When you shop for meat, it can be hard to understand what the language on each label means. Organic, pasture-raised, grass-fed, non-GMO: what should you be looking for if you care about supporting sustainable farming practices and animal welfare?
There are a few certifications that let you know your meat was raised humanely and sustainably. Once you understand what some of these terms mean, you can feel more confident about choosing meat that aligns with your standards and values. It's definitely possible to include meat in your diet while still being committed to a sustainable lifestyle and valuing animal welfare.
This is the most stringent production standard any meat product can claim. Certified Organic farmers must raise their animals (and the pasture) using sustainable method by entirely avoiding synthetic chemicals, GMOs, added hormones and antibiotics. The animals must always be allowed to roam freely and never be confined. In the case of the Australian Organic standard they must be 100% grass fed. Here are some of the regulations that farms must follow to be certified as Australian Organic (there are many more specific requirements that apply to different types of livestock):
- Cattle must never be confined. Feedlots (closely confined feeding operations) are expressly prohibited, and adequate space must be given in all shelters and pasture areas
- Cattle must be entirely grass fed and finished on certified organic pasture. Australian certified organic cattle are not even permitted to eat an organic grain crop that is still growing once the grain head has begun to form.
- No antibiotics are permitted - ever. Animals requiring antibiotic treatment will receive it under direction from a vet, but the animal will permanently lose its organic status and must be removed from the organic herd
- Calves must be given access to their mother's milk for a specified minimum period (except in emergencies), and calves must be weaned in a natural and humane way
- High consideration must always be given to animal welfare when moving animals
- Any supplementary hay given to cattle must be certified organic, and ruminants must never be fed any animal byproducts
- Cattle must have daily access to certified organic pasture, and any shelters must provide adequate protection while also providing enough space and ventilation for animal comfort
Choosing certified organic meat ensures that you're buying from farmers who raise animals in ways that preserve soil health, protect biodiversity, and retain their land's fertility for future generations. It also confirms that farms are raising their animals humanely. Because organic certification is a stringent process, it's a label you can trust.
Australian Organic standards are higher than their USDA counterparts, which is why we're proud to offer meat certified under Australian Organic. Our farmers undergo rigorous audits and inspections so that customers can be certain they are buying from sources who truly practice organic farming.
In addition to organic certification, some farms pursue other certifications relating to animal welfare. These include:
This nonprofit organization uses a 5-Step Welfare Rating Program to ensure animal welfare, and participating farms are audited every 15 months. Based on the principles of health & productivity, natural living, and emotional well-being, the program's steps include eliminating cages and crates, giving animals access to the outdoors and an enriched environment, raising animals on pasture, and avoiding physical alterations.
Sustainable Livestock Farming
Many recent reports on climate change and the environment have associated raising livestock, particularly cattle, with climate change. Readers may not understand, however, that animals can be raised in many different ways. Certified organic livestock farming practices are sustainable and support the land being farmed rather than depleting it. Cattle have been farmed sustainably for 10,500 years. Certified organic cattle farming follows the principals that have made this possible. Livestock farming can be sustainable when:
- Grazing animals are carefully managed to prevent soil erosion and overgrazing
- All water required is simply the natural rainfall on the area being farmed
- Ruminants (such as cows and sheep) are entirely grass-fed, eliminating the need to grow feed crops (such as soy or corn)
- Animal manure is returned to the land through free-range grazing, rather than collected in unhealthy and environmentally damaging confinement operations
- Animals are not given antibiotics, hormones or other substances that end up in the soil and water and prevent natural organisms (such as dung beetles) from dealing with the animal waste
- The land that animals graze on (and any hay fed to them) is managed organically without the use of synthetic chemicals
Animal Welfare Practices
Many consumers care deeply about animal welfare, and are concerned about the large number of animals raised in intensive confinement. Many of the same practices that contribute to sustainable livestock farming are also beneficial for animal welfare, and organic and other certifications recognize this.
- When animals are allowed to roam and graze freely (or root, in the case of pigs), they experience less stress and remain healthier
- Allowing animals to wean naturally is less stressful
- Low-stress handling methods, especially at processing time, lead to healthier animals and better-tasting meat
- Animals that are not crowded are less prone to illness and stress, and are better for the land than animals crowded into confinement operations
- Animals that are allowed to grow at a natural rate (versus being given hormones or other growth stimulants) are healthier
Cleaver's Organic Promise
If you're a conscientious meat eater looking for products you can trust, choose meat from Cleaver's. We carefully screen our farmers to source the best meat that's raised according to strict standards. We are passionate about providing meat that is healthier for our customers, for the planet, and for animals. In addition, we only source from family owned and operated farms, not large corporations. Our farmers use sustainable practices and raise their animals humanely to produce healthy, great-tasting meat that we are proud to offer to our customers.
When you’re craving a steak, contact us to learn more about our products or find out where to purchase our meat.