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Some Thoughts On “Organic” Beef

Recently, at Calgary food store that specializes in organic and natural foods, out of curiosity I thought I would visit the meat section to see what type of products were offered.

It was obvious the meat was marketed in an entirely different manner than in a conventional store. Each portion was in a separate cryovac pouch with extensive labeling on each package. The labelling included the name of the producer, how to get in touch with the producer, and how the product was made. The labels clearly stated that the beef was produced without the use of genetically modified organisms, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, animal byproducts or antibiotics.

In addition, it clearly stated the cattle are treated in a humane manner in a free-range setting. I have even seen one instance where the producer claims his production strategy is endorsed by the B.C. Humane Society.

Just for the fun of it I then visited a number of these producers on the Internet, just to see what they had to offer. It was clear to me these producers were intent on creating a niche market for their product. In order to do so they were willing to go to great lengths to produce a quality product and ultimately stand behind it by making it possible for the consumer to contact them.

However, despite the positive attributes of this marketing strategy, the concept of organic beef is flawed. Essentially the producers who produce this beef are relying on misinformation and the ignorance of the consumer to sell their product. In my opinion some of the claims made by the producers of organic beef are misleading, if not imaginative.

CONCERNS

To make my point, let s look at some of the claims made by these producers.

” The term organic beef is by definition misleading. The producers try to attach a special meaning to the word organic. All beef is created through natural processes and is by definition organic. Even the antibiotics, growth enhancers and dewormers are created by natural processes and by definition organic compounds. Many of these compounds in fact are derived from natural sources. For example, Penicillin is derived from the penicillium bacterium, Ralgro is derived from fungi in the fusarium family and Ivermectin is generated as fermentation product of the actinomycete Steptomyces avermitilis.

” Organic beef is a healthier choice than generic beef. This is the claim made by many producers on their websites and is made in reference to certain medical aliments and conditions. Unfortunately, to substantiate these claims the producers rely on anecdotal evidence with personal testaments as their proof, but do not offer any credible scientific studies to substantiate their claims.

” Organic beef is raised in an ethical and humane manner. Organic beef producers like to use buzzwords like free range, grass fed, humanely treated and environmentally sustainable production on their packaging or websites. As a consequence, the consumer is left with an impression organic beef producers hold a monopoly on sustainable resource management and humane treatment of livestock.

No genetically modified organisms are used in the production of the product. Those producers who make this claim ignore the fact all of the domestic crops and animals are the product of some level of genetic engineering. The various breeds of cattle and varieties of forage crops used by the organic beef producers are in fact genetically modified organisms; the consequence of thousands of years of selective breeding for desired traits. Perhaps what is more perplexing is there is not any scientific evidence that supports their assumption that the new generation of genetically modified organisms are in any way harmful to the environment or to human consumption.

” No growth hormones or antibiotics are used in the production of the product. Once again rhetoric has been substituted for reason. These producers tend to ignore two basic facts. The first is the compounds are organic and readily metabolized by the animal s body. Second, because these compounds are readily metabolized, if the producer follows the manufacturer s recommendations, little residue will be left in the meat. Here again the threat to human health is exaggerated in order to be used as a marketing ploy.

It is unfortunate but the organic beef producers are doing the cattle industry a disservice. In my opinion, their marketing strategy relies on misinforming the general public. This misinformation leads the consumer to believe the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and genetically modified organisms are harmful practices and will reduce the quality of conventional beef.

HylandArmstrongisaretiredrancherfrom CypressHills,Alberta.Hecanbereachedat [email protected] or4035284798.

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