We’ve mentioned it before, but the marketing guys for the big food and farm industries will do almost anything to get you to buy their products.
They don’t want you to know they’re cutting corners or bending the rules, so they come up with ways to be “pretty” honest and still operate the way they want. But, pretty honest is different than good, old fashioned honest.
Turns out, there are so many ways for the big guys to legally trick us into thinking the meat we’re buying is the best kind for us. They print pictures of strong cattle roaming green hills on their packages, or they inundate us with meaningless information that sounds good, but frankly …
It’s tough to decipher what it all means.
See, when we go to the market, we might read any number of labels with the following words on them:
- Free range
- 100% Natural
- Farm fresh
But really, the only labels that matter are the labels that read “Pasture-raised“ and “100% grass-fed.” When buying poultry products, pasture-raised works great. But, if we’re in the market for other kinds of meat, we need to make sure the product has both labels.
Why pasture-raised and grass-fed?
Well, it turns out, we really are what we eat. And the animals we eat? We are what they ate, too.
When we consume animal products, the nutrients in the plants the animal ate pass into our bodies and become assimilated into our cells as well.
So, it’s really important to know how the food we eat was farmed and raised – not just because there are more humane ways of doing things, but also because it directly affects our health.
So, what’s the actual difference between pasture-raised and free-range?
For starters, let’s look at poultry.
Not so free range
Now, there are different industry standards for different animals, but in the case of hens, for example – according to the USDA, the definition for ‘free range’ is that birds are required to have ‘access to the outdoors.’ That’s it.
So, the problem here is the various interpretations of the word “access.”
For instance, the birds might be able to access the outdoors by sticking just their heads through what’s known as a “pop hole.” This means they might sometimes see the outdoors, but can’t roam freely or, in some cases, at all. Though they’re labeled free range, these animals are still caged.
Moreover, there’s no minimum space requirement, so the hens might be stacked on top of one another. Furthermore – and more to the point – it doesn’t guarantee that these birds are consuming their natural diet of grasses and proteins – instead, they’re fed lectin-rich grains.
But, if the hens are ‘pasture-raised,’ the farmer is required to limit his count to 1000 birds for every 2.5 acres. That’s 108 sq. ft. per bird – which is approximately 106 sq ft more per bird than the shoddy ‘free range’ requirement. Not to mention, with pasture-raised hens, field rotation is mandatory. This means the hens can eat fresh, living grass every day!
Also, the hens must be kept outdoors throughout the year – with safe, accessible housing should the hens need to protect themselves from predators, or shelter themselves from extreme weather.
When it comes to chicken, pasture-raised really is the highest standard possible because chickens are omnivorous – they eat more than just grass. So the “grass-fed” label doesn’t really apply here. Chickens enjoy feasting on lots of grass, bugs, worms, and whatever they can forage in the dirt.
However, pasture-raised doesn’t exactly mean the same thing when it comes to other animals.
Beef and other meats
When dealing with other meats, pasture-raised beef can also be fed grains. Often times we’ll see “grass-fed,” but that just means at some point the animal was fed grass. So, it’s important to also look for the 100% grass-fed label when purchasing beef.
Sometimes, we’ll see “grass-fed and grain finished.” And that doesn’t work either. Especially when the finishing period for a cow is weeks or months.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “In the industrial system of meat production, meat animals are “finished”—prepared for slaughter—at large-scale facilities called CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), where their mobility is restricted and they are fed a high-calorie, grain-based diet, often supplemented with antibiotics and hormones, to maximize their weight gain.”2/
Now, these animals are raised on what’s known as factory farms, where the living conditions are appalling. On these factory farms, cattle were tricked away from their natural diets of only grass, into eating lectin-filled grains and processed feeds.
And even if the feed is organic or so-called grass-fed or free-range, those animals can still contain troublesome lectins because they, too, are fed soy and corn! It may be organic corn or soy, but it’s lectin-filled all the same.
So, when it comes to beef, there’s a huge difference in a steak that came from a cow that grazed on grass and a steak made from an animal raised in a stockyard.3 It starts with the difference in the ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats.
Turns out, omega-6 fats are usually inflammatory, and omega-3 fats are usually anti-inflammatory. Stockyard feed – aka corn and soy – contains primarily omega-6 fats, while grass is high in omega-3 fats. But there’s more to it – that same soy and grain makes cows much fatter than the equivalent number of calories in grass does.4 And, it has the same effect on us when we eat that beef.
There’s also a larger health concern …
When it comes to looking at how human health is affected by eating non-pastured meats, a big concern is the sickening hygiene and safety record of industrial farming. In many cases, runoff from the contaminated manure floods into rivers and streams, thereby causing outbreaks of E. coli and other diseases.5 It’s just not good for us.
The harsh reality is that most American farmland has become overshadowed by this dangerous wave of industrial agriculture – the often inhumane, chemically-intensive method of raising food in gigantic animal production facilities impacts our public health in big ways.
We have to do our best to buy produce labeled pasture-raised and 100% grass-fed. Then, and only then, will we be able to give our bodies the proper nutrients and healthy food we need. And, we can rest assured we’re supporting the ethical and cruelty-free treatment of animals.
For more articles about lectin-free eating, check out https://www.facebook.com/GundryMD/ and feel free to leave a comment!
1 Smith, A. (2012). Cash-strapped farmers feed candy to cows. [online] CNNMoney. [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
2 Union of Concerned Scientists. (n.d.). Industrial Agriculture. [online] WW_C5NPyuRs [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
3 Leiber F, e. (2005). A study on the causes for the elevated n-3 fatty acids in cows’ milk of alpine origin. – PubMed – NCBI. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
4 Goodman, R. (2012). Ask A Farmer: Does feeding corn harm cattle?. [online] Agriculture Proud.[Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].
5 Farmsanctuary.org. (n.d.). Farm Sanctuary. [online] [Accessed 19 Jul. 2017].