Greener Pastures Part 1

I’ve made many recommendations on what to take out of the diet. Today I start making specific recommendations on what you should put into your diet for optimum health. A couple of terms you will hear me use- sometimes interchangeably because there is some overlap- is pastured and grass-fed.

Pastured(Free-range can be used also) and grass-fed are terms that are used to describe the way in which animals are raised. The term pastured or free-range refers mostly to chicken and pork that have allowed to forage around and eat bugs, grass or whatever they would eat in a natural habitat. They are usually given hay and grains to supplement their diet. By comparison, conventional pigs are fed grains(mostly soy), and alot of food that is not traditionally in a pig’s diet such as Twinkies, candy and whatever else they can feed them that is low(or no) cost. Conventional chickens are fed exclusively grain, mostly soy.

The result of the vastly different diets of pastured chicken and pork is that the nutritional profiles between conventional store bought pork and chicken and pastured pork and chicken is stark. The difference in the nutritional profile comes down to the content of the fat. Pork and chicken are already high in Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats(PUFAs) when compared to ruminants such as beef and lamb. The Omega 6/3 ratio goes through the roof in conventional chicken and pork(particularly the fatty pieces) and it is lacking many of the nutrients pastured pork offers such as vitamin E(which is actually protective against inflammation that the high o6/o3 ratio would cause), CLA, and beta carotene. Conventional pork and chicken is vastly inferior to pastured pork and free range chicken and should eaten in limited amounts, if consumed. 

Grass-fed ruminants(beef, lamb, deer, etc) are raised on grass and hay their whole life. Conventional ruminants- mostly beef- are raised on grass but finished on grains. Grain-finishing ruminants drastically alters the the nutritional profile of ruminants- but not as much as it does chicken and pork. Most of the fat in ruminants is saturated, but it does contain some PUFA. The nutrient profile in grass-fed ruminants have better Omege6/3 ratio, CLA, Vitamin and other benificial nutrients that conventional ruminants do not have. But since most of the fat is saturated, conventional beef does not have the same ability as chicken and pork to drastically alter the intake of the PUFA because it’s inferior to grass-fed ruminants because of what it is lacking, not what it is adding to the diet. Grass-fed ruminants have a better overall nutrient profile, however, conventional ruminants are an acceptable staple. 

The pricing of grass-fed and pastured meat is prohibitive for many people. Though the benefits of grass-fed beef are very attractive, most people can’t afford to go to local farmers or upscale grocery stores and purchase. (Besides the nutritional profile of grass-fed vs grain-fed, the issues of antibiotics and hormones in conventional meat is also an issue as well as the conditions that feedlot animals are raised.) There are several ways to get the benefits of grass-fed meat in your diet.

1. Shop for the cheapest cuts. Farmers usually sell “beef bones” for 2-3 dollars a pound and despite the name, they have plenty of meat on them. They make great stews and the bones are good for stock(a post on this is coming very soon). Also at the high end grocers, cuts such as ground, shank and bottom round can be found for $6-7/lb. Also, ground goes on sale for $5/lb occasionally also. Stock up when it does.

2. Purchase lamb from your neighborhood grocer if it’s from Australia or New Zealand. Most meat from other countries do not run feed lots like they do here in the United States. Though most of the beef sold in this country is domestic, most of the lamb is from Australia and NZ, and therefore grass-fed(check the labels for country of origin). The lamb bones will run $2-3 a pound. Lamb shoulder and other cuts usually run about $5-6/lb.

3. Use Pastured Butter. The main knock on conventional beef(outside of antibiotics and hormones and the inhumane treatment found in most feedlots) is that it lacks the nutritional profile of grass-fed beef. This is quite easily rectified by cooking with and using pastured butter. If grass-fed beef is not affordable for you, then head to your high end grocery store and pick up grass-fed/pastured butter. Domestic butter such as that sold by Organic Valley will say pastured or grass-fed on the label. Some European butter that is grass-fed does not say it. Brands to look for are Kerrygold and Smjor. All of these can be found at Whole Foods. Also many farmer’s markets have vendors who sell grass-fed dairy.


About dmartin1977

NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist and a nutrition geek with an interest in fat loss and maintenance.
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