Is organic, pastured, cruelty free pork better than factory farmed?
Unfortunately, the short answer is no. At least not much. And in fact, as the industrial hog producers catch on to the potential profits, they will jump on the bandwagon, further deluting any benefit that may have been derived from the move toward “sustainable” food systems.
Organic grain for organic hogs is largely imported, making it expensive and driving up the cost of organic pork products. But as more corn and soy producers realize the potential profits of organic grain production, they are shifting resources to accomdate the demand. This will drive down the cost of feeding organic hogs, drive up profits, and grow the bandwagon ever bigger.
But what about the other benefits of pastured, cruelty free pork? A question to which one may reasonably respond – what benefits?
Their are no legal guidelines for meat marketed as “cruelty free” or Pasture raised”. As the NY Times points out, “… the phrases on the labels have no set meaning; the federal government has no rules for the use of words like “humane.” The term “free-range” on a product, for example, does not necessarily mean that an animal had access to pasture.”
Amd while a handful of the hogs raised under paid for cerifications may have some marginally “better” existance, you can be sure the industrialized hog producers will not only bend those giudelines to the breaking point, they will also use their wealth to influence the guidelines themsleves. Witness the number of chemicals now allowed under USDA Organic Certification for a lesson in how that works.
But even as it stands today, pork can be labeled “humanely produced” even though it is forced to live in a pen no bigger than most closets (7.2 ft, which, for the mathmatically impared (like me) is less than 3 foot by 3 foot. We are talking about a 180 pound animal! In addition, the pigs can be branded, they can have their tails cropped, and they can be forced to live in confinements with high levels of ammonia in the air they breath – and which travels from their lungs, to their blood, to their meat, that you eat.
How can that be? Well the “certifications” are provided by paid “certifiers” that have different guidelines and no legal accountablity. If a hog producer thinks the requirements of one “cruelty free” certifier are too strict, He or she can shop around for a less strict one. Or, what the heck, why not create your own? Hard to believe the Capitalist Pigs havent already!
The bigger environmental picture isn’t helped much by consumers searching for guilt free animal slaughter either. Most of us now know the huge impact animal agriculture has on global warming. Standards currently in existance (not yet made up by the factory farmers) help that only a little. Intensive agricultural practices that produce the grain fed to hogs will still produce grain to feed hogs, forests in Brazil and Argentina (and elsehwere) will still be cleared to make way for more grain production. The massive amount of water it takes to raise livestock will still be used, and runoff from muddy pastures is likely to get worse rather than better.
The bottom line is simple – animal agriculture is about as inefficient a way to feed the world as we can imagine. It takes many pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat. And those grains, along with friuts and vegetables, can feed billions more directly than they can be run through a hog first. It is true that there will be environmental savings around the edges. Organic soybeans will produce fewer greenhouse gasses than in chemically laden grain production systems typical of today’s toxic production systems. But negating benefits is the rapidly growing demand for meat globally. The net damage done by animal consumption will threaten life and liberty regardless of the details. And the benefits will be little to none once industrail ag revs up its polished propaganda.
And finally, while the desire to treat animals even marginally better than they are treated by the animal ag oligarchs is understandable, in the end we are still killing for pleasure. We are still destroying an innocent animal’s life so we can eat it’s flesh. That is just the sad truth that we can’t get around no matter how hard we try. And thats not cool.
“You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson