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Is Free-Range Meat Healthier?

There are many phrases stamped on food labels designed to make food appear both ecologically sound as well as healthier to eat. One phrase that I find confusing is “free range,” which I have also seen it written as “free roaming.” While it sounds idyllic, the first bit of info you need to know is that this term “free range” isn’t heavily regulated by the USDA. The only requirement is that the animals have access to outdoor areas of where they could possibly “roam free.” The regulations do not specify how big the area needs to be either. This by itself, by no means, makes meat any healthier than conventional meat. Also beware “free-range” doesn't mean free of E. coli or salmonella.

When it comes to selecting meat, you want to look for are the words “hormone free” and “antibiotic free,” since both substances are stored in the animals fat and flesh and then passed onto you. Look for word “organic” too. This way you know the animal was fed pesticide-free foods. When it comes to beef, the ultimate label is grass fed and finished since the meat of grass-fed animals is higher in omega-3 fatty acids and beta carotene. Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t regulate this term either. This is why it is best to find a ranch that follows the practices you believe in. Check out Local Harvest to find one near you.


Giasbash6260 Giasbash6260 9 years
I only eat grass-fed red meats like beef, bison, etc!!! I would NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER touch a corn fed beef or any other red meat fed corn! How gross
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 9 years
Today I saw afirst grader with BOOBS... I honestly think its the added hormones.
bellaressa bellaressa 9 years
So weird, we never fed our cows hormones. They actually did roam and eat off the land, no pesticides. Just weird now how they pump everything with stuff. I just read they are starting to give farm raised fish hormones. WTF
tlsgirl tlsgirl 9 years
I'm glad that you posted that info about "free range." A friend of mine took Animal Law this semester, and some of the facts that she told me were awful! I'm still a meat eater, but I've been trying to make better selections in the hopes that the animals are treated more humanely.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 9 years
What a strange earth day post...
raieven raieven 9 years
amen foxie!
Spectra Spectra 9 years
Yeah, "free range" chickens and cattle can basically be kept in pens with the doors open and it's still "technically" free's easy to get around that. I usually buy conventionally raised chickens, but as soon as we get our 20 acres from my inlaws, I'm going to raise some REAL free range chickens. Oh, incidentally, feeding cattle corn doesn't make them harbor E. coli; it's usually that the antibiotics that they're fed create resistant strains that are more difficult to kill.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Good lord...
peregrine peregrine 9 years
Antibiotic resistant bacteria is a good reason not to eat meat from factory farms, whatever kind it is. When you keep animals in cramped spaces, they need to have a steady supply of antibiotics just to keep them from getting too sick. It's the perfect breeding ground for our next epidemic. But, yes, obviously, free range isn't the end all.
jamiedynamite jamiedynamite 9 years
I became a vegetarian this year as well; as mheart said the meat industry is responsible for a huge amount of greenhouse gases. Americans have learned to eat meat with EVERYTHING and if everyone cut back on their meet intake just a little bit it would be so helpful for the earth.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
A lot of the meat I buy comes with really long winded tags (in addition to the hormone/antibiotic free)... "Humanely raised on an environmentally sustainable family farm" and "Fed an organic vegetarian diet". I assume the FDA doesn't regulate any of those claims and I wish we had more local options here. Sucks to live in I Hate The Earth Ville.
mheart mheart 9 years
I've been a meat eater all my life, & just became a vegetarian this year, but I found this fact after I made the switch: The meat industry is responsible for more greenhouse gases than cars & planes. I just thought I'd share it, since it's earth day... :)
LaurenG22 LaurenG22 9 years
Thanks for this article, the reason I don't eat corn-fed beef is precisely what TKO is talking about-- Cows are NOT designed to do eat CORN! Corn is cheaper and easier for farmers in the midwest and thus prevalent in those areas. Also, corn (if I remember correct) is subsidized by the US govt.
foxie foxie 9 years
I don't care what kind of meat is healthier, I just wish people would stop supporting factory farms. If you want to eat animals, fine. But don't you want them to be shown a MODICUM of kindness while they're still alive? People are jerks.
tko24 tko24 9 years
Cows are basically force fed corn. Their stomachs are not made to process it which is part of the reason for the e coli and antibotics in the first place. Anyone who is curious about this issue should read the Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (or anything by Michael Pollan for that matter). It really opened my eyes. I'm still a meat eater but I try to be more selective about what I eat.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
"We're not all vegetarians/vegans and it's not a crime to be a meat eater" Amen to that!
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Grass-fed beef, and dairy products made from the milk of grass-fed cows, is the tastiest anyway. But I love corn-fed beef precisely for the extra fat!
briannaNicole briannaNicole 9 years
Bottom Line: Good old fashioned corn fed beef (with hormones and all) is still tasty and has NOT been killing people for many years. It's not the end of the world to buy this beef in my opinion it's pretty tasty. However it has way more fat on it than grass fed. Grass fed (for me) is slightly better, not because it's *insert green propaganda here* but because I don't spend 20 minutes slicing off pieces of fat, it has next to none. Grass fed also tends to hold in the flavor/seasoning a bit better too. I'm glad fit sugar did an article on meat!! We're not all vegetarians/vegans and it's not a crime to be a meat eater :)
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