The food you eat is one of the most important decisions you make. When it comes to animal products, it is extremely important to consider quality as “you are what you eat eats”. Here’s why and what you need to look for at your next purchase.
- Pasture raised: According to Humane Choice, pastured animals are raised in paddocks and have more than just freedom from confinement, they have the freedom to behave naturally. Pastured sows are free to build nests to give birth in just like they would in the wild. Animals that are free to roam spend much of their day rooting, scratching and grazing in the sun and fresh air. Importantly, animals grown on pasture do not suffer the disease burden of those grown under unnatural confined conditions and therefore do not need to be constantly fed antibiotics to keep them in good health. The use of antibiotics in production animals can have far-reaching human health effects. Pasture raised is also far more environmentally sustainable and beneficial to the local community and economy. To find out more, please click here.
- Free range: Similarly, free range provides a natural environment for the animals to thrive. They spend their entire lives, from birth to slaughter, with free access to the outdoors. This ensure a stress-free environment, healthy animals and good quality produce as a result. It is important to know however, the term “free range” can mean both 400 hens per hectare or 20,000, so please do your research if you are purchasing from a large farm. This labelling loophole is being addressed with a number of online campaigns, but it may take some time before regulations are officially tightened in some states. It is great to see Queensland leading the way here, with legislation stating free range is a maximum of 1,500 hens per hectare. More here.
- Grass-fed: The quality of the food provided to the animals is essential as it directly effects the meat and egg quality you consume. Please avoid grain-fed as this promotes a high omega-6 and therefore inflammatory environment. Catch up on the difference between omega-3 and omega-6 fats here. It may be more expensive for both the farmers and you as the consumer, but cheap food is a false economy. I absolutely love this statement from Humane Choice: “The cost may not be immediately recognized but it is generally charged to your health, the environment and to the welfare of our animals. Cheap milk for example is not just pushing the farmer to the wall financially, he in turn tries to push the production levels of his cows to the very limits and they suffer as a result.“
- Organic: By definition, certified organic produce comes from animals kept on farms which meet and exceed standards of the best free range facilities. The problem is however, that the word ‘organic’ may merely mean that animals in barns are fed organic grains. There can certainly be health benefits of consuming organic produce, but please know this: “organic” does not mean the welfare of the animals meets certified organic standards. And it certainly doesn’t mean grass-fed. I personally don’t prioritize organic, unless it is also pasture raised, free range AND grass-fed.
Ok, so now you understand what to look for, it’s time to learn how to prioritize quality without breaking the bank. I promise, eating well doesn’t need to be expensive when you do it well.
How to save money on quality produce
- Shop at your local butcher. The prices are often cheaper and the bonus is that you support local and develop a relationship with someone you can trust is providing ethical and quality produce.
- Investing in a larger freezer is a fantastic cost-effective strategy, as it allows you to purchase in bulk and significantly reduce your per kilogram price. Please consider a nose-to-tail approach wherever possible, as muscle meats such as fillet steak and chicken breasts are the least nutritious when compared to organ meats, marrow and thighs. The ethical argument applies here too – it is highly wasteful to only eat certain parts of an animal that is killed to provide human fuel. Personally I buy from Braelands Beef & Lamb, but they are a small farm, and fully sold out for February. I will be posting additional options in the coming weeks. Please comment below if you’re looking for a supplier in a specific location.
- If you don’t have the option to purchase in bulk yet, please visit your local market towards to end of trade to find the lowest available per kilogram price.
- Free range eggs from a farm, a friend with a pen or your own hens is a fantastic way to not only save money, but ensure the health of the animals, which you now know is highly linked to the ethics of the provider and has downstream affects to your health. I’ve been referred to Wild Hen Farm and will share my experience soon. Apologies for being blunt, but please don’t buy your eggs from a large supermarket – even the grass-fed label has a loophole where there is no specific requirement for the duration of feeding (i.e. they can be fed grains for months on end, then switched to grass just prior to laying. This does not produce healthy omega-3 fats).
The same also applies to cheese, and cow’s milk is for calves. Read more about my thoughts on dairy here.