The price of eating all organic, well raised food can really add up... it doesn’t have to though!
I do believe that if you can afford it, you should buy all your food organic, free-range, grass fed, but most of us don’t have the budget to by everything organic or top quality.
So where do you make compromises? Where is it okay to by non-organic? What is not okay to compromise on? It can all be a bit overwhelming, but I’m going to try and ease the process for you.
Where to Spend the Extra Money:
Well to Start, beef from grass-fed animals has lower levels of unhealthy fats and higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which we all know are really good for us! Animals that are raised on grass also have about twice the levels of conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA, which may have cancer fighting properties and lower the risk of diabetes and other health problems. Grass-fed beef also has lower levels of cholesterol and offers more vitamins A and E as well as antioxidants than other beef. Grass Fed Beef is also full of beta carotene, and certain cuts are as lean as skinless chicken breast!
Why eat Grass Fed over supermarket beef:
Cows are made to eat grass, that what their digestive systems was designed for. Today all commercial beef is feedlot beef, which means the cows are fed a primarily grain-filled diet. This, however is the least of it. Feedlots also will combine animal carcasses, candy still in the wrapper, potato waste, and growth hormones. Cows cannot digest this food, and therefore, they get sick, and are fed large amounts of antibiotics everyday. Even with the antibiotics, cows still get sick, and in comes e coli. E coli is much more common in feed lot beef, see this chart below from Eatwild.com:
Cows that are raised in feedlots are completely stationary. They are kept in their pins from the day of birth until they are slaughtered. This is because any activity burns fat, and that is exactly what the producers DON’T want. These cows sit and grow in their own feces, dirt, and grime. Even worse? The cows are not cleaned off before slaughter. This means that the machines they use to slaughter the cows are filled with manure, dirt, bugs. These are usually cleaned once or twice a day, and they can slaughter up to 20,000 cows a day. YUCK! Here is a quote I found:
“The animals themselves are not forced to live in confinement. The cruelties of modern factory farming are so severe that you don't have to be a vegetarian or an animal rights activist to find the conditions to be intolerable, and a violation of the human-animal bond. Pastured livestock are not forced to endure the miseries of factory farming. They are not cooped up in cages barely larger than their own bodies, or packed together like sardines for months on end standing knee deep in their own manure.” - www.nectarhillsfarm.com
This pretty much sums it up!
Plus, would you rather eat this? (eve this picture romanticizes feedlots):
“But what if we cannot afford grass fed beef?”
The cheapest way to get grass fed beef is to find a local farmer who sells his cows by the whole, half or quarter. In the Seattle area, you can find farmers who will sell their cows for $ 2-3 a pound (and that is for all type of cuts, steaks, roasts, ground beef, stew meat). That is much cheaper than the starting price of $ 5.99 lb for grass fed ground beef in the store. Buying direct from the farmer also supports our local economy, as well as offers you the opportunity to find out exactly how the beef you are eating is raised! All that is required is a little bit of freezer space!
Or, cut back on how often you eat beef. Once a week or every other week, whatever works best for your family. Try buying ground pasteurized turkey instead of ground beef. Replace Pasteurized chicken for beef in a recipe! Also, if you find it on sale, stock up!
If you can’t afford the space or money for buying beef directly from the farmer? My recommendation? Don’t eat beef. There are just too many health risks, compromises and concerns with feedlot beef for me to feel comfortable feeding it to my family.
If you would like further information grass fed beef, please visit one of these sites:
The Dirty Dozen:
The Shopper's Guide to Pesticides, which ranks pesticide contamination for 50 popular fruits and vegetables based on an analysis of 89,000 tests for pesticides on these foods, conducted from 2000 to 2008 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the federal Food and Drug Administration.
I encourage you to always buy the top 12 "Dirty" Items organic. These are the fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide levels. Over a billion pounds of pesticides are released into the environment every year. If you have young ones at home, buying these organic foods is especially important, as children are much less able to detoxify pesticides in the body than adults.
I have a copy of this printed and in my wallet. Whenever I go to the store, I reference this list. If it is part of the dirty dozen, buy organic or don't buy at all! That is my best recommendation.
For more information on pesticides, please visit this site.
Coming Soon: Real Food on a Budget: Where to Spend your Money Pt. 2 - Poultry, oils and dairy!