Recognizing of the value of organic livestock production
Canadians love their organics, with more than one in two consumers each week choosing to put organic products in their shopping cart.
While fruits and vegetables continue to be the most popular organic items on Canadians’ grocery lists, these days, more and more shoppers are also making healthier choices when it comes to their meat and poultry.
“For most people, the entry point to organics is fruit and vegetables, followed by organic dairy,” says Maureen Kirkpatrick, standards coordinator at The Big Carrot Natural Food Market, a worker-owned grocery retailer in Toronto. “As shoppers continue to integrate more organic choices into their lives, buying organic meat and poultry is a natural next step. This is a trend that continues to grow.”
What’s behind Canadians’ growing interest in organic meat and poultry? Ms. Kirkpatrick points to a greater awareness of the health and social benefits of buying products from organic livestock.
“I think the main reasons people buy organic meat and poultry relate to the perceived health benefits as well as improved animal welfare,” she says. “There have been numerous international studies in recent years confirming the benefits of organic meat and dairy, including a higher percentage of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help maintain and improve your health.”
James Sculthorpe, president of Yorkshire Valley Farms, which produces organic poultry and eggs, highlights the general principles that govern organic agriculture in Canada: sustained and enhanced health of soil, plants, animals, humans and the planet; respect and support for living ecological systems and cycles; relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the environment and life opportunities; and responsible care that protects the health and well-being of current and future generations and the environment.
To be certified organic, meat and poultry producers must follow these principles, which are set out clearly and enforced by the Canadian government, adds Mr. Sculthorpe.
“Organic agriculture is regulated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency,” he says. “The protocols are very clear and definite, and they are audited by a third party.”
At Yorkshire Valley, these protocols translate to chicken feed that’s all organic and free of antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, pesticides and herbicides, as well as birds that are raised in barns with significantly more living space than conventional farms and natural lighting that allows the birds more time to rest.
“A lot of poultry farms alter lighting in their barn because longer hours of light encourage birds to consume more feed so they get to market sooner,” explains Mr. Sculthorpe. “Canada’s organic standards require at least eight hours of rest every 24 hours.”
Another compelling reason why Canadians are increasingly buying organic meat and poultry: these products simply taste better than their conventional counterparts, says Mr. Sculthorpe.
Ms. Kirkpatrick agrees.
“Our shoppers often comment about thedifference in taste between organic and conventionally produced meat and poultry,” she says. “And when you take into account all of the other benefits of organic agriculture, it’s really easy to see why more Canadians are choosing organic products.”
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