Top 8 Health Benefits of Humane Farming
If you are a regular shopper of the butcher’s department, you’ve probably seen meat packing with statements like “Cage-Free”, “Pasture-Raised”, “Grass-Fed” and so on. The concern over how we raise livestock is not new, and the industry has been slowly acknowledging that consumer sentiment. This week we’re digging out teeth into the meat of the Animal Livestock industry to demystify what “ethically raised” meat really means, how it affects your health, and why it’s worth spending a few extra dollars for it.
To begin with, let’s go over some of the most common packaging claims:
No Added Hormones
- Applies mostly to Beef, as the USDA does not allow hormone use on poultry or pork. This statement means that no growth hormones were given to the animal throughout its lifetime. This claim does not have to be third-party verified.
Raised Without Antibiotics
- Applies to any livestock, and means that no antibiotics have been given to the animals throughout their lifetime. This claim does not have to be third-party verified.
This statement has to do with how the meat is processed. All Natural implies that no artificial colorants or preservatives were added to the meat products. This claim does not have to be third-party verified.
- This statement implies that the animal was raised exclusively on grass pastures (as opposed to dried grains) once it’s been weaned from its mother’s milk. This claim does not have to be third-party verified.
- This signifies that the livestock had continuous access to open pastures and unconfined living conditions. This claim does not have to be third-party verified.
- The USDA organic seal indicates that the animal was given only organic feed. The animals can’t be given antibiotics or growth hormones. Even sick animals treated with antibiotics can’t be labeled organic. Also signifies that no synthetic fertilizers, irradiation, or genetic engineering have been used. This claim must be third-party verified.
- This claim refers to what the livestock was fed, and signifies that the animals were given feed from sources that have not been genetically engineered. This claim requires third-party verification.
- This term has no official definition and it is not verified either by USDA or any independent organization.
Animal Welfare Approved (AWA)
- Unlike the term “Humanely Raised”, this statement signifies that a third party has verified that the livestock has been raised according to the AWA standards with robust animal welfare and environmental considerations.
As you can see from the list above, many statements can be added to meat packaging that don’t actually require third-party verification. If you care about animal welfare and ingredient quality, it’s important to look for products with VERIFIED claims, such as the USDA organic or the AWA badge.
Why should you care about these statements?
- Antibiotics are overused and result in the proliferation of super-resistant bacteria strains that have the potential to spread quickly, and contaminate other food sources.
- Animals raised on pastures, with plenty of room to roam are not only healthier themselves, but their meat also contains more beneficial nutrients such as good fats like Omega-3, antioxidants such as vitamin E, and vitamin K2 which helps calcium absorption for stronger bones.
- Since pasture-raised animals aren’t subjected to super cramped living conditions, the risks of a disease outbreak are drastically decreased.
- The minimization of stress throughout the animal’s lifetime also results in meat with a lower pH that is consistently more delicate than in animals that experience stress during transport, handling, and slaughter.
- Animals that have been fed an organic diet contribute less to fertilizer and pesticide runoff from conventional large-scale farm operations.
- Pasture-raised poultry contains 50% more vitamin A, an important nutrient for maintaining a strong immune system.
- Opting for ethically raised meats often helps support smaller and locally based farm operations, which in turn helps to support and strengthen your community as a whole.
- Lastly, there is a cascading effect of ethically raised livestock production that leads to more sustainable farming practices across the board. It is no secret that livestock production has been a huge contributing factor to climate change, and the farmers that make humane choices for their livestock often practice or support other sustainable farm operations. This might include supporting biodiversity instead of monoculture farms, management of soil health and no-till farming, conscious water consumption, and circular farming systems.
So what can we conclude from all this?
Livestock farming practices do matter, and because of the scale of the industry, the impacts of these practices have a huge effect on our health, and our communities. Doing the ‘right’ thing is not easy, and there is a trade-off in consumer costs. BUT we strongly believe that the costs are worth it. At Intelligent Gourmet we take time to source meats from suppliers we trust, who offer transparency and shared values for animal welfare and sustainable farming practices. What we eat not only fuels our bodies, but provides our bodies with the building blocks that it needs to heal, grow, and function on a day-to-day basis. So the quality of that fuel directly impacts our overall health. Not to mention, higher quality ingredients TASTE better too, and we can all agree on how important that is too.