Discussion about the health of animals raised on factory farms and the nutrition and safety of food that comes from factory farms has lead many to actively seek alternatives. Some have turned to vegetarianism and vegenism, and some are finding ways to continue to eat meat and poultry, and consume dairy products that are not produced by factory farming methods. Pasture-raised food is an excellent alternative if you wish to continue eating meat, poultry and dairy products. Pasture raised food differs from food that is labeled free-range, humanely raised, organic, or cage free. These terms may or may not mean much of anything (except organic, meaning that the animal was fed organic feed). Pasture raised means that the animal was allowed free pasture access for feeding and living as that animal normally would – eating a variety of grasses (and insects if you’re a chicken), wandering around outside and having access to shelter when desired or needed.
Research indicates that pasture-raised animals are healthier and thus produce meat, eggs and dairy that is better for consumers than food that has been factory farmed from animals that have been fed all grain diets. The pasture-raised food that reaches the consumer is usually lower in calories and total fat, higher in vitamins and offers a nice amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fats. Milk from pasture-raised cows contains more healthy fatty acids than that of grain-fed cows. Chickens that are pasture raised are lower in total fat, have fewer calories and more vitamins.
Pasture systems are better for the environment, too. Because animals feed on the nutritious grasses that grow in pasture, feeds do not have to be trucked in to the farms, saving precious fossil fuels. Pasture systems supply their own fertilizer, leading to healthy pastures for the animals to feed from. Pasture systems are generally used by small family farmers, and by purchasing your food from them; you are contributing to keeping these farmers in business.
Pasture raised animals produce better food because they are feeding on the foods that they have evolved to feed on. They enjoy a much higher quality of life than their factory-farmed counterparts, who are confined to small spaces often not having access to sunlight and fresh air. Factory farmed animals are subject to multiple doses of antibiotics because of the stressful conditions they are raised in, and the antibiotics are still evidenced in the food they eventually are used to produce.
Grazing animals are not subject to the stressful and unhealthy conditions of factory farms, and are allowed to eat the foods that keep them healthy, leading to longer, better lives, and production of better milk, eggs and meat, when the time comes.
To find pasture-raised food, check with your local farmer, who most likely slaughters on a seasonal basis and then sells meat in bulk. Some local farms have their own dairies and stores that sell dairy products, meats and eggs. If you don’t know of a local farmer, visit www.eatwild.com for a directory of farms in your state that pasture-raise their livestock.