I’ve been noticing that this real food thing is somewhat of a trip down a rabbit hole. You start off simple and slow, but then you learn more, and more, and more, and before you know it you’re a countercultural hippy at odds with everyone around you.
Well, maybe not that extreme.
But sort of.
(I’m kind of one step away from getting my own hens. That’s how bad it is.)
Today my rabbit hole brought me here
Eggs from pastured hens, and raw milk from grass-fed cows.
But it wasn’t cheap: $4.50 for the eggs and $8.00 for the milk. OUCH!
Honestly? I’m going to have a hard time sustaining that. I’ve read about all the benefits of raw milk. You get all the enzymes and minerals that are killed during the pasteurization process, and I agree that that’s good. (Read more about that here.) But I just can’t afford $8.00/gallon on a regular basis. Still, I wanted to try it, so I went and got one gallon.
And you know what? It’s DELICIOUS. You have never tasted milk this good in your life. If all you’ve ever had is ultra-pasteurized milk, then you’ve never really had milk. So if you can find a source of raw milk, go try some! I think I’m going to have to treat myself to some of this every so often. I can’t make it the milk I always buy – but I can at least get it sometimes!
But why am I even bothering? I mean, does it REALLY matter?
Well, I’ve been learning that there is actually a huge difference between meat, dairy, and eggs from grass-fed, pastured animals and that from factory-farmed, grain-fed animals. Like, huge. In factory farms, the animals are always diseased and unhealthy, kept alive only by a constant supply of antibiotics. And what happens when we put products from those animals in our bodies? Hmm?
But, even if the animals are healthy, giving them a diet of grains totally eliminates all the healthy benefits of those foods. When animals are able to eat their natural diets of grasses and bugs, they produce food that is actually very healthy!
All that we hear about how unhealthy eggs, cream, and red meat is? All that is data based on grain-fed animals. The same information based on grass-fed animals is the exact opposite.
I found this on Eatwild.com:
“For decades, we’ve been told that eating full-fat dairy products increases the risk of heart attack. Now, a study from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition says that the more full-fat dairy products people consume, the lower their risk of heart attack—provided the cows were grass-fed.
The reason grass-fed milk is protective is that it has up to five times more conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. CLA is a healthy fat found in the meat and milk of grazing animals. People who eat grass-fed dairy products absorb the CLA and store it in their tissues. In this new study of over 3,500 people, those with the highest levels of CLA in their tissues had a fifty percent lower risk of heart attack than those with the lowest levels. Keeping Bossy on grass could prevent more heart attacks than putting people on expensive pharmaceutical drugs with all their troubling side effects.”
(Smit, Liesbeth A, Ana Baylin, and Hannia Campos. 2010. Conjugated linoleic acid in adipose tissue and risk of myocardial infarction. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.)
“Grass-fed beef is better for human health than grain-fed beef in ten different ways, according to the most comprehensive analysis to date. The 2009 study was a joint effort between the USDA and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina. Compared with grain-fed beef, grass-fed beef was:
- Lower in total fat
- Higher in beta-carotene
- Higher in vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
- Higher in the B-vitamins thiamin and riboflavin
- Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
- Higher in total omega-3s
- A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
- Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter
- Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA)
- Lower in the saturated fats linked with heart disease”
(S.K. Duckett et al, Journal of Animal Science, (published online) June 2009, Effects of winter stocker growth rate and finishing system on: III. Tissue proximate, fatty acid, vitamin and cholesterol content.)
And how about eggs? Is there REALLY any difference between eggs from a standard chicken house and eggs from pastured chickens?
“As it turns out, all those choices of eggs at your supermarket aren’t providing you much of a choice at all.
Recent tests conducted by Mother Earth News magazine have shown once again that eggs from chickens that range freely on pasture provide clear nutritional benefits over eggs from confinement operations.
Mother Earth News collected samples from 14 pastured flocks across the country and had them tested at an accredited laboratory. The results were compared to official US Department of Agriculture data for commercial eggs. Results showed the pastured eggs contained an amazing:
- 1/3 less cholesterol than commercial eggs
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 7 times more beta carotene
(Full results of the tests are available in the October/November 2007 issue of Mother Earth News, or on their website athttp://www.MotherEarthNews.com/eggs. )
So, I believe all that. I believe that eating products from diseased animals is gross and unhealthy. I believe that there are huge health benefits from grass-fed animals. But, now what?
Because I’m not a millionaire. And I suspect you aren’t either. I can’t buy milk at $8.00/gallon and eggs at $4.50/dozen. Grass-fed meat is also much more expensive. So what now?
Here are my hints for what ordinary, non-farm-owning, non-millionaire people can do if they believe that pastured animal products are best.
1. Something is better than nothing. I know, this is kind of heresy to Real Foodies, but sometimes that’s what is practical for ordinary, average people. If you can’t afford to only buy grass-fed pastured products – at least replace SOME of what you eat with it. This is what I’m doing with the butter and eggs. I can’t afford to buy those all the time, but I can get them half of the time.
2. Change the portions that you eat and make the good stuff last. I think it’s better to eat less of good food that might be more expensive than more of unhealthy food that’s cheaper. This is my strategy with the meat. I got this grass-fed meat from Whole Foods, and it was more expensive than the regular meat. So I’m going to make meals that focus mostly on fruits and veggies, with meat as a smaller part of it. We’ll still be able to have the healthy meat, but just have smaller portions.
3. If you can’t get raw milk, at least look for grass-fed. I really can’t afford to pay $8.00/gallon on a regular basis, so between the times I buy the raw milk from Birchwood Farms, I’ve been getting this milk from grass-fed cows at (you guessed it) Whole Foods. It’s low-temperature pasteurized, so at least isn’t ultra-pasteurized. And it’s only $2.00/half gallon! ($4.00 with a $2.00 rebate when you return the bottle.) That’s not much more than the grocery store. If you can’t find grass-fed either, at least look for milk that’s anti-biotic and hormone free. Basically, get the best you can find and afford.
5. Look into group buying clubs. Things like crop shares, in which you pay for a “share” of the harvest at a local farm. My CSA also sells eggs and stewing chickens. Some farms let you buy a share of a cow! There are several in my state that even ship your share of the meat frozen to you.
6. You will pay a bit more for groceries but remember: You’ll either pay for food that keeps you healthy now, or pay for doctors and medicine to try to fix you later. In the long run, it’s worth it to spend a bit more to stay healthy.
7. Maybe–you’ll end up getting a couple hens. In most areas it’s legal to have a few chickens in your back yard, provided you have a proper enclosure for them. My daughter told me that “all she wants for Christmas is a couple laying hens.” (She’s a different sort of child….) She’s NOT getting that for Christmas, but I must admit…it got me to thinking. How much work would 2 or 3 hens be? Hmm…..
I CANNOT believe I’m at the point at which I’m considering backyard chickens…but that’s the nature of the rabbit hole for you.
If you want to know more (and you should), read this page on eatwild.com. It has TONS of information about why products from pastured animals are so healthy.
About factory meat: http://www.foodrenegade.com/the-basics/real-meat/
About milk from pastured cows vs. factory cows: http://www.foodrenegade.com/the-basics/real-milk/
About pastured eggs: http://www.foodrenegade.com/the-basics/real-eggs/
About organic milk (and if it’s really healthy): http://www.homemademommy.net/2012/12/is-organic-milk-healthy-4-myths-about-organic-milk.html
A “Scorecard” on national egg brand and which ones are best: http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg-scorecard/