Free-Range Animals and Organic Meat
Organic livestock farming takes into account the health and welfare of the animals. Factory farming concentrates many animals in a limited space, which can result in an overflow of animal waste on each farm and the need to use extra water and chemicals to assist in removing the waste. Additional chemical use can lead to chemicals leaching into the soil and the water table, and it can mean that the animals are less healthy and may often need to be treated with antibiotics and other medicines. Organically raised animals, however, must be free-range, which means they have access to the outdoors, including pasture. They aren’t confined within buildings but may be kept in buildings temporarily for health or safety reasons.
The rules on what constitutes free range aren’t always what green experts would wish; it covers a variety of conditions, from birds being able to wander in a natural environment to the birds having access to a small outdoor enclosure that may not be very natural. It’s a good idea to check with the producer to find out what free range means in the context of a particular product.
Factory farming methods have evolved to meet the ever-growing demand for meat. The organic approach may be slower and less profitable — animals have room to move and so fewer animals can be produced from the same amount of land, for example — but it produces cleaner and healthier animals.
If you find it difficult to find organic meat, ask your local butcher to stock some organic and sustainable options; increased demand increases supply. The environment will be better off, and your local butcher will have a guaranteed customer. You also can purchase food from animals that have been raised in a sustainable way through the Eat Well Guide, which has searchable listings of producers across the country.