The nutrient levels of foods from enormous factory farming operations and pastured, grass-fed animals are vastly different. Let’s start with a few things to keep in mind when shopping for raw meat for your dog. Here’s everything you need to know about industrial farming to get started.
Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
Beef is mostly produced in concentrated animal feeding plants in the United States (CAFO). They’ve resulted in the collapse of the family farm and a shift in farming standards.
CAFOs can house tens of thousands of cattle in cramped conditions. Beef farmers can manage the environment and fatten animals as soon as possible by using these feedlots. Calves are brought to these facilities after weaning at 7 to 9 months of age, where they live out their days in cramped conditions, either indoors or in open feedlots.
Cows grown on feedlots eat a variety of foods, including grain. Calves gain weight quickly on a diet of maize, soy, and grain distillates (leftovers from biofuel operations) and “by-product feedstuff” in feedlots, which offer factory-style efficiency. By-products from the distilling business, potato waste, orange peels, and even sweets are examples of this. Cows are also fed genetically modified (GMO) grains as part of the practice.
Each year, millions of pounds of non-therapeutic drugs, growth hormones, and vitamins are administered to these animals in order to stimulate rapid growth. To compensate for the unclean, stressful, and crowded conditions, these enterprises provide low-dose antibiotics and antimicrobials to thousands of animals. When cows reach market weight in less than a year, it’s considered a successful enterprise.
Antibiotics, hormones, and medicines build up in your dog’s system when he eats a traditional meat diet, even if it’s in the form of processed kibble. As a result, long-term health difficulties and chronic disease develop.
Fewer Nutrients From Factory Farmed Meat
Cattle, dairy cows, goats, bison and sheep are supposed to eat fibrous grasses, plants, and shrubs … not starchy, low-fiber grains and feedstuffs. Given a diet of grains instead of greenery, many get sick and are given antibiotics.
Cattle raised in factory farms and fed grain had lower levels of vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). These animals are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which are inflammatory, due to their diet of GMO crops. And this is passed on to your dog through their meat, which is then turned into meat products and dog food.
The Difference Between Grass-Fed And Pasture- Raised
Pastured animals are maintained on sustainable farms where they are allowed to wander around, engage in natural activities, and consume a natural food. Grass-fed and pasture-raised cattle, on the other hand, can be quite different. Grass-fed refers to an animal’s diet (grass). Unless the meat is recognized by the American Grassfed Association (AMA), not all grass-fed cows graze outdoors (more on that later).
The animal is pasture-raised if it consumes grass (on a pasture). If the fact that the cow was grown outside in its natural surroundings is essential to you, pasture-raised meat is for you and your dog.
The majority of the food consumed by pasture-raised cows comes from the pastures where the cattle reside and wander. Because these pastured animals eat grasses that aren’t as dense as grain and soy, the time it takes to get them to market weight (18 to 30 months) is longer than for factory-farmed animals.
Is Grass-Fed Meat Free of Antibiotics and Added Hormones?
Yes it is, when it’s certified and labeled by the American Grass-fed Association (AGA). This ensures:
- All certified animals are born, raised and finished on only grass and forage.
- Animals are raised in open grass pastures and are free to graze with no confinement.
- AGA-certified meats are guaranteed antibiotic and growth hormone-free.
- All animals are US-born and raised on family farms.
Grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, eggs, and dairy products have higher vitamin levels and health benefits for your dog than grain-fed ones, according to research.
Grass-fed, pastured animals have:
- High levels of vitamins A and E
- Higher amounts of K1 which converts to K2 and supports bones and arteries; K1 is only available in grasses
- Higher levels of zinc, iron, selenium, calcium and other important nutrients
- Higher in cancer-fighting antioxidants such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase
- A healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats
- 25-50% lower fat content
Fatty Acids In Grass-fed Beef
Just as with every other animal, a cow is what it eats and you can see that in the fatty acid composition. When compared to grain fed beef, grass-fed has:
- A lower amount of monounsaturated fat than grain-fed beef.
- About the same amount of omega-6 fatty acid.
- As much as 5 times the amount of omega-3s. Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is an omega-3 fatty acid found in plants and known for its anti-inflammatory qualities. It’s found in grasses on pastures where cows graze.
- As much as 5 times more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in their milk and meat. CLA is known for its cancer-fighting properties, and its ability to reduce cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes risk.
