Our meats, poultry and eggs are covered in confusing labels that attempt to inform us about the way our food was treated before it arrived at the grocery store. Here is a guide by Bionic Trainer Dara Mazzie to help you understand those labels and make informed decisions in the future. Remember: You are only as healthy as the animal you eat.
Meat, Poultry, Eggs
Certified organic means that the pastures the animals are raised on are not sprayed with harmful chemicals or pesticides. It also means that the animal's feed (which could be soy, corn and grain) is organic. Always the best option if you can afford it! Organic also means that the pasture and/or feed is NOT genetically modified.
Certified organic produce means the item was not sprayed with harmful chemicals and pesticides. It also means that the item is NOT a Genetically Modified Organism. GMO's should always be avoided if possible because we have no evidence of long term effects. Organic produce can get pricey, but you can refer to the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen for a list of produce that should ALWAYS be purchased organic because they are so heavily sprayed. You can also refer to their Clean 15 list for produce that doesn't need to be purchased organically so you can save some money!!!
TIP: Go to farmer's market and ask the merchants if they spray their produce. The process for getting certified organic is lengthy and expensive, so sometimes these small family farms don't have the income to go through the process, but they are in fact organic! You can get your produce much cheaper at the Farmer's Market.
Birds are supposed to forage, which means they should be hopping around outside and eating grasses and insects. They should not be locked up in cages or barns and forced to eat soy, corn, and grains. The healthiest birds and eggs will be labeled PASTURE-RAISED or FREE-RANGE. The omega 3/omega 6 fatty acid ratio of these birds is much healthier than those crammed into cages and forced to eat foods that serve one purpose only...to fatten them up. Side note: If they feed chickens soy, corn, and grain to fatten them up, what do you think those foods will do to you when you eat them?
CAGE-FREE birds are kind of a joke and a marketing scam, along with VEGETARIAN FEED. A law was just passed that no chickens in California can be raised in small cages so technically all eggs and chicken meat on the shelves should be cage-free. Plus, chickens are often crammed into barns with so many other birds that they barely have room to breathe! But, technically they are considered "cage-free." Vegetarian Feed means they are fed corn, soy, and grains...it's just a way for them to label the package so it sounds better, but we know better!
BEEF and BISON
The healthiest beef and bison is PASTURE-RAISED or 100% GRASS-FED. This means that from start to finish, the animal is fed only grass and grazes out on the pasture all day. The meat and the fat from these animals are VERY nutritious, so feel free to eat the fat off that grass-fed ribeye!!! When cows eat grass, they store most of the nutrients in there fat so eat up! The fat contains lots of Omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory and very healthy to eat.
Next healthiest option would be GRASS-FED, GRAIN-FINISHED. This means that for most of the cows life it was fed grass, and then close to slaughter, they are fed corn, soy, and other grains to fatten them up (again, think about what happens to you when you eat those things in excess). You will still get a lot of nutrients from these animals but please remember that when cows are fed things they aren't supposed to eat, it causes inflammation and that is passed onto you! Usually, a grass-fed cow that doesn't weigh enough before slaughter is sold to a feed lot where it is stuffed in a small space and forced to eat grains until it fattens up.
The least healthiest option, but most affordable, is the FEEDLOT cow. These animals are crammed into small spaces and forced to live knee high in their own feces. They are fed highly inflammatory foods like soy, corn, and grains, and live their life in a very anxious, high stress state. Please cut the fat off of these cuts of meat because it is high in Omega 6's, which are highly inflammatory. There is a very eye opening documentary called Food Inc that reveals the truth behind the treatment of the animals we eat. I was a vegetarian for 6 months after watching it, it's that bad!
I am still on the fence with this one. I am not sure if pork is healthy or not, but it tastes delicious! I am still doing the research on this one, but what I have found so far is that the healthiest pigs to eat are PASTURED and HUMANELY RAISED. I have not seen ANY pork products in ANY stores in the South Bay that are pastured! Not even one! But Niman Ranch brand (sold at Sprouts) is humanely raised so that is pretty much the only bacon I will eat. Good Earth Farms has a great website where you can order their pastured meats and poultry and I just placed my first order. They are a little pricey but their pigs (and all of their animals) are pasture-raised! Hopefully our treatments of pigs will become more ethical, but until then, I eat pork in moderation which for me is 2-3 times per month.
Again, another tough topic. I have been of the mindset that WILD fish is best because they live their lives in their natural habitat. Farm-raised fish are force fed horrible things like soy and plastic. If you have ever seen a photo of a salmon farm, you wouldn't eat it! But, with the ocean environment not being as pristine as it once was, I turn to the EWG's Cosumer Guide to Seafood.