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Pig eating vegetable scraps.

Organic Animals Behave Naturally

Animals on organic farms are raised with care in a way that supports their natural behaviors. Animals have space and freedom to move around and stretch out when resting as well as the opportunity to go outside. 

More space means less stress and better health. The Canadian Organic Standards stipulate the minimum space requirement for different types of animals as well as the housing conditions. For example, resting areas must be covered with a thick layer of comfortable, dry bedding and outdoor spaces must provide shade, shelter, pasture and exercise areas appropriate for the type of animal. 

Organically raised cattle have access to pasture during the grazing season and access to open air at other times of the year. Barn-raised organic meat chickens are free inside the barn and have daily access to the outdoors while pasture-raised organic meat chickens have shelter from sun and inclement weather. Laying hens are free to scratch and perch; no battery cages allowed. Pigs are kept in groups to socialize and root about, and sows are not confined to cages when giving birth.

The freedom to express natural behaviors combined with high-quality organically grown feed is a great preventative for disease. However, animals do occasionally become ill and they can be treated with natural compounds like botanicals, homeopathy or mineral supplements as permitted by the Canadian Organic Standard. If an animal requires treatment with a non-permitted veterinary medicine, like antibiotics, it will lose its organic status and the meat cannot be sold as certified organic. Exceptions apply to dairy animals which may receive limited treatment with antibiotics followed by an extended period of withdrawal from the organic system.

Many farmers do an excellent job of caring for their animals and, at a minimum, all Canadian farmers must follow animal production codes developed by the National Farm Animal Care Council. But certified organic goes a step beyond with higher standards for animal welfare and the underlying view that animals are part of agroecology - they improve soil fertility (manure), manage pasture land (grazing), and add biodiversity. The goal is sustainable farming practices and animals raised with care.

If you are concerned about the humane treatment of farm animals, you can feel good about choosing Organic: Food with Principles. Guaranteed.

Did You Know?

The majority of laying hens in Canada spend their lives in battery cages.

Battery cages are still the industry standard for egg production in Canada. Each hen has a floor space of approximately 9 x 9 inches with four to eight hens per cage. These conditions do not allow the hens to express natural behaviors.  

In contrast, organically raised laying hens are never kept in cages and they have the opportunity to go outside to forage, scratch, and dust bathe. 

Read Understanding Labels to learn how certified organic compares to free run and free range.

Read more: BC SPCA 

Did You Know?

Scientists are looking at new ways to keep organic animals healthy.

Dr. Moussa Diarra, a researcher with AAFC in Guelph, is testing organic blueberry and cranberry pomace as feed additives for organic chickens. He’s finding that pomace, which is a byproduct from juicing berries, is boosting the chickens’ immune systems and protecting them against pathogenic gut infections. 

Read more in Organic Science Canada magazine (Spring 2022).