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Growing Real Certified Organic Beef

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A new prairie organization, the Canadian Organic Livestock Association, is working hard to enlist members who grow certified organic beef.

A new prairie organization, the Canadian Organic Livestock Association, is working hard to enlist members who grow certified organic beef. The marketing requires co-ordinated action so that arrangements can be made to have a steady flow of beef into the national and international marketplace. Certified organic producers have changed many of the production and feeding methods used to produce the healthiest products possible.

For example cattle are grazed on pastures or fields that are certified organic. This means that no pesticides, herbicides or commercial fertilizers are used in the fields. The cattle are fed and finished on certified organic hay and cereal grains or legumes (for example barley, oats, peas and lentils) and must have water sources free of pesticides.

Pesticides are not permitted for the control of warble flies or lice a major pest in Europe and North America. Fly larvae hatch from eggs laid on cattle legs, penetrate the skin and migrate through the body for several months, producing grubs whose characteristic lumps or warbles on the animal's back form breathing holes, which reduce the commercial value of the hide. Other types may also damage reindeer hides, meat and milk (although the Inuit have considered warble fly grubs on caribou an edible delicacy to be eaten first).

In most cases here on the prairies, the pesticide used to kill the warble fly larvae or eggs is brushed on the animal's back from ears to tail and must be strong enough to enter the animal's system and destroy the larvae before it reaches the skin surface.

Organic farmers use diatomaceous earth containing pulverized fish fossils mined from ancient seabeds to control both warble flies and lice. No antibiotics are used in treating ill cattle. If the farmer uses antibiotics for treating the animal, most certification agencies require him or her to sell the animal as conventional beef.

This is the beginning of a big change, as about half of the antibiotics in Canada go into livestock and poultry production. People who have never used antibiotics may find they are allergic to them because of the antibiotic residues they consume in conventional meat and poultry! As quoted from the The New England Journal of Medicine in the January 19, 2001 edition of The Western Producer:

"Extensive use of antibiotics in both people and animals is blamed for breeding new bugs that withstand antibiotics. The drugs revolutionized medicine when they were first introduced in the middle of the 20th century and their declining effectiveness is a serious concern to the medical community today."

Growth hormones are not permitted in the raising or production of certified organic cattle, hogs or poultry. Growth hormones were introduced into cattle production in about 1955. I remember attending a farmers' meeting in Davidson where it was being discussed. One farmer asked his neighbour, "Do you notice any difference?" The answer was, "Not much, except the steers [castrated] are riding the other animals."

What effects may we be seeing in humans?

In addition, certification organizations demand that all livestock is handled, transported and housed in humane conditions. Slaughterhouses, packaging plants and butcher shops must have their premises certified organic so that the "audit trail" from the producers' farm to the consumers' table can be maintained.

Both livestock and people can maintain good health if they have nutritious certified organic food and chemical-free living conditions. We've only had antibiotics for 60 years: we've had healthy cattle and people for centuries. Let's hope consumers support the Canadian Organic Livestock Association.

The Canadian Organic Livestock Association can be contacted at (306) 327-4753 or e-mail: cola@gks.com.

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