Shopping for food for your family isn't always easy. You do your best to understand the ingredients list to ensure you're purchasing the healthiest products with the least amount of harmful additives. When it comes to meat, you know that the commercially grown and produced products aren't nearly as good as free range or organic meats. Therefore, you make every effort to avoid commercial products and opt instead for one of the healthier choices. What you may not completely understand, however, are the differences between these two seemingly similar labels.
What is the Difference Between Free-Range and Organic?
The truth is, there is an overlap between organic and free-range beef. Both practices aim to raise cattle in a healthier environment with fewer chemicals. However, free-range beef is not always organic and organic beef is not always free-range. When making the choice between the two, it's vital that consumers understand the meaning of these terms and their impact on the health and well-being of those who consume it.
What is Free-Range Beef?
While it may seem like free-range beef is exotic and unique, it is, in fact, nothing of the sort. Instead, it's a description of how the cows are raised. In fact, it simply means that the cattle are allowed to graze on fresh grasses in a pasture like they naturally would. The big difference between free-range and commercially produced beef is that the cattle aren't fed grains. Why is this significant?
- Grains are higher in calories, so cows raised on it grow much faster.
- Grain-fed beef is cheaper to produce because of the speed.
- Grains do not provide a high level of nutrition for cattle.
- Natural grass is high in key nutrients like Omega-3s and B vitamins.
- Free-range beef is leaner, healthier, and tastes better than grain-fed beef.
Not only are free-range healthier than their feed lot counterparts, but they also play an important role in the ecosystem. Their appetite for weeds and other plants mean farmers have to use fewer pesticides, which in turn helps minimize the impact of these chemicals on other plants, wildlife, and humans.
What is Organic Beef?
Free-range beef production describes the way cattle are raised, and particularly, how they are fed. The organic label, however, specifies the ways in which cattle cannot be raised. It does not imply that they only eat grasses and other natural plant life. In fact, a great deal of organic beef comes from cows that are fed a grain diet. When you see an organic label, you can rest assured that the following conditions are met:
- Cattle cannot be kept in a feed lot for extended periods.
- Cattle must have adequate space to avoid overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.
- Cattle cannot be exposed to artificial fertilizers or pesticides either directly or indirectly.
- Cattle cannot be exposed to synthetic compounds such as antibiotics, growth hormones, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) either directly or indirectly.
Therefore, organic beef production is part of a larger farming ethos whereby growers work in harmony with nature and the environment. It is concerned not only with producing high-quality beef, but also with how that process affects the animals and the environment as a whole.
Health Benefits of Organic and Free-Range Beef
According to the Mayo Clinic, the diet of cattle has a direct impact on the nutrients and fats that are contained in the meat. Conventional beef may be grass fed for a portion of their lives, but eventually, they are given corn and other grains to speed up weight gain so they can be brought to market quicker. The meat contains higher levels of fat and lacks some of the beneficial nutrients of organic, free-range beef, making it a less healthy alternative. Grass-fed beef, on the other hand, offers consumers some heart health benefits.
- Less total fat than conventional beef.
- Increased amounts of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
- High levels conjugated linoleic acid, a fat that is believed to reduce heart disease and cancer risk.
- More antioxidants such as vitamin E which help build a strong immune system and healthy body.
Combining Free-Range and Organic Methods
Despite pressure from competitors, some beef producers have adopted the best of both free-range and organic methods to raise their cattle. Such is the case with Cleaver's Organic. Our cattle are never kept in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. In fact, their lives consist of plenty of sunshine, fresh water, and the best organic grasses on the planet. We hold our farmers to the high Australian standards for being certified organic. Those standards exceed the ones set by the USDA for certified organic meats.
We don't just concern ourselves with what our cattle eat, we're also keenly aware that the way they are treated has a direct impact on the quality of the meat they produce. That's why we insist that every cow on every farm we work with is free to roam as they please, to eat when they're hungry, and to rest in the shade when they're tired. Every cow on every farm we work with is raised this way from start to finish.
Health Benefits and Better Taste
You'll do everything in your power to keep your family healthy and well fed. That's just what you do. That means carefully choosing everything you bring into your kitchen, from the vegetables to the meat. When you choose organic, free-range beef products over conventional beef, you are assured that the quality is the highest possible. You also know that there aren't any unwanted, potentially dangerous chemicals added. Additionally, you can be sure that you're serving them the best tasting beef, satisfying their hunger and their desire for delicious food in one fell swoop.
Australian Quality for American Tables
We started out as a small butcher shop in Sydney, Australia with the objective of providing fresh, healthy meats to our neighbors. The idea caught on and now we offer the same high-quality, organic, free-range meats to customers in the United States as well. Visit our website to learn more about how you can get your hands on some of our amazing beef. We guarantee that you'll taste the difference from the first bite. We're pretty sure once you do, you'll never go back to the same old commercial beef you've been eating.