When you are trying to plan out a well-balanced diet, meat, poultry, and dairy are foods that cannot be neglected. These foods provide their own set of nutrients which we cannot obtain from other food sources. Unless you’re a vegan or a vegetarian, you would want a few servings of those essential foods to stay on top of your health.
We know that different cuts of beef, pork, and poultry contain varying amounts of protein and fat. These two nutrients are vital for optimum health, and two of the main reasons why we include those foods in our plate in the first place. However, it’s interesting to find out that not only the cuts of meat have a direct effect on the nutrients that they supply, but, also the way that these animals were fed and raised.
Because of all the current interest in healthy eating, two terms that have gained a lot of use in the press lately. Those are “grass-fed” and “pasture-raised”.
This post will give you a detailed explanation on how they differ from the traditional meat, poultry, and dairy products that we commonly shop for.
What is Grass-Fed?
Generally when animals reach a certain age, they are sent to feedlots. There they are fed with soy, grain, and are treated with hormones and other supplements that aim to force their growth.
When animals are referred to as grass-fed, it means that they are kept home on grassy plains to feed on their natural food, the grass, and thus grow naturally and more healthily.
What is Pasture-Raised?
Although they are sometimes confused with each other, there’s a very thin line that differentiates grass-fed and pasture-raised. Pasture-raised is a generic term that refers to animals raised in pasture – their natural habitat. While the word pasture may lead us all thinking about “grass”, pasture-raised animals do not necessarily feed on grass alone.
In the pasture, you will find a variety of crops, legumes, seeds, and all sorts of plants and insects. Some pasture-raised animals may also be fed with organic grains, such as soy, oats, corn, barley, and triticale, and be given other health supplements.
Grass-Fed And Pasture-Raised vs. Grain-Fed Products
Generally, the early lives of cattle start out pretty much the same. They depend on their mothers’ milk until they are big enough to roam on pastures and feed on grass and other plants.
After about six to twelve months things change for animals sent to feedlots (grain fed) and animals kept at home on pasture (grass fed or pasture raised).
When animals are sent to feedlots, they are fed with grains, given hormones and other drugs to hasten their growth. They stay there for a few months. Then they are moved to the slaughterhouse. To make matters worse, some of these animals aren’t just fed with grains, but with certain waste products known as “by-product feedstuff”. These may be in the form of candies, bakery and potato wastes, floor sweepings, etc.
In contrast, grass-fed and pasture-raised animals spend their lives differently. They spend their adulthood largely in their natural habitats, feeding mainly on grass, seeds, other crops, and insects (for omnivores, such as, chickens, ducks, and turkeys).
Sadly, the conventionally-raised animals which are sent to feedlots are far too often forced to suffer unsanitary living conditions. Because they are often housed inside a small space, they live too close to each other and to their own manure, making them susceptible to acquiring various diseases. To avoid such diseases, they are given antibiotics, but, too much antibiotics can make bacteria resistant, which can become a huge problem when us, humans have acquired a similar strain.
Pasture-raised animals, on the other hand, spread their manure over a large area of land, producing organic fertilizer instead of a source of disease. The risk for contamination is so low that they do not even require antibiotics for survival. Additionally, animals raised outdoors are allowed to move around and perform their normal practices, such as, roosting, rooting, or grazing.
Those are some of the basic differences between grassfed and pasture-raised. I hope that makes some sense to you.