Alright, we’ve arrived at the last mini pledge. We’re in the home stretch of our month of unprocessed food. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on how the month went on Thursday and what we’ll be up to next.
For the last mini pledge, I thought I’d share some information about meat. Reading the label on your meat can be very confusing. There are a lot of misleading labels on meat by companies trying to make their products appear healthier than they are. If you have an interest, I would strongly encourage you to watch Food Inc., the best documentary I’ve seen on how the meat industry (and the food industry in general) operates and the scary practices they use.
Let’s look at some definitions on meat, so that you can know how your meat was raised and avoid some of those practices.
The following definitions come from The Environmental Working Group, one of my favorite all around healthy living resources.
Natural: “All fresh meat qualifies as natural. This term does not require that animals be raised in sufficient open space or indicate that antibiotics have been used prudently. It does not bar growth hormones. It does not mean organic. The term can mislead consumers to believe that the product is healthier and more humane than it is.”
Organic: “Food labeled organic must be third-party certified to meet USDA’s criteria. Organic foods cannot be irradiated, genetically modified or grown using synthetic fertilizers, chemicals or sewage sludge. Organic meat and poultry cannot be treated with hormones or antibiotics (sick animals must be treated but cannot be sold as organic) and must be fed only organically grown feed (with no animal byproducts). Organic meat animals must have access to the outdoors, and ruminants must have access to pasture”
Pasture-raised: “Animals raised in a pasture can roam freely in their natural environment, where they are able to eat nutritious grasses and other plants that their bodies are adapted to digest. Certified organic meat must also come from animals that have continuous access to pasture.”
Grass-fed: “This term technically refers only to animals fed a diet of natural grass and other forage, not grain, but it often includes other healthier farm practices not associated with industrially produced meat, such as local butchering, more range time for livestock and less crowded conditions. The three leading “grass-fed” labels, certified by the Food Alliance, the American Grassfed Association or the USDA, require that animals eat a diet exclusively of forage. Some companies that market their meat as “naturally raised” or grass-fed actually feed their animals grain for significant periods. USDA’s grass-fed marketing standard requires only that animals “must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.” It does not necessarily mean that the animals spent their entire lives in pastures or on rangeland.”
Free-range: “In the United States, this term applies only to poultry and is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. It indicates simply that the animals have been “allowed access to the outside.” The USDA does not specify the quality or size of the outside range nor the duration of time an animal must have access to the outside.”
It’s all kind of frustrating, right? You’re buying expensive eggs or chicken because it’s labeled “free-range” without realizing that that could mean the chicken has access to a 1×1 dirt space for 30 minutes a day.
And grass-fed? That doesn’t even mean that the cows eat only grass. The can still be fed lots of grain (which is unhealthy for them)!
And just go ahead and ignore “natural” if you see on anything. As you see above, it means NOTHING.
Its almost like you can’t win. There seems to always be a loophole somewhere… However, with a little knowledge, you CAN choose better meats. You just have to make a choice on what factors are most important to you. The three for me are: no hormones or antibiotics, no animal byproducts (aka feeding the animals dead or parts of dead animals) and access to pasture so they can eat mostly grass. I look for organic meat, because it ensures all three of these things are covered.
So this week I encourage you to do a little research, watch a documentary or talk to a farmer at your farmers’ market so you can