Consumers today are often plagued with stories and studies that discuss the affects that food has on their health; the pesticide and drug levls found in most consumable foods and the overall effects that the treatment of foods can have on a persons wellbeing. For these and many other reasons it is important to know your options and one of those being the availability of organic or free-range meats.
What Does Free-Range Refer to in Terms of Meat
Free-range meats is the term often used to describe how an animal being raised for consumable purposes is housed and sometimes fed. Animals that are deemed "free range" are not typically confined to smaller fenced in areas or cages and are instead allowed to roam and feed freely in an open space with access to sun, fresh air and water. It also often refers to animals that have not been fed a controversial diet consisting of drugs and growth hormones and instead ones fed more natural (non chemical) pasture diets. However, because of the loose rules that go along with the term "free range" this title may also simply describe an animal that is allowed some limited access to roam freely or ones that are given a less confined area and which do have alternative not-so-natural diets provided by the caretakers. These are factors that are determined by the rules and the judgement calls of those raising the animals. So for specifics the best option is to
Does Free-range Meats Mean Organic?
Not necessarily. Some producers of free-range meats allow their animals to graze off the land and consume a diet natural to the animal without grains, filler, drugs and byproducts or regular food grade antibiotics however that is not a requirement to acquire the freerange label. The rules set forth give a lot of choice to the factory and or farmer.
What Types of Free-Range Meats are Available
Many different animal breeds can be raised under these conditions giving the consumer a good amount of choice in the types of free-range meats. The meats you will most often find labeled as free range meats are; poultry, beef, pork, elk and Buffalo.
Benefits for People
The benefit of free-range meats can vary from consumer to consumer and include health and preferencial benefits. The prefencial benefits may include knowing that these animals were raised in a more humane way and were not confined to crowded and often unsanitary feed cages and that the in some cases their diets were healthier for the animal being made up of natural and or organic nutritions.
Health benefits can be far more expansive. Some animals when fed a natural diet produce higher levels of Omega3's and CLA which can be extremely beneficial to the health of the people who consume these meats. Leaner and often more tender meats are also a benefit to animals raised in more humane conditions. Animals raised as free-range are typically not treated nor on occasion fed as those raised under normal quantity driven farms; which often consists of antibiotic and drug filled diets. All these factors and more can play an important role in the health of the consumer.
Benefits for the Animals
Animals that are allowed to roam more freely as opposed to shoulder to shoulder confinement are more stress free than caged, crowded and confined animals. The health of animals raised in more humane conditions is often better and medical treatments and antibiotics are often less necessary.
Where to Purchase Free-range Meats
Until demand for free-range meats increases you won't necessarily find free-range meats at your local grocery store. However, most regular chain grocery stores will carry a small selection (often one brand) in the meat and poultry sections of the establishment. Other options (and often the ones with the greatest selections) available to consumers looking for healthier free range or organic meat selections are; local farmers markets, online and mobile meat vendors or direct from the farm.
A good online resource for those interested in the healthier alternative provided by free-range meats is eatwellguide.org.