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Benefits of Choosing Foods Raised in Their Natural Environment

March 24, 2023

Our National Nutrition Month newsletter series is focused on raising awareness and promoting nutritional health. The series will consist of four articles, which will be released once a week throughout the month of March. Each article will cover different aspects of good nutrition and diet, offering helpful tips and information to encourage readers to prioritize healthy eating habits and diet.

While you’re at the grocery store doing your shopping, you’ve likely noticed meat labeled “pasture-raised” or groceries labeled “organic.” You may even see seafood items advertised as “wild-caught” but what does this mean and how is it better than the usual method of raising animals or cultivating produce?

When it comes to meat, traditional farming methods entail providing a sizeable amount of feed to cattle or poultry to grow for slaughter and sale. The feed provided to these animals is often corn-based and lacks nutritional value. The poor nutrition in this feed affects the health and therefore quality of the meat from the animal.

Choosing meat that comes from pasture-raised animals means that the animal consumed mostly organic grass which is part of their natural diet in the wild. This grass is also free of pesticides, fillers, and other potentially harmful ingredients commonly found in farm feed. However, there is a difference between pasture-raised and grass-fed.

Grass-fed cattle means that the cattle were only fed organic grass throughout their lifespan while pasture-raised provides only a portion, about 30%, of their diet from grass. Which option you choose depends on your preference however, both provide additional health benefits compared to traditional farming practices. For example, pasture-raised poultry and cattle are higher in iron, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. The ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats is also improved. Omega 6 fats are also known as inflammatory fats while omega 3 helps to reduce inflammation in the body [1].

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Likewise, seafood lovers should consider the environment of the fish they are consuming. Wild-caught fish, such as salmon, contains higher amounts of natural minerals from their diets in the ocean, such as iron and calcium. Farm-raised fish are fed specific feed that allows them to be higher in fat, but this is mainly omega 6 while wild-caught has higher omega 3 content. Aside from diet, some researchers believe the stress of the animal plays a role in the higher amounts of omega 6s in the meat of farm-raised animals versus the wild [2, 3, 4].

It's not just meat, the environment your produce items are grown also should be considered when it comes to nutritional value. Organic produce, for example, is free of any pesticides, synthetic fertilizer, irradiation, genetic engineering, and antibiotics in livestock. Research has found organic foods to be more nutritious, containing higher levels of nutrients and omega-3 fats in organic farm animals. Studies have also found organic foods to contain less toxic metals, such as cadmium, and lower pesticide residue [5].

You may not be used to considering where your food comes from, and how it was raised, or grown, but maybe you should. After all, the higher price is well worth it for your overall health in the end.