Pasture-Raised Meat: What It Is & Its Health Benefits
As the environmental impact of meat consumption continues to be a prominent topic of conversation for many, you might be hearing a particular phrase over and over: pasture-raised meat.
If you’re not entirely sure what this term even means, or how it differs from the conventional meat options in your local grocery store, you’re in the right place.
Our quick guide on all things pasture-raised meat will clear everything up.
Let’s start at the beginning…
What does pasture-raised mean?
When animals are raised outdoors and can eat grass as it grows out of the ground, that is a pasture-raised animal.
Free range animals only need to have access to the outdoors, but may not live on pasture 24/7 - pasture-raised animals do.
If meat is not clearly labeled as pasture-raised, it’s very likely that meat came from a farm animal that spent its entire existence on a conventional feedlot with no/limited access to fresh pasture.
This has significant implications for the quality of what that animal was fed, the quality of their life overall, and the nutritiousness and flavor of the resulting meat when that animal is harvested.
For example, non-grass-fed beef is almost always fed grain and grain byproducts, because this is a cheap food source that fattens cattle before sale. However, this is not the instinctive diet for cows, which will therefore impact the quality of meat that cow produces.
Life on a feedlot also typically involves no access to fresh grass and limited space for cows to engage in their natural behaviors like foraging and grazing.
Benefits of pasture-raised meat
Pasture-raised meat provides a long list of nutritional benefits. First, let’s explore the significant environmental benefits to raising animals in this way:
Pasture-raised is often synonymous with regenerative agriculture, which is a set of agricultural practices aimed at working with the land, instead of perpetually extracting from it.
Studies have shown that regeneratively-raised beef contributes to a carbon drawdown greater than the amount of methane being produced by the cattle themselves.
One of the central practices of regenerative agriculture is rotational grazing, which is the practice of allowing livestock to move to fresh pasture regularly - in most cases, daily.
This mimics how an animal would behave if they were freely grazing in the wild, which therefore provides a more humane experience for the animals, while also allowing the land time to recover and regrow after animals have grazed on it.
Rotational grazing contributes to:
- Pasture health. Pastures have time to rejuvenate, while cow manure acts as a natural fertilizer, helping to restore vital nutrients for grass, legume, and weed growth.
- Animal health. Constant access to fresh non-GMO pasture means that animals are eating a wide variety of their natural food sources. Not only is this a vastly better nutritional experience, it also creates cleaner and safer living conditions for the animals and farm workers.
- Human health. This is the simplest one. Healthier animals produce healthier meat.
- Environmental health. Cattle eat plants that have absorbed carbon dioxide from the air. But thanks to rotational grazing, the cattle then move on to fresh pasture, ensuring that no one section of land is over-grazed. Allowing the land to rest in between grazing cycles gives foliage time to regrow, which in turn captures more carbon.
Is pasture-raised healthier?
Here are five reasons why grass-fed meat is indeed healthier for you than meat from large scale agricultural operations:
- Pasture-raised cattle (aka: cows that are grass fed and grass finished for their entire lives) produce the only kind of beef that contains conjugated linoleic acid, which helps prevent weight gain.
Grass fed beef offers many other nutritional benefits that conventionally-raised beef does not, like:
- Higher rates of Omega-3 fatty acid composition
- More antioxidants, including vitamin E
- Much more vitamin K2, which is vital for getting calcium into your bones and away from your arteries where it can cause plaque buildup and heart attacks.
- Pasture-raised and forested pigs who also consume acorns have higher levels of omega-3 fats along with micronutrients like vitamin E and iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
- What about pasture-raised chicken vs conventionally-raised chicken? Pasture-raised chicken contains 50% more vitamin A compared to conventionally-raised chicken. Vitamin A is important for vision, immune system strength, skin health and cell division and growth.
- Lamb raised on grass is higher in protein and lower in fat than those raised in feedlots. Studies show that pasture-raised lamb has 14% less fat and 8% more protein.
- Turkeys raised on pasture with a diverse diet store more good fat in their muscle meat and contain higher ratios of protein to fat.
Try our pasture-raised cuts today.
Grass Roots Farmers’ Cooperative is a group of small-scale family farmers raising meat the on 100% non-GMO pasture according to modern regenerative agriculture methods.
Frozen at the peak of freshness, all our cuts are nutrient dense, 100% traceable from pasture to plate, and delivered straight to your doorstep.Explore our pasture-raised bestsellers.