pasture-raised

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Make sure to check out part I of “Why grass-fed is best” for the environmental and ethical benefits of pasture-raised animal products.

In part I we reviewed the environmental and ethical benefits of pasture-raised animal products, along with some general information about why they are more nutritious. In this article, we’ll look more specifically at exactly why grass-fed animal products are superior to commercially-raised alternatives.

Meat

  • Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals.
  • When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s.
  • Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 19 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.
  • When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets. CLA is a fatty acid that has recently been studied as a potent cancer fighter.
  • The meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher in vitamin E than the meat from the feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements.

Milk

  • Unfortunately, 85 to 95 percent of the cows in the United States are now being raised in confinement, not on pasture. The only grass they eat comes in the form of hay, and the ground that they stand on is a blend of dirt and manure.
  • Milk from a pastured cow can have five times as much CLA as a grainfed animal.
  • Milk from pastured cows also contains an ideal ratio of essential fatty acids or EFAs. Studies suggest that if your diet contains roughly equal amounts of these two fats, you will have a lower risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, allergies, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and various other mental disorders.
  • When a cow is raised on pasture , her milk has an ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Replace two-thirds of the pasture with a grain-based diet and the milk will have more than five times the amount of omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s, a ratio that has been linked with an increased risk of a wide variety of conditions, including obesity, diabetes, depression, and cancer.
  • Grassfed milk is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E. This vitamin bonus comes, in part, from the fact that fresh pasture has more of these nutrients than grain or hay. These extra helpings of vitamins are then transferred to the cow’s milk.

Free-range (pastured) eggs

  • When compared to commercially raised, supermarket eggs, free-range eggs have:
    2/3 more vitamin A
  • 7 times more beta carotene
  • Up to 19 times more omega-3 fatty acids
  • Significantly more folic acid and vitamin B12

Raw dairy products – another step up

The information above should convince you that grass-fed dairy products are superior in every way to dairy products that come from grain-fed cows. Another important distinction to be made is the difference between raw and pasteurized dairy products.

I will be covering this in further detail in a future article, but in short raw dairy products have several significant advantages over pasteurized alternatives:

  • Raw milk is an outstanding source of nutrients including beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidolphilus, vitamins and enzymes, as well as the finest source of calcium available.
  • Pasteurizing milk destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamin B12, and vitamin B6, kills beneficial bacteria and promotes pathogens.
  • Raw milk is not associated with any the problems of pasteurized milk, and even people who have been allergic to pasteurized milk for many years can typically tolerate and even thrive on raw milk.

Contrary to popular belief, raw milk is safe to consume. There has never been a pathogen found in the milk of the two largest raw dairy producers in California, Organic Pastures and Claravale. In fact, the USDA has been unable to even find pathogens in the soil at Organic Pastures – which is highly unusual. This is due to the much more stringent standards for sanitation that raw dairies must comply with in order to be licensed to sell their products.

Again, I will cover this in more detail in a future article. Stay tuned!

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Although most consumers have heard of grass-fed or pasture-raised animal products, confusion still abounds about what their benefits are and why we should choose them over commercially-raised animal products.

It is important to note that the “organic” label does not have anything to do with whether an animal product is pasture-raised or not. It’s possible, and indeed common, for an organic meat or dairy product to come from cows raised in confinement feedlots. Likewise, it is also common to encounter pasture-raised animal products that do not have the “organic” label. This often occurs when the farm raising the animals is too small to afford the expensive organic certification process. In these cases, if one knows the farmer and his or her practices, it is preferable to choose the non-organic, grass-fed source over the organic, commercially-raised alternative.

Many environmental and ethical objections to eating meat stem from the tremendously destructive and cruel practices of commercial feedlot meat production. When meat and dairy animals are raised in a humane and ecologically responsible manner, these objections (which I entirely agree with in the case of commercial production) are no longer defendable.

In this two-part article I will cover the benefits of pasture-raised animal products. In part I, we’ll examine the environmental and economic benefits, and in part II, we’ll look at the nutritional and health benefits. Information is adapted in part from the Eat Wildwebsite.

Back to the pasture
Pasture-raised animals live on the range where they forage on their native diet. They are not sent to feedlots to be fattened on corn, soy or other grains which they do not normally eat. Pasture-raised livestock are not treated hormones or feed them growth-promoting additives. As a result, the animals grow at a natural pace. For these reasons and more, grass-fed animals live low-stress lives and are so healthy there is no reason to treat them with antibiotics or other drugs.

More Nutritious
A major benefit of raising animals on pasture is that their products are healthier for you. For example, compared with feedlot meat, meat from grass-fed beef, bison, lamb and goats has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids. Meat and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called “conjugated linoleic acid” or CLA. When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets. Grass-fed meat also has more vitamin E, beta-carotene and vitamin C than grain-fed meat.

Factory Farming
Raising animals on pasture is dramatically different from the status quo. Virtually all the meat, eggs, and dairy products that you find in the supermarket come from animals raised in confinement in large facilities called CAFOs or “Confined Animal Feeding Operations.”  These highly mechanized operations provide a year-round supply of food at a reasonable price. Although the food is cheap and convenient, there is growing recognition that factory farming creates a host of problems, including:

  • Animal stress and abuse
  • Air, land, and water pollution
  • The unnecessary use of hormones, antibiotics, and other drugs
  • Low-paid, stressful farm work
  • The loss of small family farms
  • Food with less nutritional value

Unnatural Diets
Animals raised in factory farms are given diets designed to boost their productivity and lower costs. The main ingredients are genetically modified grain and soy that are kept at artificially low prices by government subsidies. To further cut costs, the feed may also contain “by-product feedstuff” such as municipal garbage, stale pastry, chicken feathers, and candy. Until 1997, U.S. cattle were also being fed meat that had been trimmed from other cattle, in effect turning herbivores into carnivores. This unnatural practice is believed to be the underlying cause of BSE or “mad cow disease.”

Environmental Degradation
When animals are raised in feedlots or cages, they deposit large amounts of manure in a small amount of space. The manure must be collected and transported away from the area, an expensive proposition. To cut costs, it is dumped as close to the feedlot as possible. As a result, the surrounding soil is overloaded with nutrients, which can cause ground and water pollution. When animals are raised outdoors on pasture, their manure is spread over a wide area of land, making it a welcome source of organic fertilizer, not a “waste management problem.”

Make sure to see part II for the nutritional and health benefits of pasture-raised animal products</>

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