For those who enjoy eating meat, we recommend the sustainable, healthy, superfood choice: pasture-raised.
Pasture-raised, or “pastured,” livestock—cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens—spend most of their lives at pasture, eating forage, bugs, and worms of various sorts, as they are designed to. Some are supplemented with grain: for example, pigs and chickens can’t live on grass the way cattle can, and a hard winter may require grain supplementation before the spring grazing comes in. But that’s all it is: supplementation. Generally speaking, these animals live and eat the way nature designed them to live and eat.
And while pastured meat is much better than factory-farmed meat for you, for the animals, and for the environment, there is one drawback—it tends to be more expensive.
That’s because pastured meat is generally produced by small farmers who do not enjoy the agricultural subsidies that corporate agriculture does, especially in the United States.
So Why Should I Buy More Expensive Meat?
Nothing else is advertised to us the way food is: price per pound or kilo. And while price is definitely a concern, when it comes to the food we eat, upfront cost shouldn’t be the only factor.
There are many of us who need every penny. But we make purchasing decisions every day, as we try to get the best value for our money that we can. And sometimes that isn’t always the cheapest car, pair of jeans, or anything else. And it certainly isn’t the cheapest meat.
So here’s why you should buy pastured meat:
1. It Tastes Better
Whether you love to cook and eat, or just eat, taste matters and pastured meat just tastes better. When livestock are allowed to move in ways and eat foods that are natural for them, they develop deeper, richer-tasting meat.
2. The Animals are Healthier
Animals are healthier because they are eating foods their digestive systems are designed to handle: feeding corn acidifies a cow’s gut, making it far more vulnerable to the pathogen E. coli 0157:H7. Because livestock are healthier and living on pasture, rather than confined in their own feces, as is common in many factory farms, and which leads many animals to eat those feces, they are also not exposed to nearly as many pathogens. Thus, they don’t require massive doses of antibiotics: according to the FDA, 80% of the antibiotics used in the US are given to livestock and 83% of those antibiotics are given to prevent animals from getting sick. This breeds multi-drug-resistant bacteria, or superbugs.
3. We’re Healthier Too
We are what we eat, right? So when we eat leaner animals with healthier fat profiles (more omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acid in their fats), we are healthier. When we eat much healthier animals, we reduce our exposure illnesses that they carry, such as E. coli 0157:H7. And because we’re not eating animals full of antibiotic residue, we reduce our own vulnerability to superbugs—and to the disruption of good bacteria in our guts that primes us for obesity and related disorders.
4. The Animals are Happier
Life in a factory farm is brutal and disgusting for animals. They have their own instinctive need for sun and pasture, for clean water and air. And when you make livestock happy, they don’t release as many stress hormones that have been linked to poor fat composition.
5. If Food Animals are Happier, Humans are, Too!
People who work in factory farms also suffer from the misery they see. Some become angry on behalf of the animals. Others become coarsened and resort to brutality to move large animals around because they don’t have the time or the training to use less force and stay safe.
6. The Environment is Healthier
Pastured animals deposit their manure on their grazing land, encouraging the growth of perennial grasses that build soil, that thin layer upon which all land-based life depends, and retain water. They do not create manure lagoons that stink, breed pathogens, and pollute the air we breathe and water tables that sustain us, killing aquatic life and vegetation, endangering humans and the entire chain of life that we depend upon.
7. You’re Paying Hardworking Human Beings, not Giant Corporations and Wall Street
Modern pasture-raising techniques are far more labor- and land-efficient than our grandparents’. However, compared to factory farms, they are small-scale and require more labor. Which means they employ more people. The people you pay for your meat keep almost all the money and because they are small, local businesses, that money circulates within your community. It doesn’t go to pay CEOs and hedge fund managers.
Where Do I Get Pastured Meat?
An increasing number of supermarkets have begun to carry pastured products, but it can still be a matter of luck to find them there.
It’s much more of a sure thing to turn to your local health food store, farmer’s market, food websites, and community-supported agriculture. You can find these producers with a quick internet search that includes “pastured meat”, “community-supported agriculture” or “farmers market” and your locale. A good starting point is Eat Wild, a collection of links to sources around the world.
One of the best ways to cut costs is to buy all or part of an animal, such as a quarter of a cow. You can split the cost with neighbors and friends, or find what’s called a “cowshare.” If only a few people are involved at a time, you may need a separate freezer to store that much meat, but the cost per pound can be impressively good.
And How Do I Cook It?
Remember that pastured meat tends to be leaner than grain-finished meat, though some pastured pork is similar or somewhat fattier. You will also be cooking cuts of meat that are not simply burgers, chops and steaks. Many cuts will benefit from low, slow cooking, such as braising, or treatments such as brining, or marinating in an oil-based marinade. Avoid soy sauce or salty marinades as these tend to draw moisture out of meats.
The Trim Down Club recommends using pastured animal products as much as possible. Give it a try and you’ll taste the difference right away.