Organic meat: what’s the beef?

I shock myself at my ignorance sometimes. I feel like I spent the first 36 years of my life wandering around the planet with my eyes and ears closed. Putting food into my mouth without stopping to think about where it came from or how it got there other than that I’d bought it nicely shrink-wrapped from the supermarket.

I think I had been happy to do that because I didn’t have the time to give it much thought. To be honest I never liked to give meat that much thought, preferring to bury my head in the sand about the process of getting meat onto my table. In an ideal world I would have gone vegetarian a long time ago but on the many occasions that I tried to make the switch it didn’t last very long – usually thwarted by a bacon sarnie or a sausage roll (for my sins!).

However, all it took was a little research into the difference between free-range and organic chicken, following a conversation with my mum, to help me finally cut meat out of my diet entirely. However, this is not the aim of my article- a switch to becoming vegetarian is a very personal one, here I just want to highlight the difference between organic and non-organic meat. In order to find out the difference between the two I did a little research and was horrified at what I discovered. Now you may know all this already, but I genuinely had no idea – an ignorance that comes from turning the news off at every available opportunity… So here is an “in-a-nutshell” guide to organic and non-organic meat as adapted from an excellent and most informative article I came across at and whose facts I verified via the Soil Association website:

“Nutritional Value

While there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that there is a great difference in the nutritional value of organic and non-organic meat, there is a great difference in the practices of organic and non-organic farming.

Organic animals are raised in a more humane, sanitary way and the production of organic meat has less of an impact on the environment than traditional meat production.

No Antibiotics or Growth Hormones

In order to stimulate growth and prevent the spread of disease, non-organic animals are given antibiotics and growth hormones. Recent studies suggest that such a high level of hormones may present health risks to consumers, especially young children and women who are pregnant or breast-feeding. These hormones can remain in the manure of the animals and lead to the contamination of groundwater. Organic animals, on the other hand, are not given any hormones, antibiotics or growth stimulants. Instead, farmers use a well-rounded diet of organic materials that are free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to promote growth and fight off infection in their livestock.

No Pesticides or Chemical Fertilizers

Traditional farms use a variety of pesticides and chemicals to encourage the growth of their crops and ward off insects. Animal are exposed to these chemicals when they graze on the land. Organic farms use natural materials to promote crop growth. Therefore, by purchasing organic meat, you can decrease your exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins.

Promotes the Humane Treatment of Animals

Factory farms seek to produce as much meat as possible for a minimal cost. The emphasis on product and profit means that the animals are subject to inhumane conditions. Animals are crammed into barns and crates and given little access to the outdoors. Organic animals spend less time confined indoors and are given plenty of time and room to graze.

Produces Less Waste

Industrial farms raise so many animals and produce so much manure that the excess often contaminates the earth. The overflow of manure can infect wells and other areas with E. coli and other harmful chemicals. Organic farms raise less livestock and produce just enough manure to rejuvenate and fertilize the soil. Also, because organic animals are fed organic diets, their manure is pure and free from any toxins.

Organic meat may not contain more nutrients or less calories than meat produced by a traditional factory farm but it does contain less toxins and is better for the body and the planet.”

After having researched the above I actually ended up reading Alicia Silverstone’s book “The Kind Diet” which gave me the final push to give up meat entirely but if you’re not quite ready to cut meat out then I would suggest switching to organic meat both for you and your family’s health and also the welfare of the animals. I still cook meat for my family sometimes and the only reason I had been hesitating to switch to organic meat was on account of the cost compared to non-organic meat. However, I decided that it would be far better to eat less but better quality meat rather than eating more but poorer quality meat. This in turn has helped keep the cost of going organic down and it is working out well without too much impact on our food bill. It is a good idea to research and compare the cost of organic meat at different supermarkets in order to find the best deal and perhaps try different cuts of meat. For instance I find that while organic chicken breast fillets are generally very expensive, choosing thighs and drumsticks are a more affordable option. Also look out for any deals that supermarkets might be offering at different times. Switching to organic meat might not be suitable for everyone but at least now armed with the above information you can make a more informed decision…

11 thoughts on “Organic meat: what’s the beef?

    1. You’re welcome :-) I’ve been wanting to “go organic” for a while now but hadn’t found the right motivation to justify the price hike mostly because I didn’t have enough information about it. As soon as I read about the antibiotics and hormones they give the animals and the conditions they are kept in that was motivation enough for me!! Feel like I’m doing a good thing for my children too- keeping them as pure as possible xx Thanks for stopping by!

  1. So I don’t have the time right now to look up a link, but all the antibiotics they’re putting in our livestock create even more antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Somebody save us from ourselves!

    1. Yes, that’s right- that was a whole other story! I could have written an essay on this subject but just tried to condense it to the key facts. It’s a scary business- I’ve focussed on meat here but will look at organic milk, veggies and fruit, etc. on another occasion because there are different implications for each. But you’re right – the story with the antibiotics is scary! We are our own worst enemy…

  2. I have to confess to having my head in the sand about the issue, and no real desire to go vegetarian. But, like you my conscience has been bothereing me about this, and I have noticed that I buy less meat than in the past, especially less beef. Even though it is nice, it’s really not environmentally friendly.
    And I have been toying with the idea of getting more organic meat, even if it’s much more expensive.
    Thanks for challenging me to change !

    1. I think there are so many options these days that in general our diets have less meat in them- I cook with quorn quite a bit as my daughter doesn’t eat some meats and it’s so quick and easy to incorporate. I don’t cook much red meat- same as you- more with fish and chicken so in this sense it doesn’t have to break the bank to go organic. You feel better for it too- like you’re doing a good thing for you and your family and also for the environment. And anything that makes you feel good is a good thing right!? ;-) xx

  3. Very interesting, the antibiotic angle especially worries me. And that picture of the battery hens is truly horrible…
    I already buy organic eggs, and often organic chickens as they are certainly tastier, but the higher price puts me off everything else.
    I know we should eat less meat, but the two men in my life are huge carnivores, I find it hard to think up alternatives for dinner!

    1. Well it’s good that you’re even thinking about the “organic” way- that’s the first step- to be informed…as I’m the cook my family get what they’re given ;-) we’ve moved away from red meat because my daughter doesn’t eat red meat at all so we brought in quorn substitutes a long time ago- things like bolognese, lasagne, shepherds pie always with quorn mince and then I use quorn chicken pieces for stir fries, etc. In that respect I realised it wouldn’t cost too much to make the switch…maybe try the odd veggie dish (slip it in without announcing it ;-)) and see if there’s any reaction :-D xxx

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