The meat industry is getting a makeover, and we’re pretty excited about it.
The tide is changing, and a movement of grass-fed, free-range, more natural options are now available. With subscription services like ButcherBox, it’s easy to get organic meats delivered to your door, and the health benefits of eating foods like this are many. But how do you sift through the new labels, and what do they all mean? If you’re looking at grass-fed, free-range, or hormone-free foods, here’s what they mean so you can shop confidently.
Grass-fed meat is pretty much exactly how it sounds. The cows eat grass. This seems like it should be a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, most of the meat industry goes against nature in this aspect. The majority of cows are fed grains or corn as the main part of their diet, and are kept in feedlots where they don’t get to roam around and chomp down on grass like they normally would. By labeling something grass-fed, the farmers are stating that the cows have lived the majority of their lives eating grass and maintaining a natural diet. But… some in the industry are taking advantage of this system, too.
Want more info? Read this: Grass-fed vs Grain-fed: What’s the difference?
Under the term “grass-fed,” there is also something called “forage” that is allowed to be fed to cows. Traditionally, this was so that northern farmers could feed the cows hay in the winter when grass was hard to find. However, this term has been stretched to include things like soybeans, corn stalks, molasses, and even ethanol byproducts. ButcherBox does not support this practice, so they only work with farmers who grass finish their cows. This means that the cows are fed grass and only grass for their entire lives, giving you the cleanest cut of meat possible.
The definition of free range is a bit trickier, as there is a lot of wiggle room in the wording. When chickens or other animals are “free range,” this means that they are allowed to roam free in their surroundings and go outside, but this is only applicable when using chickens for meat, aka that juicy chicken breast that you’re about to cook for dinner. However, when this comes to egg-laying chickens, that’s where things get tricky. This may just mean that they are allowed out of their cages for a short amount of time each day, rather than all day. The USDA doesn’t clearly define free range for egg-laying chickens so proceed with caution when buying these eggs, but for chicken meat that you eat, go for it.
Another tricky term, seeing something labeled as hormone-free should be approached with caution. Technically, every living thing contains hormones, so calling something “hormone-free” can be a misnomer. When something says “no added hormones,” or “no hormones administered” is more accurate, and can only be labeled as such if proper documentation is provided showing that there were no hormones used in raising the animals. Another caveat: pork and poultry are already forbidden to use hormones, so when a “no added hormones” label is put on a poultry or pork package, it’s not claiming to do anything special. The important thing to look for is when you’re shopping for beef, as cows are often given hormones (up to 6 different kinds!).
The best way to determine which labels you should buy is to know where your food comes from. If you are buying from certified organic farmers that treat their animals well and allow nature to run its course, you’re on the right track. Of course, buying from these sources isn’t available in all areas, and that’s where ButcherBox comes in. They deliver high-quality, organic meats right to you! Everything you’ll receive is sourced from farmers who care about the quality of their meat. Read more about the Butcher Box offerings and sign up for your subscription today!
Not enough free stuff? Win a 1-month supply of grass-fed meat from Butcher Box, valued at $130! Enter below. US only!
a Rafflecopter giveaway