FIELD OF SCHEMES

Mother Jones|March/April 2020

FIELD OF SCHEMES
Are foreign fraudsters undermining American organic meat?
AMELIA PANG

IF YOU’VE EVER bought organic meat, you’ve noticed the hefty price tag: An organic chicken can cost more than twice a conventional one. For some shoppers, that upcharge is worth it—the circular green and white “USDA Organic” label guarantees that the meat comes from an animal raised on feed that’s grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Or does it? Organic meat producers operate on impossibly tight margins, so many buy less expensive imported grain to feed their animals—and that’s where things get murky. Lax federal control means that exporters can hire organic certifiers that will help them boost profits by looking the other way. The result is an influx of cheap, fraudulent products that are driving down prices and hurting American organic farmers who play by the rules.

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March/April 2020