Misconception Number 32: Animals grow more slowly under organic production.
Summary of Counter-Arguments:
Details of Counter-Arguments:
Organic Agriculture requires that the growth capacity of animals not be the only aspect considered when breeding, selecting, and managing farm animals. For example, it is necessary to consider whether specific breeds are well-adapted to local and organic conditions. Until now organic farmers have depended, to a high degree, on species that are adapted to the demands of conventional agriculture. Breeders typically focus narrowly on a high productivity at the lowest possible price. Meanwhile, organic farmers need to consider the breeds’ robustness and the ability to resist diseases. Thus, growth rate has to be considered together with animal longevity, health, and adaptability. Lower susceptibility to diseases means less management and fewer medical costs; adaptability results in more efficient and specific use of the land.
Conventional agriculture relies on certain practices that do increase growth rates, but at the expense of consumer health and animal welfare. Animal growth under conventional farming can be forced through the routine use of antibiotics and, in certain countries, hormones in the animals’ feed with obvious negative effects on human health. To decrease the animals’ energy expenditures, and thereby increase their food intake to body weight growth ratio, conventional farmers often restrict farm animals’ to almost no movement at all, ignoring their most basic physiological and behavioral needs. The animal feed concentrates provided to conventional animals to boost their productivity are often maladapted to their physiological needs and result in digestive and other health problems.
Often (in contrast to the short productive life that characterizes conventional livestock), organic systems allow animals to grow and live longer, with improved welfare and constant and satisfactory productivity. Hence, organically-managed cows, hens, and sows may take longer to reach their adult size, but this is a worthwhile investment because their productive life will typically be longer.
Finally, it is not always the case that organic practices reduce the growth rate of animals. For example, a Dutch pilot study  showed that suckling calves show increased growth, as well as better health, compared to bucket-fed calves, and later develop into bigger, heavier animals with increased milk production.
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