Growing up, my parents raised their own beef cow for our family every couple of years. Now having a family of my own, my husband and I are eager to buy grass-fed beef, as well as eggs and chicken that free-range, if we can afford them. My parents have again been raising a cow for this purpose, but since it's now just my parents at home, they asked my husband and I if we wanted to buy a side of beef. We had to budget the money and save up for this as it's one big sum of money at once, but it will last quite awhile in our family of almost 5 and I know we won't regret it.
I had an awesome discussion with an older woman at the grocery store, recently, as she complimented my cart of wholesome foods and we talked about diet and what we try to do for our families. She encouraged me with this saying, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". I had never heard that quote before, although that's been the mindset of mine and my husband's family for years. Simply put, what we put into our body reaps either good or bad benefits in the long-run. The money we put forth now for naturally, nutritionally-packed foods, the less we'll be spending in the end on artificial supplements, medical bills and expensive treatments. We have made wholesome, organic foods a staple in our family and are willing to make sacrifices in other areas so that we are able to do so.
I had a friend recently tell me what she thought about this organic "kick" that people are on these days, as she put it. (She was not very supportive; I suppose, in part, due to ignorance.) She very confidently stated that there was no difference between organic foods and other meat, poultry, veggies and the like. She stated that it was just an expensive and hip way the government can get your money. I assume she doesn't realize that co-ops and farms associated with CSA guidelines aren't regulated by the FDA, so this is a completely absurd statement.
And so, you've heard the "hype" that grass-fed is better, even more so than organic, and I just stated that I believe this to be true, but do you know why?
Well, I'll tell you what I know:
- Grass-fed meat (as well as poultry, eggs and dairy) has 3-5 times more fatty acids (called conjugated linoleic acid). These are full of antioxidants and anti-cancer properties.
- It is 4 times higher in vitamin E, which is important in regulating the metabolism and blood pressure and maintaining the immune system.
- It is very unlikely that these cows have contracted Mad Cow Disease since they are not crammed together in filthy, unheathly living conditions eating a poor diet.
- These cows usually aren't on any antibiotics. Antibiotics are commonly used among cows that are fed corn and grains since their bodies aren't made to digest these.
- The meat contains more natural omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for brain development and the normal function of growth and development in general. They are also good for you blood pressure, heart and for lowering your risk of cancer (You can also find them in a variety of fish, algae, krill and nut oils.)
- The meat is very lean, meaning less calories!
Of course we cannot always buy grass-fed and free-range due to the exorbitant price, but we do our best. Every little bit helps. We hope to increase our consumption of these foods from local farms and markets and not rely on the grocery stores with questionable dairy, eggs and meat.
My husband and I have also talked about the idea of someday raising our own cows and chickens for our family, not as a business, but just for us. Maybe in our forever home, when we're not raising such little ones that demand most of our attention...
For now, we do what we can. If you think of meat as a side-dish, rather than the main part of a meal, this can also help to stretch the "good" meat. You can do this a number of ways: stir-frys, salads with meat in them or meatballs made from grass-fed ground beef or chicken are just a few ways we make it work.
As a sidenote, I mentioned above that grass-fed is even better than organic and you may be wondering why. Well, organic is without a doubt better than not being so, but this doesn't mean that the cows or chickens are guaranteed a diet where they are let out to pasture. It may mean that they are fed organic corn and grains instead. Still, it is a better alternative if you cannot get or afford grass-fed.
Some resources you may like:
Another great article here.
For a list of places to find grass-fed and raw dairy around you, visit this site.
A list of local CSA's in your area!
Food Inc. documentary