Organic Meat

The Definitive Guide

What is organic meat?

Finding the term ‘Organic’ in front of the name of a meat product means that it has been certified by one of the UK’s organic control bodies to have been made while strictly adhering to the tight 'organic' regulations as defined by the European Comission. Explored more deeply below, the Soil Association (the largest British organic controller) describes these organic regulations to broadly protect the following:

  1. Higher levels of animal welfare
  2. Lower levels of pesticides
  3. No manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers
  4. More environmentally sustainable management of land and natural environment & wildlife

How can I tell if a meat product is organic?

You can spot organic meat products by their display of the EU organic icon below.

Image of red tractor assurance scheme label you can find on meat products

What are the different organic control bodies?

In total there are 7 organic certification control bodies in the UK. These, and only these bodies, are lawfully able to certify meat products for be ‘organic’. The different names of the UK’s organic control bodies, alongside their contact details can be found in the table below.

UK Organic Controlling Bodies
Organic Farmers & Growers CIC
Organic Food Federation
Soil Association Certification Ltd
Biodynamic Association Certification
Irish Organic Association
Organic Trust Limited
Quality Welsh Food Certification Ltd
OF&G (Scotland) Ltd

What are the specific standards for organic meat?

While each organic control body has marginally varied practices when it comes to organic meat, they all all follow the same core principles.

As a retailer, you are only certified sell ‘organic meat’ products where:

  • At least 95% of it’s farmed ingredients are organic certified,
  • You sell directly to customers in your shop

As a producer, one of the UK’s organic control bodies will only certify your meat as organic meat where it abides strictly by the standards set out by the European Commission (). As outlined on their website, “In 2007, the EU Council agreed a new Council Regulation 834/2007 setting out the principles, aims and overarching rules of organic production and defining how organic products should be labelled”

How much organic meat is being consumed in the UK?

As of 2017, the UK is estimated to consume about 84,000 tonnes worth of meat.

Research conducted by Euromonitor in 2017 indicates that the amount of organic meat we eat in the UK has grown more than any other country since 2012 – a whopping 17%. What’s even more staggering I that UK consumers have been found to have purchased almost 100% more organic meat in 2016 (84,000 tonnes) than they did in 2012 (44,000 tonnes).

Anastasia Alieva who heads up the fresh food team at Euromonitor believes that Europes growing concern with healthy foods is what’s driving this growth in organic meat consumption – a trend that is only going to continue in the years to come. She says:

“The concept of ‘clean label’, natural and organic is spreading and thanks to the increasing healthy eating trend, the demand for organic meat increased during the 2011–2016 review period, despite high unit prices compared to standard meat.”

“This trend is likely to encourage people, especially the health-conscious young generation, to eat more vegetables and reduce consumption of meat products or even replace them with pulses that are thought to be healthier due to low/zero fat,” she said.

Is organic meat healthier?

Based on research published by the British Journal of Nutrition, the The Soil Association reports that organic foods including meats have a significantly different nutritional profiles than non-organic foods, as follows:

  1. Organic Meat has been found to contain on average 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids
  2. Organic Meat has been found to contain lower degrees of saturated fats
  3. Organic Meat has been found to contain 40% more conjugated Linoleic Acids (CLAs) that have been found to correlate with a wide variety of health benefits including the heart health, lower likelihood of obesity and and reduced risk of cancer.

Does organic meat promise higher animal welfare?

When it comes to the welfare of animals that have been reared to produce organic meat products, the European commission very clearly sets out specific conditions that livestock farmers must adhere to in order to be able to market their meat as organic. These regulations include those regarding “respect for animal welfare, feeding the animals in accordance with their nutritional needs and are designed to protect the animals health and environment.” Example of such regulations include – and are not limited to – the following:

How organic meat animals are to be kept

  1. In order to farm livestock for the purposes of produce organic meat, farmers must have the necessary base of knowledge and skills in order to be able to understand and provide for the health and welfare needs to the animals under their care.
  2. The number of cows in a farmed area must be minimised in order to ensure overgrazing doesn’t occur besides erosion, or any pollution caused by cows or the spreading of their poo (aka manure).
  3. Whenever possible cows should always, always be able to access open sky air as well as pastured grazing areas.
  4. It is strictly prohibited to isolate cows unless when this applies to an individual animal, for only a limited time period, in order to be able to preserve the welfare, safety or health of said animal and/or those it’s being reared with.

How organic meat animals are to be treated

  • No types of hormones, growth promoters or synthetic amino-acids are permitted to be applied to organic animals
  • In regards to hormones specifically, such substances are only permitted as a means to apply “veterinary therapeutic treatment for an individual animal”
  • When cows are unwell, ‘allopathic’ veterinary medicinal products (meaning, the treatments of disease by conventional means, i.e. with drugs having effects opposite to the symptoms) including antibiotics may be used only out of necessity and under strict conditions. Specifically, such products may only be applied when the use of ‘phytotherapeutic’ (herb based) products aren’t feasible in treatment.
  • Medicines for immunology are permitted wherever necessary.

The breeding and husbandry of animals which produce organic meat

  • Organic and non-organically reared livestock must not be kept in the same holdings unless there is a specific breeding programme in place complying with the specific rules pertaining to organic and non-organic livestock.
  • The cloning of organic livestock / the transfer of their embryos is not allowed

What have cows that have produced organic meat been fed?

  1. Farmers of organic livestock must ensure that they’re providing their animals with feed that are 100% organic
  2. Organic feed should derive from the same farm that the organic animals have been kept, or those in the same region
  3. Calves must be fed with 100% natural milk, preferably from the cow that gave birth to them