Debra Lynn Dadd


Natural, Organic & Grass-Fed Meats

In years past, many voices have been raised about meat not being healthy for bodies or good for the environment. But is meat inherently harmful, or is the problem the modern methods of meat production?

Today, there is a new breed of meat producers that are providing meats, poultry and dairy products that are not only healthier, but tastier too. So if you choose to eat meat, is a simple guide to help you identify and find the better choices.

Mass-Produced Meat

It used to be that meat came from small family farms. Since the 1960s, however, most of the meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products in the United States has been factory farmed. Large confinement facilities produce these foods at a price that is affordable in the short term, but has high long-term costs in the form of environmental pollution and poor health that comes from eating low-quality food.

The motivation behind factory farming is not good taste or abundant nutrition, but rather high production and low cost. The primary ingredients in factory animal feed are genetically modified grain and soy, often supplemented with "by-product feedstuff" that may include municipal garbage, stale pastry, chicken feathers, and candy. This poor diet results in a need to treat the animals with antibiotics.

And a grain diet results in unhealthy animals. Meat from animals raised in feedlots instead of their natural environment contains more total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories, and fewer vitamins and healthy fats.

Then these meats are used to make meat products that contain added preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and carcinogenic nitrates and nitrites.

No wonder modern meat is considered to be unhealthy!

At the very least, a first good step is to ignore the meat products--salami, bologna, hot dogs, deli meats, etc--and prepare fresh meat at home to your liking. And it costs less, too, to buy a whole turkey breast, for example, and roast it for sandwiches, than to purchase sliced processed turkey from the deli.

Natural Meat

Natural meat is the first "better" choice for meat products. Generally, natural meats and poultry do not contain antibiotics or hormones and are minimally processed.

According to the US Food Safety and Inspection Service, "natural" may be put on the label of any product that does not contain "artificial ingredients, coloring ingredients, or chemical preservatives; and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed." By law, they could contain antibiotics and hormones, but in practice, many of the labels I see for natural meat and poultry specifically state "no antibiotics or hormones". Look on the labels for details.

Organic Meat

Organic means that the meat was raised without antibiotics, hormones, or genetically modified organisms of any kind, and that the feeds are organically-grown (that is, grown with soil-building programs and without the use of pesticides or artificial fertilizers).

Current organic standards do contain some pasture requirements, animals are allowed to be fed primarily a grain-based diet (as long as the grains are organic) and still display the Federal organic label.

Grass-Fed Meat

Grass-fed meat is "a different animal" altogether.

When I lived in California, I lived in an idyllic valley that had cows grazing in pastures. This is what grass-fed is about. It really is cows and other animals eating that emerald-green grass and wildflowers in the spring. Animals raised on pasture eat what they are naturally inclined to eat.

Since 2000, thousands of ranchers and farmers across the United States and Canada have begun feeding their animals food that is as close as possible to their native diets. They do not use hormones or growth-promoting additives, allowing their animals grow at their normal pace. As a result of their exceptional nutrition and lack of stress, these animals are extraordinarily healthy. And when we eat that healthy flesh, it supplies the nutrients needed for our own bodies to be healthy.

Grass-fed meat

  • is more nutritious than conventionally raised meats (including organic meats that are not pasture-raised)
  • contains the proper ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • is lower in fat and calories than conventional meats
  • is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (the cancer-fighting fat) and vitamins
  • contains more vitamin E, which oxygenates the blood.

People who eat grass-fed meats (and dairy products) report a dramatic improvement in how their bodies look and feel. I myself haven't yet incorporated much grass-fed meat into my menus (I do eat organic), but I do eat grass-fed cream every day and even that has improved the health of my own body.

If you want to purchase grass-fed foods, check the label for words such as grass-fed, grass-raised, pastured, range-fed, Argentine-style, or New Zealand-style. You are most likely to find such meat at your local natural food store or through a local farmer or food coop.

Grass-fed meats require different cooking methods, so making a successful transition to them has a bit of a learning curve. But there are some wonderful cookbooks with recipes and instructions that show you what to do.

So enjoy your meat in moderation, enjoy your health, and support the farmers that are working to bring us healthy, wholesome foods!

For more information on grass-fed foods--growing practices and health benefits and more than 800 local and online sources for grass-fed meat and dairy, visit

The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook
Healthy Cooking & Good Living with Pasture-Raised Foods
Learn the special cooking methods for grass-fed foods. Healthy and nutritious grass-fed meats and dairy are different from the supermarket foods we are accustomed to preparing. This book is more mostly cookbook with a short introduction on the benefits of grass-fed foods, designed to help you through the transition deliciously.

Pasture Perfect
The Far-Reaching Benefits of Choosing Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Products from Grass-Fed Animals
Why grass-fed beef, pork, lamb, bison and dairy products are safer, healthier, and more beneficial for you, the farmers, the animals, and the environment. This book takes you on a "pasture walk" of a grass-based farm where the animals live natural, stress-free lives eating their native diet, and a tour of a factory farm so you can see the differences. You'll get practical advice to help you make the transition to grass-fed products, including: how to find quality grass-fed products, wrapping, freezing, and cooking instructions, and sixty delicious,farm-tested recipes.


Copyright ©2005 Debra Lynn Dadd - all rights reserved.