Buying Grass Fed and Pastured Meats on a Budget
As many of you know Grass Fed Beef is healthier than Grain Fed Beef. Many of us may think you can’t get quality grass fed pasture raised meats without spending a lot of money, sure they will cost more, however aren’t you worth it? One of the most common concerns we get from readers who are transitioning to a more whole-foods based style of eating is that sourcing grass-fed, will be higher priced. In this article we will list some ways you can get the optimum for your money.
There are so many sources, categories, terms, and ideas swirling around about how to pick and choose your source of meat that it can become a case of analysis paralysis so often – meaning that you don’t know what to do, so instead wind up doing nothing because it’s too overwhelming! Because conventional meats, eggs, fish, dairy, etc. can harbor some fairly questionable ingredients and be raised in conditions that contribute to the overall quality of the protein you’re consuming, starting with sourcing quality foods in this department can make a big impact on your overall health.
ANIMAL VS. PLANT PROTEIN
Today, we’re going to focus on animal proteins. My personal nutritional expertise and the research I’ve done has led me to believe that high-quality, responsibly-raised animal protein is the optimal form for use in the human body, as it’s the most viable source of protein we can utilize. Here are a few reasons for this:
- Animal-based proteins are complete proteins. A complete protein contains 9 essential amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids, but these 9 are the ones that our bodies can’t make on their own. These amino acids are also key to many of our body’s processes, including protein synthesis, tissue repair and nutrient absorption. While you can find these essential amino acids in plant-based sources of protein, there is no one source of plant protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids.
- Animal-based proteins have much more protein per gram. Lastly, it’s also important to consider protein density. We need a much smaller amount of animal protein to get the same amount of grams of protein that we need compared to plant-based sources, which means you would need to eat a LOT of veggies to get the same amount of protein.
What this essentially all means is that when it comes to prioritizing your protein, choosing animal based sources has a lot of benefits! Now lets look at some of the more readily-available sources of animal based protein including eggs, dairy, beef, wild game, pork, chicken, and seafood, and how to navigate the myriad of terms surrounding these foods.
GRASS-FED VS. ORGANIC
This is a lot to grasp when you are making the change, we can make it as simple as possible, so we’re going to break down what these terms really mean.
First up, and one that’s potentially the most popular and buzz-worthy term you’ll see out there is grass-fed. The fact is, this term is actually really unregulated, so fully understanding what you’re getting as the consumer when you’re purchasing grass-fed products is important. Grass-fed doesn’t mean organic, and essentially the term really means that at some point in their lives, the animal was allowed to eat grass. A common practice is to allow cows to roam for a short period of time, and then to finish them off with grains. 100% grass-fed is a gold standard term that you’ll want to keep your eyes out for.
GRASS-FED & GRASS- FINISHED
Grass-fed and grass-finished meats are the ultimate options when it comes to the beef options that you’ll see in the marketplace. It essentially means that the cows are 100% grass-fed, and ate nothing but grass their entire lives! Happy happy cows, with incredibly nutrient-dense meats.
Conventional meats, while they won’t be labeled as such, are generally meats that lack the above labels, or utilize other seemingly unregulated terms to portray the appearance of a “cleaner” choice of meat. Conventional typically means that the animal was raised under conditions that may include the use of CAFOs, or FEED LOTS. Most of the time they are fed a standard diet that includes corn, soy, and other grain-based feeds that yield rapid fattening, and can create an environment of illness within the group. Because of the potential for illness in these kinds of feeding operations, antibiotics are often very necessary in general. This is almost a necessity in these conditions because of the need for a high yield. To ensure high yield, and a solvent business, the injection of hormones like estrogen, and testosterone may also be used to increase growth at a more rapid rate. You might also find that because these animals grow so quickly on this cocktail of grain-based feed, antibiotics, and hormones, the meats also tend to have fewer nutrients than their grass-fed/finished counterparts. Trying to avoid these types of meats at all costs!
Organic means is that the animal in question was fed organic feed – which is great, but it’s also noteworthy that the diet could be 100% grain-based. Organic cows also must not be given antibiotics or growth-enhancing hormones, and farmers must supply outside access for their cows, and document that no pesticides or fertilizers were used on their farm or land for the past 3 years. In terms of budget-friendly terms to look for, organic is a great one to look for if you can’t do fully grass-fed/grass-finished meats, and a great first step to moving towards when learning how to buy grass-fed and pastured meats on a budget.
PRIORITIZING PROTEINS TO BUDGET
This is where it can get a little tricky because every person and family is going to have to choose what works for We can make some general recommendations.This section will focus on prioritizing your protein when purchasing it for at-home meals, mostly because my prerogative is that when eating out, you do the best you can with what you get and don’t worry too much about the impact of an occasional meal out.
In a perfect world, we want to look for grass-fed and grass-finished animals. We’d also want to prioritize pasture-raised poultry, pork, and eggs. Next in line in terms of quality would be grass-fed, organic, and grain-finished meats. Following those options, we’d be looking for organic and soy-free products. Last on our list in terms of quality would be proteins from conventional sources.
A few things to consider here – first, if you are going to grab conventional beef, I encourage you to grab a leaner cut of meat when possible. Fattier tissues in red meat can really hold onto and store a lot of those things that we want to avoid in conventional animal proteins – like hormones, antibiotic residue, and any of the other inflammatory properties that might have found their way into the meat. You’ll also want to know that conventionally raised poultry can be one of the most concerning proteins to ingest when it comes to how they’re raised, and the additives that you could potentially be consuming when you’re choosing conventional poultry. This means, if I were going to consume poultry products I would always look to find pasture-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free options.
BUDGET HIGHLIGHT: EGGS
Eggs are a VERY GOOD source of budget-friendly protein as well, and we typically like to look for pastured, organic and soy-free eggs whenever possible. They are such a cost-effective way of getting high-quality protein on your plate if you look at the cost per pound. Let’s say you’re comparing grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, and wild seafood to pastured eggs – pastured eggs will almost always win in terms of quality of protein combined with cost. I know that when you’re standing in the egg aisle, and you’re looking at the cartons, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed – it feels three times more expensive to buy the pastured eggs than it does to buy the conventional eggs. There is a HUGE difference in the equality at locust Grove Pastures our pastured eggs are fresh daily! So if you have to pick one protein to upgrade at this point in time for your family, my stance is I would upgrade the eggs first. In close Pasture raised eggs are very healthy and a great way to add protein to your diet.
Again, in a perfect world, when thinking about how to buy grass fed and pastured meats on a budget, we’d be looking to source as locally and as high quality as possible. For a lot of us, this means trips to the farmer’s markets or local farms to chat with someone who can answer all of your questions about the conditions your animals were raised in.
MEAT DELIVERY SERVICES
At Locust Grove Pastures we offer delivery of fresh meats in the Central Richmond Va area. Our meats are all pasture-raised and we provide 100% grass-fed and grass-finished beef, heritage breed pork, and free range organic chicken. We have pasture meats on a seasonal basis so please email us for the latest available meats.
We believe organ meats can be a great way to get your dogs and cats to their optimum health. We also understand many people are getting back to our heritage roots and using bone broth for the many cures they provide. We carry organic chicken livers and high-quality soup bones for bone broth! Some of our raw clients like certain proteins, you’ll want we offer high-quality offal meats (heart, liver, kidney, etc.) as their top preferred meats.
Buying Cows (1/4 or 1/2)
One way to save money on your grass-fed beef is to buy in larger quantities, at Locust Grove Pastures we offer 1/4,1/2 as well as Whole cows.
I hope this short article has helped to explain pasture-raised meats, Organic, and some of the other meat and egg options available to you and your family.