by Catherine Haug, June 12, 2012 and David Brown, November 2011
Most of us believe that Organic is the best you can buy, to feed your family. And it certainly is better than commercially-produced fresh and processed foods. But is it really the ‘best’ available?
I’ve posted on this topic before (see Related Posts, below). David Brown (avid gardener, compostor, and health researcher from Kalispell) writes about the advantage of ‘pasture-raised’ over ‘Organic’ when it comes to animal foods like meat, dairy and eggs.
Two Advantages of ‘Pasture-Raised’
by David Brown, November 2011
Michael Pollan says, “You are what what you eat eats.” I believe that holds true for both plants and animals, and that animals can detect differences in the mineral content of plants. For example:
I improve the quality of the food my plants consume by introducing [via composting] the remains of many plants into the soil that my garden crops feed on. We’ve live in town and I’ve been gardening here for 20 years. The deer, however, didn’t become a problem until I went all out to improve soil tilth and fertility. Now they seem to enjoy almost everything I care to grow except California poppies. The deer will even mow off any weeds I let get too tall. Interestingly, they don’t touch the same variety of weed growing across the street on my mother-in-law’s property.
So here’s the deal. If I were raising livestock of any sort, I would spread composted leaf material on my pastures to increase the mineral content of the soil. If you’re familiar with the Brix measurement of plant nutrient content you likely know that animals on high brix pasture will consume less food. Leaves are great for improving the quality of forage because up to a third of dry leaf weight is mineral. Deep rooted plants such as trees, shrubs, and alfalfa will transfer minerals from subsoil to topsoil gradually improving fertility. The process can be dramatically speeded up by repeatedly scattering composted leaves on the ground. Earthworms will carry the material into the soil. Eventually, the land develops higher carrying capacity. See my related article in The EssentiaList: On Composting, Mulching, Humanure, & Sewage Sludge.
So why am I concerned about omega-6s? You’ll find [some] answers in this promotional FoodAndBeveragePeople.com Welcomes its First Guest Writer – David Brown and this article Edible Oil Industry Urged to Promote Positive Findings on Saturated Fats or you can Google David Brown Omega-6.
Omega-6 vs Omega-3 fats
David’s concern about omega-6 fats has to do with the overbalance of omega-6 fats relative to omega-3 fats in our modern American diet. Animals raised in pasture where they can eat grasses rather than seeds, have a higher level of omega-3 fats than those raised in confinement and fed a mixed diet of corn & soy seeds and hay. In other words, animals raised as close to their native diet as possible have a better fat profile in their meat, eggs and milk than those raised a modern diet heavily fortified with seeds.
Why is this important? Both omega-6 and omega-3 fats are considered essential for humans because we cannot make them ourselves. Both are poly-unsaturated (more than one double-bond in the chain), but the position of the ‘omega’ (last) double-bond determines how the fat works in our metabolism.
- Omega-6 fats, in general, promote inflammation, as a response to injury;
- Omega-3 fats decrease inflammation once the injury begins to heal.
A dietary overbalance toward omega-6 fats is believed to lead to clogged arteries (from the pro-inflammatory response) and potentially to heart attacks and/or stroke.
In other words, we need both omega-6 and omega-3 fats but we need them in proper balance, which is believed to be 1:1. The modern American diet has these fats in a ratio more like 30:1.
Another factor that differentiates pasture-fed animals from confinement animals is vitamin content of their meat/eggs/milk. Those raised in pasture have higher levels of the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K than those fed in a mixed seed/hay diet in confinement. This is because the grasses in pasture are rich in these vitamins, whereas the corn & soy seeds are relatively low in these vitamins. In other words, “you are what you eat eats.”
Pasture-Raised vs Organic
Ideally, a health conscious eater wants both pasture-raised AND Organic when it comes to animal products.
- Pasture-raised for the better nutrient profile;
- Organic for the absence of toxic herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and GMO in the animals’ feed (and ultimately in the animal products).
However, one is often faced with either/or, rather than both. In this case, which is better? I would go for ‘pasture-raised’ because these come from local farmers & ranchers, and are not usually found in the large chain supermarkets. You can find ‘Organic’ animal products in these supermarkets, but you don’t know what the animals are fed nor how they are raised (pasture vs confinement), so you do not know much about their nutrient profile until after you consume the product:
- Eggs have dark yellow-orange yolks when they come from pasture-raised chickens;
- Milk’s cream is more creamy-yellow in color and has a richer flavor from pasture-raised dairy;
- It is much harder to tell the difference with meat, but I maintain meat from pasture-raised animals has better flavor.
When you buy these products from a local farmer/rancher, you can inspect his farm/ranch and investigate his practices to know whether his feed is laced with chemicals and GMO. In other words, to know whether his animals are raised on Organic principles, whether or not he paid for the Organic certification.
See also my post: Pasture-Fed Meats, Eggs, Dairy
Related posts on The EssentiaList
- Child’s potato project – why local & Organic is important (Mar 2012)
- Certified Naturally Grown Produce Label (Oct 2011)
- On Composting, Mulching, Humanure, & Sewage Sludge, by David Brown (Jul 2011)
- Cheese Making with Kalispell Kreamery Milk (May 2011)
- Just How Healthful is your Favorite Breakfast Cereal? (Mar 2011)
- Reading Food Labels (Oct 2010)
- Report on Organic Eggs (Oct 2010)
- Eggs – A Buyers Guide (Apr 2010)
- Antibiotics in Commercial Meats; MRSA in Organic Produce (Sep 2010)
- The Third Generation & Health (May 2010)
- GMO Invades the Produce Section (Apr 2010)
- Organics from China (Mar 2010)
- Natural vs Organic Labeling (Feb 2010)
- Industrial vs Local Dairy Farms (Jan 2010)
- Locally-Grown: What Does it Mean? (Jun 2009)
- Sustainable vs ‘Modern’ Ag (May 2009)
- Pasture-Fed Meats, Eggs, Dairy (May 2009)
- Local vs Organic Food: Which is Better? (Apr 2009)