Nature's Pasture Foods-a Grandma's Guide
All grandmothers want the best health for ourselves and our grandchildren. One of the ways we can do that is to eat the most nutritious foods. You may have heard about organic and grass-fed beef, cage-free or free-range eggs, and pasture raised chicken and pork. I have been using these products on my health journey and I want to share some of the benefits and differences.
Grass-fed vs Organic Beef
Conventional factory farmed cattle are prone to disease due to confined living spaces. They are given food filled with antibiotics and hormones to help them get fat, so you can see why we want to limit conventional beef. A much better choice would be organic meat, which is from cattle that are given organic food from grains and corn not treated with pesticides or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). They are also given some time for grazing on grass, but 100% Grass-fed Beef is the best choice. It is from cattle who are pasture raised and not given grains. Be sure to check the label for "100% grass-fed" or "grass-fed and grass-finished." This category is the most ideal and even better than organic.
Some of these products are available at your local grocery store. The Kroger family of stores offer a brand called Simple Truth and each store will carry different selections depending on your area. You will also find a good selection at Whole Foods, Sprout’s, Trader Joe’s and Aldi. Even Costco offers 100% grass-fed frozen hamburger patties. Another great source is to buy online and have it delivered to your door. I use Butcher Box for my online meat orders, but you can search online for a local vendor, as well.
Free-Range Eggs vs Pasture Raised Eggs
Eggs are so nutritious in so many ways. They are a great source of protein and healthy fat. This once forbidden food has finally been vindicated. Eggs are heart-healthy and do not cause heart disease as many health professionals once believed. (For more on that, I suggest you read The Great Cholesterol Myth by Dr Jonny Bowden.) Pasture raised eggs and cage-free eggs are not the same thing. According to this blog from Biotrust, cage-free eggs are from hens able to roam in indoor pens with no requirements for how much space they are provided. It's possible they may never see sunlight. Unfortunately, free-range is not as nice as it sounds, either. The requirements are the same, except a provision is added where they must be provided access to two square feet of daylight, and that space can be covered. That doesn't exactly sound like "free range", does it? Organic eggs come from hens that are typically free-range and also fed organic food, but the treatment varies widely from farm to farm. The absolute best choice for eggs is to buy "pasture raised", which is closest to nature, where the chickens are able to roam freely for around six hours a day. They are not certified by the USDA, but are certified from a third party called The Humane Farm Animal Care. I highly recommend reading more about all of the different farming methods of eggs here. You will learn why conventional eggs are so inexpensive, but not a good choice if you eat a lot of eggs.
100% Grass-Fed Dairy
You've probably guessed by now that grass-fed milk, cheese, and butter are better than conventional and you're right. If your kids or grandkids drink milk, I highly recommend splurging for the good stuff. The fats in these dairy products have more Omega 3 fats, are much safer and more nutritious than the conventional milk. You can read more about that here.
Pasture Raised Pork
Again, this pork is just what the name suggests. The pigs are free to roam and forage to eat instead of being fed in pens. If you’re a bacon lover like I am, be sure to check the label for "nitrate and hormone-free." Also, be aware that some are cured with sugar, so check the sugar content.
Pasture Raised Poultry vs Organic Poultry
For chicken and turkey, the best bet is also pasture raised. Organic is better than conventional, but the differences between them are similar to eggs. Pasture raised poultry is harder to find though. I suggest you read this to learn more about poultry choices.
All in all, just think green when making these food choices. Pasture raised or 100% grass fed will always be the best with organic following closely behind. If you can manage to find and afford all of these best choices, please do so. In reality, though, it’s hard to do when real life and budgets get in the way. I encourage you to use these products as often as possible and remember that this does not need to be an all or nothing plan. Even if you can start buying some of these healthy products, you will be taking a big step toward your family’s health.
Now get to grazing!