As the grass-fed craze continues, we start to look at it as more of a cultural staple rather than a passing fad. Why has this stuck around? Because grass-fed is the better quality meat, and the better tasting meat. We know that “grass-fed” options aren’t always clear, and marketing terms on packaging can get confusing, so we have brokendown some of the packaging claims for you below.
- Organic, pasture raised/grass-fed- Cows, bison, and lamb roam freely in their natural environment, eating nutritious grasses and other plants that are a natural part of their diet. They are not given any hormones or antibiotics.
- Organic – Animals may not receive any antibiotics/hormones, but look for this specific wording on the package. They are fed organic feed and/or grasses, and usually have access to the outdoors. This applies to all livestock.
- Free range – Cows, chickens and pigs have access to the outdoors at least 51% of the time, and cannot be in a feedlot. There are no restrictions regarding what the animals are fed in addition to grasses.
- Cage Free – Chickens, pigs and cows are uncaged in a warehouse or barn, however, they generally do not have access to the outdoors.
- Naturally raised – Animals are not given any growth hormones, however, it does not indicate welfare or diet of the animal.
- Vegetarian fed – Implies that the animal was given a feed free of any animal by-products. This can include GMO grains, corn, and soy, as well as hormones, and antibiotics.
Most meat sold in US grocery stores without any of the labels above come from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). They are administered hormones and antibiotics from birth, and are usually a fed a diet consisting of grains, corn and soy. An astonishing 80% of all antibiotics used in the United States is fed to livestock! Cows are ruminants, meaning their natural diet consists of fibrous grasses and plants. When forced to eat an unnatural diet (for example of grains, corn and soy), they are plagued with physical issues and infections. To prevent serious and fatal reactions to this diet, the animals are given a constant low-level dose of antibiotics. These antibiotics, hormones, and constant stressors directly transfer from the animals to humans when we eat the meat.
Grass-fed animals like cows, bison, and lamb are treated entirely differently. Not only are these animals allowed access to sunlight, but they live in the sunlight. They have the freedom to roam in their natural environment, graze on grasses, flowers, and other local plants, and have the freedom to be relaxed and at ease. The animal’s welfare is extremely important, and the calm and ease of the animal is truly reflected in the quality of the meat.
Grass-fed meats are naturally leaner, which allows for less fat and more protein. Plus, the fat that it does contain is much healthier! Most of the antibiotics and hormones given to an animal is stored in its fat, so consuming it from a grass-fed animal provides the body with healthy, clean fat. Grass-fed meat also has about 4x the amount of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed, and contain a high level of conjugated linoleic acid, which is great for fighting inflammation. Grass-fed beef also contains an endless amount of vitamins and minerals vital for human function.
If eating meat is your thing, we recommend as much as possible buying local, organic, seasonal, wild (fish), pasture-raised and grass-fed, as it will be the best quality for your body!