buying meat

Buying Meat

P6Today, the health dangers which come from eating meat mainly stem from two things:

1. how much meat we consume

2. how the animal we eat has been raised

So it is definitely in our interest to consider animal welfare when we buy meat.

Alan and I try to source meat locally from a pasture farm or a local butcher so that we can ask questions and be sure about the origin of the meat.

At the pasture farm, we know that the cattle and sheep are 100% pasture-fed.

That means they have been raised purely on a natural diet of fresh or conserved pasture, as opposed to grains. Pigs and chickens are not grazing animals, so you won’t find any pasture-fed pork or chicken, but look for free range pork and chicken that has been allowed to feed on as natural a diet as possible.

There are many health and environmental benefits of pasture-fed farming and products.

For example pasture-fed meat has a lower cholesterol content and a higher total omega-3 fatty acid content than grain-fed meat.

Farm animals have not evolved to eat grains, and those that do tend to yield meat which is higher in omega-6.

Feeding animals grains is also known to raise the cholesterol levels in the meat, which can happen over a fairly short period of time, for example even if an animal is fed grains just through the winter months. Therefore it is important to ensure that the meat is 100% pasture-fed.

Look out for the Pastoral logo (pictured above) when buying UK pasture-fed meat as this guarantees that the animal has been pasture-fed FOR LIFE!

Many GPs now refer their patients to pasture-fed farms so that they can enjoy the health benefits of pasture-fed meat.

Compared to grain-fed beef, pasture-fed beef is lower in fat, contains a healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, is higher in conjugated linoleum acid (a potential cancer fighter), and higher in minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Is pasture-fed the same as grass-fed? No, grass-fed is a term that has become widely (and often vaguely) used, and can be applied even when grass has only formed part of an animal’s diet.

100% pasture-fed animals are not fed any form of grain or pulses (also known as ‘concentrate feeds’), such as soya, maize, wheat, at any time in their lives. Intensive livestock production relies on these high energy animal feeds to speed up the animal’s growth and so increase the output of the farm.

Unfortunately, when an animal is raised in this way, it can place a lot of stress on its body, which can shorten the animal’s lifespan and greatly affect the quality of the meat.

Pasture-fed farming is a much slower, kinder and more natural process, which promotes happier livestock, and results in a more flavoursome, succulent meat.

By allowing farm animals to enjoy a more stress free lifestyle with plenty of space to roam, the animal’s welfare is greatly improved and so its need for treatments such as antibiotics, is significantly reduced.

The happier the animal, the healthier and tastier the meat it produces will be.

Animals that can move around freely burn off more calories and so grow at a slower rate than animals kept in enclosures. This lifestyle allows the animal’s muscles to develop more naturally, and the meat time to acquire a better flavour that simply doesn’t exist in mass-produced meat.

So, how do costs of farmed produce compare to the supermarket?

Despite the high costs of running such a labour intensive farm, it’s surprising how competitively priced the produce is. When comparing some of the produce on a like-for-like basis with some of the major UK grocery giants, I found that much of the farm’s produce is the same price as the supermarkets or cheaper.

Needless to say, the quality and taste is heaps better too!

Our local pasture farm offers this:

  • Chicken breast fillet £9.99 per kg
  • Leg of pork £9.56 per kg
  • Gammon steak £13.20 per kg
  • 6 free range eggs £1.60

Their free range meat box contains:

500g gluten free sausages, 450g lean minced steak, 750g chicken breasts, 1 kg pasture-fed beef joint, 300g topside minute steaks and 12 free range eggs.

Total price = £32.00.

The meat box is 25% cheaper than two leading UK supermarkets!

(Prices correct as of June 2014)

If you really want to buy the healthiest meat, do some research first to make sure you know what you’re buying.

It’s also important to understand the different terms used to describe the way an animal has been reared, as some of these terms can be very misleading.

Pasture-fed: The animals were allowed outside to consume natural pasture. Meat labelled with the Pastoral logo ensures the animal was 100% pasture-fed for life.

Grass-fed: part of the animals’ diet consisted of grass. If grass-fed meat isn’t also labelled as organic, the grasses in which the animals roamed may have been sprayed with fertilisers and insecticides.

Organic: The animals may have eaten organic grains but their access to pasture is unlikely to have been 100%. Organic certification only requires 60% of the animals’ feed to come from fresh or dried forage, therefore 40% can be derived from concentrate feeds. So buying meat which is certified organic is not the same as pasture-fed.

Grain-finished: The animal was raised on grass, then fattened with grain.

Free-range: The animal may not have been in a small cramped pen but may have still been enclosed in a larger barn. Truly free range animals will have been allowed to roam and forage freely in large outdoor enclosures, but as the term is often used loosely, it’s best to check.

Outdoor bred: The animal was born outside but soon moved indoors for the rest of its life.

Outdoor reared / finished: The animal was confined in a hut or tent outside.

Dont be shy, tell us what you think!!