If you’ve read my last post on grass-fed meat than you already will understand why pastured meat birds are no different. All pastured chickens are supplemented with grain but they are superior as they receive added nutritional value from having unlimited access to grass and bugs. Organic chickens you buy at the supermarket quite possibly have never seen a blade of grass. When you purchase organic chicken you are buying the guaranty of no antibiotics and non-genetically modified feed (although this is nearly impossible as 70-90% of all soy and corn crops are GMO). In large-scale organic farming it is impossible to produce quality pastured birds like those found on a smaller farm when you are focusing on quantity. Buying from your local farmer ensures you are supporting humane animal welfare practices, getting a nutritionally superior product, supporting your local economy and helping promote environmentally-friendly farming.
Americans don’t think about the impact that their daily choices will have on their life down the road. We need to eat to live and not live to eat. You are better off not eating meat at all if factory-raised animals are your only option. Factory farms buy 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States to use on our meat supply. This practice of feeding literally tons of antibiotics is only producing sicker animas and antibiotic-resistant superbugs. As much as two-thirds of the grocery store supply of chicken is tainted with antibiotic-resistant bacteria who are making their way into our guts. E. Coli strains were matched from women with urinary tract infections to 71% of the grocery store chickens samplings and matched over 80% of the time with strains from factory chicken slaughterhouses. This study helps demonstrate why it is no surprise infections are getting harder to successfully treat. We must eat consciously, E. Coli O157:H7, the deadliest strain of E.Coli, has the potential to make it into our food products more consistently if we keep supporting the conventional factory farming practices in which it thrives.
Nutritionally, pastured birds have better fat profiles (high omega 3′s and CLA, lower saturated and Omega 6′s), increased vitamin and mineral densities and are able to support their own weight. If that’s not enough reason, the FDA only just recently in 2011 halted the use of arsenic in feed for factory farmed chickens. This chemical found in poisons has been used for years in poultry farming to help control parasites, promote faster chicken growth and to improve the appearance of the meat so it looks more edible. Another practice you won’t see small farmers doing is adding sodium water to ‘plump-up’ the the bird. This extra sodium additionally negates any health benefit from eating the lean protein.
A few labeling misnomers for those still buying from grocery stores. It’s best to just ignore any product that advertises ‘all natural’. This label has little meaning in regulatory bodies and can still be put on processed foods. Pork and poultry by FDA regulations cannot use growth hormones in feed or inject them into the animals directly (only beef is approved). This seems to be a common falsehood further supported by food companies placing ‘Hormone-Free’ or ‘No-Added Hormone’ labels onto their packages (which has to be followed by the phrase ‘the FDA does not approve hormone use in these products’ if they use this label). It is just food industry marketing propaganda to make it seem like they are ‘healthy choices’.
If you are unaware of the animal welfare reasons alone that support buying from local farmers then I will just say this; whether or not you care about how a chicken, pig or cow ‘feels’ it will affect the taste of your meat. There are numerous studies on the effects of high stress and poor flavor. For the rest of us, all it takes is looking at pictures of battery-caged birds or dark, filthy, over-crowded industrial-sized chicken houses to choose.
If buying locally raised birds is not in your budget then save your money and don’t bother to buy conventionally raised meat either. You can get high quality protein from less expensive plant sources and it will save yourself countless of dollars in possible future health bills. Every purchase you make at the supermarket drives the industry to produce more of what you just bought. Factory-farms and cheap processed foods will never go away until people stop buying their products. It is simple economics, if a business isn’t selling its not going to survive. Remember, you vote every day about where our food comes from by what you eat.
Become interested in where (and who) your food comes from. Search localharvest.org to find nearby farmers or markets. Take an active role in educating yourself on the food supply and its practices. We can’t expect change to come to things that matter when we ourselves keep doing the same things.
Click on this delicious chicken below to see how 1 local farmer raises their meat birds.
- Don’t Be Afraid of (100% Grass-Fed) Red Meat (chirokatie.org)
- Peter Lehner: Superbug Suit: Antibiotics Victory Will Preserve Medicines for Sick People, Not Healthy Livestock (huffingtonpost.com)