As regular readers of this blog know, conscientous eaters cannot rely on USDA “organic” certification to identify healthy food, which has been sustainably and naturally produced. While there are many “certified organic” farmers who raise excellent natural food, the certification is frequently used by the “industrial organic” corporations to sell their unnatural and often unhealthy products, at exhorbitant prices, to an unsuspecting public. As I’ve always insisted, buying from local farmers, who use sustainable, natural practices, is more important than buying something with the USDA “certified organic” label, which may have come from an industrial operation thousands of miles away.
Now the USDA has issued a voluntary standard for producers who want to market their meat as “naturally raised.” The USDA standard requires only that the animal have been raised without growth promotants, without having been fed animal byproducts, and without antibiotics (unless for parasite control). While it is certainly important to exclude meat that doesn’t satisfy this standard from the category of “naturally raised,” the standard falls far short of properly defining what is truly “naturally raised.”
Consider the unnatural practices that could still be employed, without contravening the USDA standard. Cloned or genetically engineered animals are not excluded. Animals raised in CAFOs are not excluded. Animals raised on grain, brewer’s waste, bubble gum, or any of the other crap often fed in high-intensity operations are not excluded. Animals raised in environments clouded in pesticides and herbicides are not excluded. In fact, under this standard, meat from a genetically engineered ruminant that never ate a blade of grass in its horrific life, which spent entirely in a high intesity confined animal feeding operation, woud qualify as “naturally raised.”
A consumer survey reported in Acres USA reveals that an overwhelming majority of people want “naturally raised” meat to come from animals raised on a natural diet, in a chemical-free natural environment.
As I’ve often said, the best way to get healthy meat for your families is to find local natural farmers, and buy from them. You can find farmers near you on localharvest.org and eatwild.com.
As for the USDA standard, caveat emptor.