A Food Standard Authority's study claims organic is not healthier than conventionally produced food, failing to take into account the huge benefits organic standards have for farm animals, the environment and people.
Compassion in World Farming strongly supports organic as the best form of humane and sustainable agriculture. For us, organic means first and foremost high animal welfare standards. For chickens, laying hens, pigs and cows it means a better and longer life, mainly with outdoor access, a balanced diet and freedom from stress.
Organic chickens, for example, are usually of slower growing, more natural breeds. Their life is usually almost twice as long as the one of an intensively reared bird.
Pigs reared in organic systems are weaned much later than standard ones, at 40 days rather than 28. The Soil Association advises its farmers not to wean until they are eight weeks old.
Calves born on organic farms are not exported to the continent, have a natural milk diet and outdoor access.
Organic is not only good for animals, but for people and the planet, too.
Conventional food production makes wide use of pesticides, which can pollute water and the environment, as well as pose a threat to human health. Organic food, instead, is produced with natural fertilisers, less energy and more respect for animals that provide it.
As far as nutrition is concerned, research shows that organic chickens can contain 25% less fat than intensively reared chickens (standard chicken). Scientists say that free-range chickens offer a more beneficial fatty acid composition compared to indoor raised chickens. This is because free-range and organic birds grow more slowly, are likely to eat grass and exercise more.
Finally, intensive animal husbandry relies on a greater use of antibiotics to treat stressed, disease-prone animals. Resistance to antibiotics is a well-known consequence of such misuse. The spread of the MRSA super bug is probably the most eloquent example.
John Callaghan, Director of Programmes at Compassion in World Farming, explains: "MRSA is yet another potential example of how harmful factory farming is for animals and people. Pigs reared intensively often live in stressful conditions, subject to painful mutilations, unable to express their natural behaviour and prone to diseases. Factory farms where animals are unnaturally crowded and stressed, even with careful management, are always likely to need drugs to keep infections at bay. We should eat less, but better meat- coming from animals that have lived a happy and healthy life".