Elder Sydney Reid,
Bishop Kenneth Lightfoot
Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on the use of natural techniques, ecological processes, and biodiversity. It also adopts the cycle of local conditions and combines traditional methods, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment for all involved.
The use of artificial and un-natural inputs are eliminated or minimized at all stages and levels in the production process. These include synthetic growth hormones, chemical pesticides, antibiotics (used as a last resort), genetic engineering, urea and animal by-products to name a few.
Organic farming is currently regulated by different bodies, here in the USA and internationally. Standards have been voluntary as well as legislated. As early as 1970, private organizations set certification criteria for organic farming, then in the 1980’s government got involved in the certification process.
As of 2007, 60 countries regulated organic farming; International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements or (IFOAM 2007:11). In 1991 the European Union created the EU-Eco-regulation for its 12 members. In 1993, the UK created standards followed in 2001 by the Japanese. In 2002, the US created the National Organic program (NOP). In 2005, IFOAM created the Principles of Organic Agriculture. This is an international guide for certification criteria. These standards are recognized and enforceable internationally.
Specific to Livestock: (as per NOP, April 2003)
There are many additional factors to be considered specific to organic livestock production. These range from the origin of the livestock (if purchased) or the management of the pregnancy from the last third of gestation for mammals born on the farm. Other factors include feed requirements, living conditions, waste management, health care and record keeping and audits. Animals that must be treated with antibiotics must be cull from the herd.
Adequate records must be kept from breeding or acquisition to slaughter or disposal of animals as well as for pasture use.
The use and management of the land employed in organic farming is also a major consideration. Fencing (post requirement), grazing time by region and disposal of manure are just a few. Pastures must be kept to meet organic certification standards.
Benefits of Organic Livestock production
Large sectors of the world population consume meats and meat products on a daily basis. The majority of these products is produced, processed and packaged in the conventional way. This results in the consumption of products that contribute to poor health.
Organically produced meats are free of harmful chemicals such as antibiotics artificial flavors, preservatives and growth hormones that may be passed unto consumers. In addition, meats from range fed animals contain lower levels of cholesterol — a major factor contributing to strokes and heart attacks.
There is a marked difference in the taste and flavors of meat grown using conventional methods compared to those organically grown. The latter is preferred by the consumers.
The benefits to the immediate environment including the underground water systems, wildlife and the human handlers are also significantly enhanced, as well as the overall health of the animals.
From an economic stand point the gains from the elimination of pesticides and other artificial inputs result in better margins overall. Farmers should be able to competitively price products, which along with the great taste drive demand for organically produced meat and meat products.
Growth and Scope of Organically produced Livestock
In the late 1930 and early 1940 Sir Albert Howard and his wife, both botanist developed the concept of organic farming. The ideas spilled over to other branches of farming including livestock.
Organic farming has grown significantly worldwide since 1990 when the amounts of farms were negligible. Approximately 0.90 percent of lands farmed were utilized for organic use. This grew to approx. 8.9 percent in 2011. This includes countries such as Australia which is the largest producer and the USA which has a fast growing organic sector.
The recognition of the link of foods to health by a more informed consumers, have resulted in a higher demand for organically produced foods including meats. Marketing efforts along with efficiencies derived from a more cost effective process, has contributed to making organic farming the fastest growing sector of agriculture today.