Phytonutrients In Grass-Fed Meat And Milk
According to new research, livestock fed a grass-based diet had higher levels of health-promoting phytonutrients in their meat and milk. In fact, the quantities are similar to those found in plant foods. These are anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and cardiovascular-health-supporting nutrients. The meat and milk of ordinary cattle are devoid of phytonutrients.
Organs From Grass-fed Animals
Grass-fed animal organs are rich in:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin B12
- Coenzyme Q10
- Bioavailable heme iron
They come from animals that have been pasture-raised and are hormone, antibiotic, and pesticide-free, just like grass-fed beef. Farmers who raise animals in this manner try to keep polluted lands clean for healthier animals all the way down to their organs.
Does Grass-fed Pork Exist?
No. Don’t believe anyone who claims to be selling grass-fed pigs. To survive, they require grain in their diet. Pigs reared on pasture, on the other hand, have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than pigs raised in factory farms. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamin E, and beta carotene are all abundant in pork.
Goats, lambs and cows are all sustainable with a grass-only diet; they just take longer to grow naturally.
The Cost of Raising Animals on Pasture
Farmers create better products when they adopt a range of strategies to raise animals properly. They’re also dedicated to improving soil health and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. They apply manure at a rate that the land/pasture can handle, creating less environmental impact while also delivering organic fertilizer.
Because it takes more time and money to raise livestock on pasture, it is more expensive. Meat, milk, and eggs are now more expensive as a result. You pay more, but it’s a long-term investment in a healthier food system for you, your dog, and the environment.
Is Your Dog Eating Factory Farmed Meats?
There is no way to tell how meat was made just by looking at it. But think about the source. Meat from a conventional store is almost certainly from a factory farm. Alternative grocery stores, health food stores, and farmers markets often stock meat raised and produced on smaller farms.
Third-party certifications will appear on package labels, such as organic, sustainably raised, locally raised on pasture-based farms, humanely raised, free-range, and Certified Humane. If you can’t find a certifying authority to check with, the label isn’t genuine.
Finding Grass-fed And Pastured Meat, Eggs and Dairy
It takes some time and effort to find better products for your dog. You can talk to the source and find out where their meat comes from at independent butcher shops and farmer’s markets. You can also establish a relationship once you’ve found what you’re looking for.
Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pasture-raised animals should be available at your local farmers’ market. Alternatively, ask the vegetable growers if they know of any nearby farmers. It’s all one huge family, and you’ll be a part of it.
Benefits of Buying Locally Raised, Grass-fed Meat
Nutrition is an excellent reason and here are several more:
- Support and get to know your local farmers.
- Locally produced foods are fresher.
- Foods close to home don’t incur huge transport costs or use fossil fuels.
- Less transportation costs means less cost for you.
- Enjoy local foods in season.
- Eliminate the middleman and buy directly from the farm or co-op.
- Less handling, less contamination, less bruising.
- You’ll need freezer space … but you can save by buying in bulk from local farms. Butchers offer a ¼ or ½ cow or pig, or a ½ lamb.
Is Grass-Fed Meat Worth the Extra Cost?
The additional expense benefits your dog’s health, the environment, and the producers who humanely raise the animals. Due to the true costs of labor, environmental stewardship, and animal care, retail pricing for pasture-raised meats, dairy, and eggs might generate sticker shock. Of course, the larger the animal, such as cows, the more expensive it is to raise them.
Grass-fed cattle is 33 percent more expensive than conventional beef, and pastured chicken is four times as expensive. In the long run, however, it correlates to better health and fewer inflammation and disease.
Isn’t knowing where your dog’s meat comes from and what’s in it a modest price to pay?
Is Grassfed Meat and Dairy Better for Human and Environmental Health?
A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef
Impact of grass/forage feeding versus grain finishing on beef nutrients and sensory quality: The U.S. experience
Muscle from grass- and grain-fed cattle differs energetically
Fatty acid composition, shelf-life and eating quality of beef from steers fed corn or wheat dried distillers’ grains with solubles in a concentrate supplement to grass silage
Effect of vitamin C addition to ground beef from grass-fed or grain-fed sources on color and lipid stability, and prediction of fatty acid composition by near-infrared reflectance analysis
Effects of conventional and grass-feeding systems on the nutrient composition of beef
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