Organic Meat, Dairy & Eggs
Organically Raised Animals
Organically-raised animals are fed organic feed. They are not allowed to be given growth hormones or antibiotics. Producers are not allowed to withhold treatment from a sick or injured animal, but animals treated with a prohibited medication may not be sold as organic. Organically-raised animals must also have access to the outdoors, including access to pasture for ruminants.
Free-range means that the animals have access to the outdoors. Animals raised free-range aren't necessarily fed an organic diet, unless specified. Organically raised animals are under most regulations also raised free-range.
Smaller Organic / Free-Range Farms
Organic and free-range farms, like regular farms, have to make a profit. While the smaller farms usually take as good care of the animals as they can, they still have to make certain economic decisions. Even small farms have to dispose of animals who are not or no longer profitable. If they would continue to provide food and shelter to non-profitable animals, they would go bankrupt.
At all chicken farms, there are two different kind of chickens, those raised for eggs and those for meat. The male chicks born to egg-laying chickens can't lay eggs and are not suitable to be raised as meat chickens, making them completely useless. They are killed right after birth.
Another problem chicken farmers deal with is the transportation of eggs. Since eggs are hardly ever sold door to door but usually transported by trucks, egg farmers need their eggs to have a certain firmness. Chickens start to lay less less firm eggs after about one year, causing the eggs to break sooner during transport. For this reason, egg-laying chickens are slaughtered at about one year of age, sometimes two.
All dairy cows, including organic dairy cows, have to be kept pregnant in order to lactate. Male calves born to dairy cows are not able to produce milk and are usually removed from their mothers within 24 hours to be turned into veal.
It is true that some small organic farms try their best to treat their animals as humanely as possible. However, like one small organic farmer told me, they still have to make a profit and will always have to make decisions where they have to balance economic interests and animal welfare.
Commercial Organic / Free-Range Farms
As the demand for organic and free-range products has grown, the organic and free-range industries have become more commercial, which has had a negative impact on the treatment of the animals.
Even though organically-raised animals have to "have access to the outdoors, including access to pasture for ruminants", there are hardly any regulations in place that deal with the amount of space the animals should be given or the amount of time they should be allowed outside. Animals living in many commercial organic farms are still crowded inside while having access to just a small outside enclosure. In some free-range facilities, the animals are packed so tightly together, most of them never reach the "access to the outdoors".
Organic and free-range animals on commercial farms are, like animals on regular farms, subjected to procedures like debeaking, castration, branding, tail-docking and dehorning. Free-range egg producers, like regular egg producers, often dispose of the unwanted male chicks by grinding them alive, gassing them or throwing them in trash bags where they will suffocate. Free-range pigs are sometimes kept in spaces too small to turn around in. During the winter, sheep and goats are also often crammed in tiny spaces.
The treatment of animals at free-range facilities can sometimes very much resemble that of factory farmed animals. Even labels like "Animal Care Certified" does not guarantee that the animals were treated humanely. Free-range facilities are hardly ever inspected.
Organic Meat, Dairy & Eggs - A Good Alternative?
Most animals raised organically and/or free-range are still handled, transported and slaughtered the same awful way factory farm animals are. They are still forcefully thrown into trucks where they are subjected to transportation without protection from heat or cold and without access to food or water. They are still hung upside down, have their throats slit and bleed to death, often while fully conscious.
It will never be possible to treat animals humanely and still provide enough meat, dairy and eggs to meet the current demand. Commercial free-range farming is not a viable solution for ending animal abuse. Even though smaller farms are able to treat their animals more humanely, vegans still don't consume their products because they object to the exploitation and killing of animals which is inherent to all businesses that use animals.
For more information, please check out the Sources and Resources page.
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