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Organic fruits and veggies are quite popular now, but I get a lot of people asking me about organic meats. There seems to be a lot of confusion out there what all the terms mean, too. Let me try to explain:
Organic meat (chicken, beef, etc.) means a few things:
- Fed only grass (beef) or 100% organic feed (may also get certain vitamin or mineral supplements)
- Never given antibiotics, hormones, drugs
- Must be certified through the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service
Natural meat is another confusing term. All meat is natural, but to be labeled natural, it means it cannot have any artificial flavor, color, or chemical preservatives. It is also to be minimally processed.
Grain fed vs grass fed: All beef is grass fed because cattle spend a good deal of their lives in pastures. However, grass "finished" beef comes from cattle that have spent their entire lives on pasture. Grain fed cattle are moved to feedlots for the finishing stage of their lives where they are fed grains.
What is free range? Free range is applicable to poultry. The birds are allowed daily access to fresh air and sunshine outside. They have room to roam around and move their muscles instead of being confined to tiny cages.
Does organic, grass finished, or free range meat taste different or is it better for you? These types of meats definitely have a different taste than conventional meats. Most people think it tastes much better. Nutritionally, the omega-3 content is higher for grass finished beef and some organic meats, but in general the vitamin and mineral content, protein, and fat is similar to conventional meats.
By buying organic meats, you are supporting sustainable farming.
Two of my favorite companies with natural, organic, grain fed meats:
La Cense Beef www.LaCenseBeef.com
D'Artagnan www.dartagnan.com (they have turkey, chicken, beef, buffalo, and other game meats)