Sustainable eating simply means that you are consuming food in a way that is beneficial for the environment, animals, humans, and the community.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that over 99% of farm animals are raised in factory farms, aka CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Typically, large amounts of animals are cramped together in a small space and tons of waste is excreted; polluting the air, land and water. Since the animals are kept in such confined quarters, workers often feed them antibiotics in order to prevent disease, making the animal profitable in the long run.
Consumers are attracted to these inhumanely raised animals because of their low and subsidized price points. However, poorly treated animals leads to an harmful product for both humans and the environment. It’s important to find out where your food is coming from, as there is full transparency and you can rest assured that you are treating your body, animals, and the environment respectfully.
Grass-Fed vs Pasture-Raised
According to the American Grassfed Association, grassfed products are from ruminants that have only eaten fresh grass or grass-type hay and their mother’s milk for the entirety of their lives—until harvest. They are given no antibiotics or hormones, are born and raised in the U.S., and have complete freedom to graze. A grassfed diet decreases the chance of disease and poor digestive systems for the animals. Additionally, this type of farming is fantastic for the ecosystem and wildlife, as it improves the soil and reduces greenhouse gases. Humans benefit, too since grassfed meats are typically lean and contain healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Pasture-raised doesn’t necessarily refer to what the animal eats, but where it eats. Farmers might feed these animals supplemental foods, such as grains, during the cold-weather season when the grass isn’t always accessible. It’s important to know that only certain animals can be classified as grass-fed. These include bison, cow, lamb and goats. Animals such as chicken and pork cannot be grass-fed, but can be pasture-raised.
Free-Range vs Pasture Raised
Many people automatically associate free-range chicken as the healthiest choice. However, the standards to qualify as free range are vague since the USDA merely defines it as animals having outdoor access. Having “access” doesn’t necessarily mean that the chicken will choose to be outside for the majority of its life.
“Pasture-raised” means that the chickens have had plenty of time outside and are statistically proven to be happier and healthier. In return, they provide healthier products, such as eggs, for human consumption. In comparison to commercial Hen eggs, pasture-raised Hen eggs have one-third less cholesterol, one quarter less saturated fat, twice as many omega-3s, seven times as much beta carotene, two-thirds more vitamin A, and three times as much Vitamin E.