If you’re following the Paleo diet, you already know the vital importance of conscious meat sourcing in your diet.
You also probably know why grass-fed and pasture-raised meats are nutritionally different.
But did you know that the way you source your meat is also just as important?
It’s got strong health implications, but it also affects the planet and the continuation of those growing and producing food across the nation.
Why Pasture-Raised & Grass-Fed, Grass-Finished Is Healthier
Let’s do a little recap on the ways grass-fed, grass-finished meat has different nutrient compositions from conventional meat:
- Pastured cattle that are grass-fed and grass finished are the only kind of beef containing conjugated linoleic acid which helps prevent weight gain. It has more good fats (like omega-3) and fewer bad fats. It has more antioxidants, including vitamin E. It also has much more vitamin K2, which is vital for getting calcium into your bones and away from your arteries where it causes plaque and heart attacks.
- Pasture-raised and forested pigs who also consume acorns have higher levels of omega-3 fats, along with micronutrients like vitamin E and iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
- Pasture-raised chicken contains 50% more vitamin A compared to conventionally raised chicken. Vitamin A is important for vision, immune system strength, skin health and cell division/growth.
- Lamb raised on pasture is higher in protein and lower in fat than those raised in feedlots. Studies show pasture-raised lamb to have 14% less fat and 8% more protein.
- Turkeys raised on pasture with a diverse diet result in good fat being stored in their muscle meat and higher ratios of protein to fat.
So you’re probably already eating these meats, right?
Trouble is, it’s not as easy as you might think to buy truly grass-fed, grass-finished beef and lamb, or truly pasture-raised poultry and pork. Why?
What To Look For When Sourcing Your Meat: Labels Are Misleading
In a large grocery store there are dozens of brands and most of them are making the same claims.
Hormone free, antibiotic free, grass-fed, gluten free, all natural—just to name a few.
How do you figure out which works best for you? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Organic meat can be raised in a feedlot. When it comes to livestock, most of the organic standards—which are product of the USDA—refer to the feed. Living conditions are variable, and an animal need only have “access” to the outdoors.
- “Free range” and pasture-raised chickens can be raised in crowded houses. Free-range and pasture-raised chickens only need to have “access” to the outdoors to qualify for this label claim. Many larger-scale poultry operations raising hundreds or thousands of birds in a single structure can qualify for this claim by putting a hole in the side of their building.
- Feedlot beef can still be “grass-fed.” In 2016, the AMS— a branch of the USDA—withdrew their grass-fed verification standards. This means that the U.S. government no longer verifies this claim, so any cow that’s eaten any amount of grass—which is just about every cow ever—can be called “grass-fed.” There are no rules about living space, grain consumption, etc.
- Beef and pork no longer require a country of origin label. As of February of 2016, beef and pork can be imported into the U.S. from countries with different food-safety and animal-welfare standards. The company selling the meat doesn’t have to tell you where it comes from.
So how do you know how to trust these claims?
What To Look For When Consciously Sourcing Your Meat
- An Open Farm Policy: This means you can visit a farm at any time – unannounced. Places that offer this are the real deal because they have nothing to hide.
- Livestock Standards: Look for places that publish their standards so you can read it and decide for yourself.
- QR Codes: Look for places that allow you to trace every step in the journey from pasture to plate.
- Processing: Ask questions about how and where processing occurs. Are they bringing in product from overseas? How and when do they test for bacteria prior to shipping out? Do they bathe their chicken in chlorine?
- Certifications: Look at certifications and go beyond titles. Dig deeper and understand what they mean – the highest animal welfare standards are Animal Welfare Approved.
- Know Who You’re Buying From: Did you know that the average age of a farmer in the USA is 59? And that most farmers have to have off-farm jobs to stay afloat? Buying direct from a local farmer will keep these folks growing the food for the future. Try to investigate the source of your meat, and support those growing food for the nation.
- Regenerative Agriculture: If your farmer is not practicing this you’ll want to look twice. Topsoil is vital for the health of the planet and due to over fertilizing with chemicals, using pesticides and abusing the planet, experts predict we only have 60 years of topsoil left. Without topsoil, nothing grows. Topsoil is built by regenerative agriculture using livestock. Animals that are rotationally grazed in small batches are allowing the land to be fertilized naturally. It’s vital.
Where Can You Find a Company with These High Meat Farming Standards?
Hi there! We’re Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative.
We are a group of small-scale family farmers raising meat the conscious way—on 100% fresh pasture. And we are delivering this quality meat to your door around the country.
Frozen at the peak of freshness, all our meats are nutrient dense and 100% traceable from pasture to plate.
With farms all over the country and our own processing plant, we are your local farmer and butcher too.
- Health & Nutrition: Grass Roots’ animals live outdoors where they get lots of exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and fresh pasture every day. As a result, our meat is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals—and have a higher quantity of better fats. Come see for yourself, anytime.
- Sustainability: Grass Roots’ farmers use regenerative agriculture, which replenishes the nutrients in the soil instead of depleting them. Our rotational grazing practices sequester carbon, improving the environment and slowing climate change. We’re champions of this and it’s a requirement to joining the cooperative.
- Farmer to You: Grass Roots is both the farmer and the butcher. And we pay farmers and meat processors fairly so they can continue to raise meat the right way. The USDA states that farmers receive .14c of the food they sell on the dollar. We pay our farmers – who own the business – .75c.
- Butchered by Hand: Grass Roots owns and operates their own butcher, ensuring the highest standards like testing for bacteria prior to shipping and freezing at the peak of freshness. We never, ever bathe our meat in nasty chemicals like chlorine. Just ask others if they can claim the same… they likely cannot, as 97% of chicken is processed this way in the USA. Yes, even if it is labelled organic or has GAP 5 rating.
- Transparency: Grass Roots makes it easy to trace every step of the product from where it was raised to when it was processed. We have an open-farm policy, with our livestock standards published for all to read. Every package is fully traceable from farm to table with a QR code showing the farm it was raised on, plus the date and location it was processed.
We are reconnecting people nationwide with their local farmer.
Supporting Grass Roots means you are supporting small-scale family farmers who grow and process all their products in America.
With an online store and shipping across the lower 48 states, we make it easy to source the healthiest and highest quality meat for you and your family. With Grass Roots, you get meat that is good for you, good for the environment, and good for small family farmers.
Want $30 off Consciously-Sourced Meat?
Simply Go to the Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative website and use the code PALEOFX at checkout when you spend $150 or more!