In recent years there has been an ever-increasing concern for the welfare of those animals that are bred for their products. Breeding cows for their produce, such as milk and meat, has been done in many different ways for so many years.
As you’re probably well aware, over time, welfare standards have changed significantly. And in most cases, for the better.
There are now laws in place regarding what is deemed acceptable welfare of any cows kept in conditions that aren’t what would be considered their “natural habitat.”
Nowadays, there is a clear distinction in what organic produce must entail for the end consumer:
- Fewer chemicals
- No pesticides
- No use of antibiotics
- No growth or modification hormones
- Increased conservation of fossil fuels
- High conservation of water sources
Sounds great for us consumers, right? However, in most cases, organic food production is not much better for cows’ overall welfare than conventional food production is. These 2 different methods of farming cows are actually surprisingly somewhat similar.
So, Are Organic Cows Treated Better?
So what are the differences between the treatment of organic and non-organic cows? And are organic cows treated better than regular cows?
Let’s break it down for you:
Infection and Disease Management
As you would probably guess, organically farmed cows are not given any antibiotics as standard to ensure their products can be classified as organic.
When infection and disease strikes, and it often does as organic cows can be just as plentiful in numbers per collection as regular farmed cows, the cows will not be given any antibiotics to fend off any escalation of poor health to make sure they don’t taint the organic standards.
So when they get an infection in their udders, for example, as a result of being mechanically milked multiple times a day (which is more often the case), the cows will unfortunately not be looked after with any medical intervention to save them from the distress and pain they must feel.
When we put this comparatively against factory farm cows, we know that they are routinely given prophylactic antibiotics to prevent infections and disease.
Those cows will (rightly) not be classified as organically farmed; however, they will also not suffer from preventable and treatable infections either.
Are Organic Cows Treated Better When It Comes To Infection And Disease Management?
No, not really.
Artificial Impregnation And Calf Removal
While the illusion is that organic cows can have the happiest life roaming around in free-range conditions and raising their calves similarly to the way they would if they were in their natural habitat, there is actually not much difference between organic farming practices and conventional farming practices where the mothers and young are separated.
Cows are still artificially impregnated under organic conditions, which can obviously be distressing if that’s not something they choose to do. The mothers will then still have the young calves removed from them at a very early age.
The distress that must be caused to the individual cows when this happens is monumental, both for removing their instinctual habits of raising young and the loss of their calves.
In the case of artificial impregnation and calf removal shortly after birth, there are no significant differences between regular cow farming, factory farming cows, and organic cows. It’s yet further disappointment.
Are Organic Cows Treated Better When It Comes To Artificial Impregnation and Calf Removal Shortly?
While we understand “organic” standards are governed by law. The cows have to have at least 60% of their time grazing outdoors on fresh grass.
We also know that their provided food has a lower concentration of artificial fillers and no GMO ingredients to ensure that the products from the cow, the meat, and the milk can be certified as organic produce.
So this element is a positive as the cows will have better food.
However, when their milking days are over, the cows will be explicitly fed to increase their meat yield. While the organic feed may be of better standards than conventionally farmed cows, it may be the case that the quantities are escalated to make sure the cow produces the highest yield of meat.
Are Organic Cows Treated Better When It Comes To Feeding Standards?
In the case of quality of food, yes, the organic cows have better feeding standards. Still, once their milking days are over, they may be overfed for the purposes of a higher meat yield.
The image that is portrayed of organic cows, or organic anything for that matter, is that it is all treated with kid gloves and given the absolute best of everything, right?
To a certain degree, this is true, but only when the organic standards that need to be adhered to have legal or financial consequences (we are talking heavy fines, closing farms for non-compliance, and of course, removing the organic status from farms that do not adhere to the rules).
There is actually little legislation in place that states that the cows should be TREATED in any specific manner, so there is nothing to say that the cows cannot be shouted at, caged-in on the other 40% of their days, and live in the same unsanitary conditions we imagine from a factory farm situation.
Which is, unfortunately, unexpected and a little sad.
The Bottom Line
So overall, the organic stamp only complies with the laws and regulations to classify the end-user product as organically produced… The rest of the organic scenario has very few differences compared to conventional cattle farming.
While consumers may believe that the cows that produce their organic beef and milk have the princess treatment while they live their lives, we have seen that it is not always the case, unfortunately.
So yes, organic cows do have better food, increased access to free-grazing, fewer additives, pesticides, and no GMO ingredients in their lives (along with farming with conservation in mind).
We also see that there are very few differences to conventional cow farming beyond the legalities of the organic classification.
Are organic cows treated better than regular cows on regular farms?
Marginally… But only in those areas to satisfy organic law for profit.
Disappointed? So were we.