“Hormone-Free”, “Antibiotic-Free”, “Grass-Fed”… Yes, these are desirable traits when it comes to purchasing animal products.  However, many consumers aren’t exactly sure as to why they should be choosing items with such claims.  As health-seeking individuals, we should not only care about what we eat but also about what our food eats! There has been a recent public movement that has led to questions about the animal products available, including the types of substances used and methods in which they are raised. Here are a few things people have begun to look for when buying animal products and their reasons why. 

Choosing Grass-Fed For Optimal Nutrition

A cow’s natural diet is grass.  While most calves are fed grass to a certain extent, it is those who are fed grass throughout their lives that are truly “grass-fed” and have optimal nutrients.  The longer the animals are fed grain, the less nutritious the meat. 

While omega 6 and 3 fats are both essential to the diet and important for proper health, it is the ratio that is optimal for proper functioning.  Licensed physician and bestselling author, Dr. Mercola states that, “If the ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats exceeds 4:1, people have more health problems. This is especially meaningful since grain-fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1 whereby grass-fed beef is down around 3:1.  Similar ratios are also found in all grain-fed versus grass-fed livestock products.”

Grass-fed meat has also shown to be significantly leaner than grain-fed meats.   Due to the fact that grain-fed beef can have over 50% of its fat as saturated vs the 10% found in grass-fed, it is naturally lower in calories.

CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is an omega 6 fatty acid that reduces the risk of many diseases by increasing metabolism, reducing cholesterol levels, lowering insulin resistance, enhancing immunity and fighting inflammation! Grass-fed beef has been shown to have 3-4x the amount of CLA as it’s conventionally fed counterparts because as cattle eat grain, they lose their ability to produce it.

Dr. Mercola also adds that while grass-fed beef is higher in most vitamins and minerals, it has a significantly higher vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and vitamin E content (up to 400% more).  It has also been shown to be higher in lutein, a major nutrient in healthy eye development and maintenance.

The Growing Trend Towards Antibiotic-Free Animal Products

There is an increasing consumer demand for animals who are raised without the use of antibiotics.  Why is this?  While antibiotics can be used for a number of reasons in animals, the one of most concern to humans is the administration of “preventative doses” to the entire herd/flock to avoid illness and promote growth. 

In his book entitled “The End of Food”, Thomas Pawlick elaborates on the potential negative effects of such practices.  He states that “antibiotics are designed to work by attacking bacteria.  However, it does not always wipe out the entire colony.  The bacteria that survive are called “resistant” and go on to reproduce, creating a population that is not affected by drugs.”  He explains that when weak, preventative doses are used in animals, there are bacterial survivors who are then able to repopulate and create a larger, more resistant population.  People who consume these products, may then be at risk of these “superbugs” settling in their bodies and reproducing, making them more vulnerable to becoming resistant to previously treatable diseases.

What About Hormones?

While animal products naturally contain hormones, the public have raised concerns about the use and residues of synthetic hormones in their food and the effects they may have in our bodies.  Hormones are a very delicate part of human physiology and are sensitive to the slightest imbalance whether caused by internal or external factors.  Dr. Mercola states “hormone disruptions can affect you in a multitude of ways, such as decreased fertility, impaired immune response, and neurological changes...”

What to Look For

While certain substances are illegal to use in Canada in certain types of animals, there are other, less obvious ones that may be administered in the process that people may want to and have started to question.  As consumers we shouldn’t take for granted that just because certain substances are banned, that there aren’t other potentially concerning ingredients being used.    

If it is important to you to choose a product that is truly free of all potentially offending substances, look for the claim of “organic” or “raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics” on the label when you check out the ingredient list.  These statements deliver a clear message that the animals were not fed or given any of these substances from birth to harvest.  Next time you shop, ask the available staff about their product details and feel good about making an educated decision.   

Please note that this article is intended for educational purposes. Our goal is simply to encourage consumers to look into the sources of their products to ensure they are consuming items that are acceptable to their standards.   

This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.

About Good n’ Natural

Good n Natural

Good n’ Natural started as a small-family owned business in 1994. Our team has grown and diversified to include Certified Natural Product Advisers, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and a part-time Naturopathic Doctor. Our mission is to educate, inspire, and empower our customers to pursue a healthy lifestyle in order to achieve their wellness goals and in turn build a stronger community.

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