In both the books No Impact Man and in Eating Animals (by Jonathan Saffran Foer), I read that US organic trademarks are mostly commercially driven and the rules that they prescribe do not really guarantee organic products, animal welfare, etc. For instance, in the US, a cow that never gets to go outside (but has a window with a view) can provide certified organic beef and dairy.
To be honest, reading this upset me quite a bit. So I did a little research into European and Dutch organic trademarks. I was happy to find out that the rules here are much stricter. For example, a Dutch trademark which is very common is the Eko Keurmerk. I looked up the rules this trademark sets and that looks much better than the American stories I read about. To be Eko certified, animals should be able to go out whenever they want. And stables should accommodate species-specific behaviour (e.g. chickens like to sleep while sitting on a roost, so this should be provided in a stable. And pigs that are about to have piglets build a nest, so nesting material should be available.). What I also liked, is the fact that Eko allows for giving animals medication when they are sick, as long as their meat or produce is not used for a period twice as long as the medication manufacturer prescribes. No Impact Man tells a story of a dairy farmer who isn’t allowed to say that his milk is organic, because he gives is animals medication when they are sick. Apparently, to produce certified organic milk in the US, no medication at all is allowed, so animals who have a simple infection that won’t cure naturally have to be put down.
So, I am slightly reassured, but this again shows that we really need to be critical, and that we shouldn’t believe everything that manufacturers want us to believe. I also wonder whether there are ‘truly organic’ trademarks in the US.