Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's that Mean?? Animal Products

Chapter two in a series of common questions and terms compiled with some researched answers, and some added personal opinion to help everyone understand what's become of food over the last few years....After all, if you are what you eat, shouldn't you know what you're eating? Feel free to email questions, or terms you’d like clarification on. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it!

What's That Mean??
Animal Products


Grass Fed – There is currently no USDA official definition of grass fed, but the understood definition is a cow that was raised eating grass. (This does not always include the finishing process)

Grass Finished – The last 90-160 days of a feed cows life are spent getting fattened up. Typically this is on grain. Grass finished cows eat nothing but grass until the day they are processed.

          Why grass fed? Well, 100% grass-fed meat is not only lower in saturated fats but also slightly higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Meat and milk from grass-finished cows also have more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which studies suggest may help prevent some cancers, diabetes and more. Grass-finished meat is higher than grain-finished meat in vitamin A and vitamin E, two antioxidants thought to boost resistance to disease.

Most, but not all Grass Fed Beef is also free range. Check the label for a free range grass fed beef.

Poultry and Eggs

Free Range – this typically the chickens are raised in large flocks in big open warehouses rather than in stacked cages. They can walk around, flap their wings and preen their feathers a little. They are allowed access to the outdoors, although it may be very little access as the producer doesn’t actually have to disclose the amount of access.

Cage Free – This just means the chickens are not kept in cages. The term doesn’t add any other regulations.

Pastured – These chickens are raised in outdoor pens that are moved from pasture to pasture, and typically fed an organic diet. The chickens are able to eat a wide variety of natural foods from greens to grubs and are typically antibiotic free. Many people find these eggs/chickens to taste the best, and there have been some studies to indicate they may be more nutritious.


Certified Humane – This isn’t regulated by the FDA, but a few smaller organizations, the largest of which is Humane Farm Animal Care, are working to come up with a common definition. HFCA has a certification process with standards that include a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors.

Hormone Free – The USDA does not allow the use of hormones in Pork or Poultry. However, for Beef etc. Hormones are administered to make the animal grow larger and faster. Milk producing cows are often treated with an added synthetic hormone to increase milk production. Some controversial studies tie the increase in the use of hormones in feed animals to early onset puberty, and breast cancer. (Hormones are not allowed in organic meat or dairy products, or in those products that are certified humane)

Antibiotic Free – Oh this one could be a blog in and of itself so I’ll try to control myself. Because industrial/conventional feed animals are kept in such despicable conditions they get sick….a lot. To keep them from getting sick the entire flock/herd/group is treated with therapeutic antibiotics…meaning they are given a pretty much constant stream of antibiotics. Scientists estimate that nearly 70% of all antibiotics in the United States, more than 24 million pounds per year, are routinely put into the food and water of healthy livestock. Do you know where all that ends up? Well the animal waste products are often sprayed onto pastures and absorbed into surface waters, and the rest, ends up on our plates, contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistance in people.

So in short, animal products from Industrial/Conventional farms = bad, and small local ethical farms = good. :) But no really, the more you know the easier it is to decipher the label and know your food.

"Just as appetite comes from eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning"

1 comment:

  1. Excellent information to keep handy, these terms can be confussing.