As an animal lover I am over the moon about the recent groundswell of public interest regarding the treatment of animals raised for our food. While concern about animal welfare was once the domain of those hippy/greenie/fringe-dwelling ‘types’ (like ourselves!), many people in the mainstream are now seeking out and buying more animal-friendly alternatives, such as free range eggs and meat.
Different people have different reasons for choosing these animal-friendly alternatives. For some, like ourselves, it is concern for the welfare of the animals, for others it is concern about the environmental impact of conventional farming while others are motivated by the potential health benefits of eating animal products that have been raised in a less intensive way. While the latter (i.e. the health benefits) has never been my major motivator, as a dietitian I was curious to investigate the topic further.
Jo Robinson, an American journalist who has spent the last nine years researching the health benefits of eating animals raised on pasture (as opposed to animals raised in confinement who are fed a grain-based diet) has written a book on the topic.* Below are some of her findings.
In summary, the health benefits of consuming the meat and products from animals raised on pasture in a free range environment when compared to those from animals raised in confinement include:
- Less total fat – Meat from animals raised in confinement can have up to three times more fat than meat from animals raised in a free range environment.
- Less energy (kilojoules) – Less fat means less energy. A 200 gram steak from a free range, grass-fed cow has about 380 less kilojoules than the same size steak from a feedlotted cow.
- More Omega-3s – Free range animals have two to five times the amount of these healthy fats when compared with animals raised in confinement.
- A healthy balance of Omega-6s and Omega-3s – The meat and products from animals raised in confinement contain higher amounts of omega-6s which increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, inflammatory diseases, and cancer.
- More conjugated Linoleic acid – Preliminary research has shown this ‘good’ fat may play a role in the prevention of cancer and heart disease.
So, if you haven’t already made the switch to more animal-friendly eggs, meat and dairy, I hope the information above will provide you with the inspiration and motivation to do so. For those who have already made the switch, you can now feel even more confident that you’re doing the right thing for the animals and the health of you and your family. I call that a win, win!
* Pasture Perfect: How you can benefit from choosing meat, eggs and dairy products from grass-fed animals by Jo Robinson. Also, see her website www.eatwild.com for loads of great information and references.