You know the saying ‘You are what your eat”? Well, there's another version of that…”You are what you eat eats.”
What this means is the food that the animals eat is just as important as the food you eat. You eat the animal…you get the benefits or problems associated with their diet!
Eating clean, nourishing, nutrient dense Real Food often means getting the best quality you can find and afford.
In my opinion, the most care should be given to the purchasing of the cleanest forms of animal products (meats, dairy and fats). Grass fed and pastured is not just a trend. There are significant benefits to buying pastured meats.
Factory farmed cows, pigs, chicken and fish are often sick from being an unnatural diet, consisting of GMO corn, GMO soy, animal by-products and living in terrible conditions.
Antibiotics and hormones are often used to control diseases and to accelerate growth. “They spend their life in unethical conditions, in cages, on concrete, without ever seeing grass or the sun, treated cruelly and left in their own excrements. Is that the kind of animals you want to get your meat from? And eat?”
Choosing animal foods from animals that have been fed their natural diet is the healthier way to go.
You hear the term pastured or grass fed when referring to animals that are properly raised. Instead of being raised in factory farms, these animals are raised in natural conditions. Cows are able to graze on pasture. Chickens are able to run around and peck the dirt and dried cow patties in search of insects and plants as well as being fed (hopefully organic) feed. Fish are wild caught, not raised on a farm. Pigs are raised similarly, able to roll around in the mud, eating slop that does not have by-products and chemicals.
When an animal is raised and fed in a natural way, the makeup of their meat and other products is totally different than if they are factory farmed.
Here are 5 benefits of eating Pastured Meat
1. Lower in fat.
Now I am a proponent of eating fat…lots of good, healthy fat. However, we always hear that red meat is not good for you due to the fat content. Did you know that meat from grass fed cattle is significantly lower in fat? Often it can have about 1/3 as much fat as the meat from a grain fed cow. Some grass fed beef can have just a little more fat than a boneless, skinless chicken breast!
2. More Omega 3 fatty acids (and less Omega 6)
We all know we should be getting Omega 3s. This is why we take fish oil, right? While fish oils can be a great way to supplement with Omega 3, pastured animal protein can have 2-4 times as much Omega 3 fatty acids as similar grain fed meats. This makes the meat more heart healthy. Why do pastured animals have more Omega 3s? Because they eat grass!!! Omega 3s are concentrated in the green grass…which the animals eat. Pastured chickens (and their eggs) also have more Omega 3s as they peck the grass outside.
3. Higher in Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Vitamin E
Meat and dairy from pastured animals are significantly higher in CLA and Vitamin E. Grass fed animals can have 2-5 times the amount of CLA as grain fed animals. CLA is hugely important in the fight against cancer. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and is also protective against cancer.
4. More antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Grass fed beef has higher antioxidants, such as beta carotene and glutathione. It is also higher in zinc, iron, phosphorous and potassium than grain fed beef.
5. Less exposure to hormones and antibiotics.
Pastured animals do not receive hormones to make them grow faster. Therefore, you don't receive these hormones either when you eat the meat. (Side note: it is against the law for poultry and pork to have added hormones, so this is mostly an issue with beef). Animals raised in factory farms are routinely given antibiotics. Animals raised on pasture do not receive antibiotics unless necessary due to illness.
How to Find Pastured Meat
There are many ways to find pastured meats. You can buy from a local farmer. Check out www.eatwild.com to find one in your area. More and more grocery stores are also carrying pastured meats. Whole Foods even has a numbering system that rates the way the animals were raised. There are several companies online who will deliver frozen pastured meat to your home.
If you can't find pastured meat, I think the best bet is to buy organic. These animals still may have been raised in a factory farm but, by USDA definition, organic forbids the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified feed, or animal by-products in raising the animals. Organic has nothing to do with the quality of life the animals experience, but you will still be getting a more clean product.
I, personally, never skimp on animal products in my home. It is more expensive, but I put a high priority on the quality of food I feed myself and my family. I'd rather have a freezer full of healthful, pastured meats than a large cable package or a few pairs of new shoes.
Remember, with every bite of food, you are either creating health or feeding disease!