Do you ever wonder why so much organic food also carries animal welfare labels?

The short answer is that while the US Department of Agriculture's organic standards are very precise about pesticides and other growing practices for the crops that people and animals eat, it doesn't include very many specific instructions about the way the animals themselves are raised.

"When people pick up organic milk, they're expecting that the cows are out on pasture most of the time," says Luke Meerman, one of the farmers behind Michigan-based Grassfields Cheese. And he's right. In a phone survey conducted for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 68 percent of the consumers contacted said they expected that animals raised on organic farms "have access to outdoor pasture and fresh air throughout the day." Similarly, 67 percent said they believe "animals have significantly more space to move than on non-organic farms." Read more on Mother Jones.

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway

In recent years, there has been a local meat renaissance going on in Wisconsin. At the center of the movement was a business called Black Earth Meats. The operation, owned by Bartlett Durand, or the Zen Butcher, included a retail space, a buyers club and a community-supported agriculture (CSA) subscription service, as well as a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected slaughterhouse.

Black Earth Meats served as an important support for nearly 200 farmers, most of whom raised animals in small numbers on pasture, free of antibiotics and hormones. After moving into a local slaughterhouse in the 1,500-person town of Black Earth seven years ago, the company grew considerably, allowing the “good meat” economy in the area to scale up alongside it. “We took the plant from 70 beef a week to 140-150 a week, supplying the local food scene,” says Durand.

Read more.

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway
 Photo by  James Collier . 

Photo by James Collier

What do you get when you cross a U-pick and a CSA (community supported agriculture) membership? The Masumoto Family Farm adopt-a-tree program. For the last nine years, peach and nectarine lovers in California have filled out “adoption forms,” paid $600, and made the trip to this Fresno-based organic farm for two consecutive summer weekends to harvest between 350 to 450 pounds of fruit from their adopted tree.

The adopt-a-tree concept arose because the family had several acres of old-growth Elberta peaches, which were just too fragile to sell into the wholesale market. Rather than start selling the fruit at farmers’ markets, they decided to invite eaters out to the farm. Read more on Civil Eats.

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway
 Photo: lioneggfarms.co.uk

Photo: lioneggfarms.co.uk

How would our food choices be different if labels had to provide a more transparent view of the production systems behind the products? If, for example, food labels were used to disclose the kinds or amount of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer that were used to grow the food, whether the workers had been exploited, or how animals were treated? And instead of being seen as some special, elite option, organic, fair trade, and antibiotic-free food came to be seen as the less complicated options?

It might sound unrealistic, but get this: In the case of eggs, this type of labeling has been going on in the European Union since 2004. In the E.U., all eggs that appear in stores must be labeled with one of three choices: “eggs from caged hens”; “barn eggs,” which come from hens we call “cage-free” here in the U.S. (i.e. they’re still raised in big indoor facilities); and “free-range.” They also stamp a number, in ascending order from more desired to least, on the eggs themselves (0 is code for organic eggs and 3 is code for eggs from caged hens). Read more on TakePart.

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway
 Photo by Cowgirl Jules/Creative Commons

Photo by Cowgirl Jules/Creative Commons

Why buy 1 pound of hamburger meat from a local farmer when you can buy 5 pounds — plus another 20 pounds of stew meat, steaks and roast — for as little as half the price of what it all goes for at the market?

That's part of the logic behind meat shares — plans for buying meat in bulk that are cropping up around the country. Farmers are keen on these schemes, similar to , because it gives them the chance to sell whole, half and quarter animals (broken down into individual cuts). Selling this way allows them to move a lot of meat quickly, at a desirable price.

But if you're suddenly the proud owner of 20 pounds of frozen beef, pork or chicken, your freezer may be feeling the hurt. Read more at NPR.org.

 

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AuthorTwilight Greenaway