Seems like many big meat and dairy companies are now selling an “organic” line. But are all organic meats and dairy created equal?
Not necessarily. In most cases, the organic meat and dairy produced on pasture-based farms is better for human health, for animals, and for the land. Here’s why.
There are two feeding methods that producers most commonly use to deliver beef and dairy products to their customers: Grass-Fed and Grain-Fed. In the grass-fed program, the cattle eat certified organic grass for their entire lives. Strictly grass-fed cows tend to be leaner than grain-fed, and their meat/milk contains a higher percentage of heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. Grain finishing produces meat and milk that’s higher in overall fat and saturated fat. But both methods are technically organic.
The following chart shows the differences between organic grass-fed and organic grain-fed meat and dairy products.
|PRACTICE||ORGANIC PASTURE RAISED||ORGANIC GRAIN FED|
|Cows graze on grass and other “forage” (naturally occurring plants found on pasture) for their entire lives||Yes||No|
|Dairy & meat products are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and lower in saturated fat than conventional dairy and met products||Yes||No|
|Animals are given feed closely resembling what they would find and graze on in nature||Yes||No|
|Farming practices contribute to decreased soil erosion; increased soil fertility, and reduced air and water pollution||Yes||No|
|Food is free of commercial pesticides and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)||Yes||Yes|
|Animals are never given artificial growth hormones (rBGH) or routine antibiotics||Yes||Yes|
How do you know which type you’re buying?
What to look for
A label that says organic and pasture-raised. Look for a brand that specifies which products are pasture-raised in addition to being organic – like Organic Valley, Straus Family Creamery, or Stonyfield. See the carton pictures above and below for an example.
*Some of this information was adapted from the Organic Valley website.