5 quick questions to ask the farmer at your local farmers market, their answers will give you an insight into how their animals are raised.
1.) Are your animals fed with organic feed?
Organic livestock feed should contribute to the health and well-being of the individual animal.
For this reason, organic farmers provide their livestock with organically grown feed that not only helps their animals grow and produce, but which also helps to improve the animal’s health and welfare.
The following ingredients are prohibited in organic feed:
Synthetic amino acids
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
2.) Are your animals raised on pasture?
All cows will eat grass, and not only are they healthier for it, but their meat and milk have been found to contain more omega-3s than animals that eat no grass. Pastured animals will also spread their manure out on fields, where it can decompose naturally.
3.) Are your cows and lambs “grass finished”?
“Finishing” is also known as “fattening up,” and grain is a healthy part of the diet of poultry and pigs, but wreaks havoc on the digestive systems of cows and sheep. “Corn-finished” or “grain-finished” meat comes from livestock that ate little but grain and other processed supplements for the last six months of their lives, while “grass-finished” animals were fattened up on the pasture. Even pastured dairy cows usually eat some grain for extra nutrients, but should still eat mostly grass.
4.) Do you give antibiotics to healthy animals?
Often, antibiotics are used to keep farm animals healthy when they’re too overcrowded and stressed to fight off disease. This has caused a widespread rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. If farmers only use antibiotics on animals that are actually sick, you know that they’ll have been raised in a healthier environment.
5.) Do you use heritage breeds?
Many “modern” livestock breeds can’t even survive outside of climate-controlled cages, but ‘heritage” livestock are bred to live outside, and are healthier, heartier animals overall.
Feel free to ask about whatever other concerns you might have. The more we demand answers from our food providers, the better choices we’ll be able to make.