It can be hard when you are perusing the meat department at your grocery store to want to grab the cheaper options. After all, aren’t “grass-fed” and “pastured” just fancy ways to charge more? It sounds nice for the animal but is the extra money worth it?
The short answer is yes. But that’s not just so you can feel good about how the animal was raised, although I believe that is very important too!
The quality of meat is greatly affected by what the animal was eating, the space it was given and the access it had.
What the Beef?
Happy Cows are Healthy Cows!
Cows aren’t meant to eat corn (the most common feed given to them) and their digestive system can’t actually sustain a corn-fed diet long term. The reasons they are fed grain is because it’s cheap and it fattens them up quickly. Corn in particular is known to give beef the fat marbling that is desirable. (Food for thought here…if you’re struggling with weight, consider omitting grains. They will fatten up humans the same way they fatten cows! Just sayin’!)
Eating food that is not naturally part of their diet makes cows more susceptible to illness (like E. coli) requiring frequent treatment with antibiotics. You may have heard that eating meat treated with antibiotics can lead humans to become resistant to antibiotics when we actually need them, putting us more at risk for “superbugs.”
It’s not just about avoiding the negative effects of conventionally raised beef, although significant. The health benefits of grass-fed beef are actually quite astounding!
Many people know that fish is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, often thought of as the “good fat.” But grass-fed beef is also quite high in these anti-inflammatory omega-3s. This is not the case for conventional beef, which tends to have about half the omega-3s and more of the pro-inflammatory omega-6s.
Another lesser known fat is conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. Just like omega-3s, CLAs are twice as high is grass-fed beef than in grain-fed and this is definitely a good thing. CLAs are thought to help combat cancer growth, asthma, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and even insulin resistance! More on CLAs here.
Don’t be Chicken
Unlike cows, chickens are naturally omnivores, eating grass and grains as well as bugs, worms and larvae. But like cows, these days most chickens are fed grains. They are also kept exclusively indoors with little to no exposure to the sun and fresh air. Awful.
Organic chickens, however, are required to be fed organic feed plus they have access to the outdoors, can’t be treated with antibiotics or hormones and there are standards about their treatment and space.
If you can find it, even better for chicken is the “pastured” or “pasture-raised” label. This guarantees even more space and access to the outdoors to forage for food in addition to their feed.
Pigs too are omnivores but like beef, pork has been found to be higher in omega-3s when it is raised properly and the pigs are allowed to eat closer to their natural diet through pasturing.
Pork brings up another important issue with how animals are fed.
Toxins, whether in us or in the animals we eat, are stored in fat.
This means that when you eat meat that was given feed sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, you are ingesting those toxins too, just like the animal did! Yuck! When you buy organic meat however, you avoid those toxins.
Growth Hormone & Estrogen
Almost all conventionally raised beef cattle in the US are injected with growth hormone and sex hormones (estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone) to promote faster growth. If it’s making them fat it’s going to make us fat, not to mention the many negative consequences of consuming these hormones: think increased risk of cancer, earlier puberty in our kiddos and there it is again, obesity.
The stress that confinement induces in animals should not be downplayed. This is not only an animal rights issue, but our health is impacted when eating meat from in inhumanely-raised animals.
Like us, animals have a hormonal reaction to stress. Stress hormones become a part of the body. If you are already stressed, eating cortisol and adrenaline is not going to help calm you down and the untoward consequences of too much of these stress hormones will be compounded.
Where to Buy and How to Save a Buck or $2!
It can be easy to swear off conventionally-raised meats while reading about them. It’s a whole other ballgame when you are picking up dinner makings at the store and you see the prices. But there are ways to get some deals!
• Don’t be afraid to buy cheaper cuts of meat. They tend to be tougher but cook up well in a slow cooker or over low heat for a longer time.
• Look for deals and buy in bulk. When you see sales on organic or pastured meat, buy larger amounts and freeze what you’re not ready to use. Meat freezes well and defrosts overnight in the fridge.
• Shop at Costco! The warehouse store sells more organic meat than any other national chain and their prices are hard to beat. Some locations offer grass-fed beef as well.
• Butcher Box! Butcher Box curates the tastiest cuts of grass-fed and grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, and organic/pastured chicken (always free of antibiotics and hormones) from trusted farmers and delivers 7-10 lbs. of meat to your front door every month.This enough for about 20 individual meals! (Which works out to about $6 a meal, you can not beat that for this quality of meat!) Talk about stocking up!
Did someone say free bacon?
Another reason Butcher Box absolutely rocks is because they are offering all of my readers $10 off your first order and FREE BACON with your first box, woot! (And shipping is always free!) You’re going to want to take advantage of this baby! Order here.
I hope this helps shed some light on the importance of choosing higher quality meat for yourself and your family! Take advantage of this awesome offer and ENJOY!