Although successful organic grain farming is not dependent on the inclusion of livestock, having a mixed operation does complement the holistic approach of organic agriculture, especially through nutrient recycling. Ruminants are the most beneficial animal for integration into such a system.

An organic livestock production system in Australia includes a high standard of animal welfare, and all livestock are managed in ways that allow their natural behaviour patterns to be expressed. Particular care is taken to make sure every animal suffers the minimal amount of stress when it is slaughtered, and slaughtering must be carried out by certifier-approved abattoirs.

Organic certification does not allow the routine use of antibiotics, growth promotants or other drugs.

Organic beef and lamb are in high demand with organic lamb supply not able to meet the demand. The organic pork industry in in its early stages in Australia with only a few producers supplying the market.

Conventional non-organic red meat production

The conventional livestock production farm, not only allows, but paves the way for the outbreak of disease. Thousands of genetically uniform animals are crowded into unhygienic housing, generating an ideal environment for microbes. Animal manure and slaughterhouse waste are recycled as feed. Meat is processed at break-neck speed in the presence of blood, faeces, and other contagion. Long-distance transport of food creates endless opportunities for contamination.

Antibiotic overuse is common place and it is resulting in drug-resistant microbes, including Salmonella, E. coli, and Camplyobacter. US farm livestock consume approximately 10 times as much antibiotics as the human population.

Despite all the risks, conventional livestock farming is the fastest growing form of animal production. It is responsible for over half of the world’s meat production. Although the farms are concentrated in North America and Europe, feedlots are now a common sight near the urban areas in Brazil, the Philippines, China, India and elsewhere in the developing world where demand for meat and animal products is soaring.

It is surprising that the non-organic industry is growing so quickly. The issues are of alarming proportions. But there is another way. Organic livestock production methods are available. It is no coincidence that mad cow disease has yet to be reported on organic farms where they prohibit the feeding of slaughterhouse waste, and emphasise good animal health in general.