To view PDF files, you must have a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader which is available as a free download:
There is a growing market for organic meat and organic livestock production can contribute to animal welfare and environmental protection. The links on this page will help you explore the practices and markets.
Although livestock are usually the last part of the farm to be certified organic, they are often central to the farm and can contribute to its success. Livestock play an even more critical role on organic farms than they do on conventional farms. Livestock on an organic farm play a key role in:
Consider the following issues before you decide to certify your livestock:
You will need to comply with the Canadian Organic Standards and be inspected to these standards annually by a federally-accredited Certification Body. You can obtain the standards for free from the Canadian General Standards Board (CAN/CGSB-32.310, CAN/CGSB-32.311). The livestock section begins in Section 6 of the General Principles and Management Standards (CAN/CGSB-32.310) but if you are growing livestock feed, you will need to read and follow the entire standard. The following are key considerations related to organic standards:
The federal Organic Products Regulations do not require the slaughtering, transportation or storage of organic meat to be done in a certified facility. If slaughter houses are packaging, labelling and marketing the meat under their own brand, they are considered to be processors and these activities must be certified. However, if these facilities are providing a service for organic operators, their are two options. The organic producer can include the slaughter, cutting and packaging activities under his or her own Organic Plan. However, under this scenario the producer would be responsible for ensuring that the slaughter facility maintains the organic integrity of the product from the time the livestock are delivered to the point that the meat is sold. Under this scenario, the producer pays an extra cost for the certification and the certification is linked to the producer, not to the slaughter faciltiy. This means that a second producer who wants to use the same facility would have to undergo and pay for a similar process and the facility would be subject to two annual inspections. A second option is for the slaughter facility to obtain an Attestation of Compliance. This places both the costs and the onus to maintain organic integrity on the facility. This option makes more sense when a slaughter facility processes meat for more than one organic producer. The Organic Value Chain Roundtable has developed a fact sheet on organic meat processing.
There is a high organic premium for meat in Canada which can range from less than 100% to over 200% of conventional. However, the cost of producing organic livestock is much higher than conventional because of the high cost of organic grains. The high feed costs can mean that organic livestock production is not profitable unless you grow the majority of the feeds on farm. Even then, you need to consider oppportunity costs - that is, the price that you could get on the open market if you sold the grains rather than feeding them to your livestock. As noted above, do not get into organic livestock production until you've worked out the cost of production and the organic price premium.
A recent Canadian Consumer Retail Meat Study (April 2012) by the Alberta Livestock & Meat Agency found that percentage of Canadians that sometimes purchase organic meat is 18% for chicken, 12% for beef, 9% for pork, 7% for lamb and 4% for bison. Six percent of the consumers who purchase organic meat, always or almost always buy organic. Overall, Canadians are eating less meat, and are switching their protein source away from beef twards chicken and fish. Price and geographical origin are the most important purchase factors, although claims such as "raised without hormones, antibiotic-free, grass or grain fed and organic are gaining traction. The study concluded that while the market is small, "there does appear to be a niche sector, particularly for chicke, that is interested in buying organic."
A new study by the Canada Organic Trade Association shows very low market penetration for organic meat as compared to other foods, with the largest Canadian market in British Columbia. Meat (including poultry and fish) makes up only 1% of the $3 billion annual Canadian market for organic food.