at all healthier. Sadly though, the same dysfunctional practices still apply: female cows are still artificially impregnated to produce milk, newborn male calves are still considered by-products and are therefore slaughtered for veal, and female calves are still enslaved into the same dreary existence as their mothers. And, just like their mothers, female calves will also be slaughtered for cheap beef at four to five years of age when their bodies are too “spent” to produce profitable milk. Essentially, organic milk is nothing more than a “feel-good” label that warps the mind, but not the dark cruel truth.
To expand on that, my view is that the end product whether its eggs, meat or dairy may or may not be slightly less harmful than conventional animal products, but they are still harmful in plenty of ways. I tend to look at things from a big picture perspective and that includes our own health, the impact of our choices on the earth and the animals we share it with and the impact we are having on our own sense of ourselves through our food choices.
I spoke about the horrors of the dairy industry above, the same horrors play out in slightly different ways exist in the entire animal agriculture industry regardless of species.
The production of animal based foods is responsible for more global warming emissions than the entire transportation industry. Animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of rainforest destruction. Three quarters of the worlds fisheries are exploited or depleted. The caloric needs of cows are the equivalent of 8.7 billion human beings, and animal agriculture produces 130x the excrement of the entire human population. This excrement often leaks into waterways killing entire ecosystems. To sum it up animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction. To get a good overview of these issues I recommend the movie Cowspiracy
In North America we are the sickest we have ever been as our consumption of animal products continues to rise. The places with the most osteoporosis are also the places where the most dairy is consumed. Type 2 diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and some cancers show direct links to eating animal products. Heart disease (and strokes) are food-borne illnesses that need not exist and for the most part only do because of our appetite for animal products. “Foods” like hot dogs and processed meat are level one carcinogens – the same rating as cigarette smoking and asbestos according to the American Cancer Society and they are widely served in our culture to kids. For more on the health considerations around eating animal products I recommend the film Forks over Knives. They also have some great recipes and resources on their website.
Lastly and in my view one of the most important consideration is what we choose to line up with our food decisions. In other words, who do we choose to be through our choices. Choosing organic foods in one of those key choices. It means lining up with foods that have not been sprayed with toxins. This greatly benefits the consumer, the farmer who did not have to spray, the trees, plants, birds, bees and more. Then from within the umbrella of organic another choice can be made. When we choose organic plant foods we are choosing foods that are aligned with health, life and vibrancy. When we choose organic animal based foods, because there is no way around the fact that to consume meat young animals need to be slaughtered, we are choosing foods aligned with fear and early death.
When it comes to eggs, although chickens don’t die to produce eggs, even in the organic system they are treated as commodities and any time a living being is treated as a commodities. Any time a living being is treated as a commodity there will be exploitation in the name of profit. Organic baby chicks are still de-beaked, and when they are “spent” after years of egg production, they are slaughtered for cheap meat long before the natural end of their lives.
Organic or not, the bigger choice is animals vs plants on your dinner plate. Plants win hands down in all categories – health, environment, animal welfare, and personal alignment. An added bonus is that they taste great, they are cheaper and they can be grown quickly and easily in your own backyard.