The case for sustainably grown food as a healthier and safer alternative to industrial dreck is gaining force.

Here’s the latest, from Natural Choices UK:

A recent [U.K.] government survey shows that organic laying hen farms have a significantly lower level of Salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium that causes one of the commonest forms of food poisoning worldwide. The study showed that 23.4 per cent of farms with caged hens tested positive for salmonella compared to 4.4 per cent in organic flocks and 6.5 per cent in free-range flocks.

Significantly, the study came out of the U.K. There, organic standards are run by an NGO called the Soil Association, which creates rules with consumers and smallish farmers in mind, not industrial giants. "The Soil Association insists on higher welfare standards for organic poultry than most other organic certifiers," the group declares in its organic-egg standards (PDF). The Association insists that hens be "truly free range," "looked after in small flocks," and have ample access to "fresh grass and air."

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Our own USDA organic standards are much more concerned about how giant operations can cash in on the organic craze. So all we get on animal standards is that "All organically raised animals must have access to the outdoors" — a stipulation that has been subject to much, well, chicanery. Michael Pollan found "organic" hens stuffed into pens for his Omnivore’s Dilemma research, their "access to outdoors" amounting to an unutilized concrete patch. And the Cornucopia Foundation has documented that large-scale "organic" dairies for years stuffed cows into confinements and feed them (organic) corn.

As for salmonella and eggs, the issue seems to be about whether the hens are wallowing in their own feces. So if a large portion of U.S. organic layers are doing just that, it seems doubtful that our own supermarket organic eggs can offer the same benefit as those in the U.K.

The egg study comes on the heels of a peer-reviewed U.K. study showing that organic milk cuts "the incidence of eczema in infants fed on organic dairy products, and whose mothers also consumed organic dairy products," by 36 percent.

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