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  • Writer's pictureAmy Slater

Ask Your Farmer

When it comes to sourcing and purchasing real food, I consider it a health investment for the family. Aside from our monthly home mortgage, food is the second-highest expense category in our budget.

This quote sums up my view of our food budget. There are just things that we do without in order to make it work. So, when I go to invest in our health each week and purchase ingredients to build our meals I want to maximize my dollar.


Animal proteins come from herbivores and omnivores. Grass-fed meat comes from herbivorous animals, cattle, bison, sheep, and goats are all raised on grass and some broad leaf plants. These animals should be raised in pasture and eat fresh grass. They are usually not given antibiotics or hormones. Grass-fed animals are also free-roaming meaning that they roam freely in the confines of a fenced pasture.

Pasture-raised meat comes from omnivorous animals such as pigs, boar, and most species of birds which are raised on pasture and allowed to roam freely. The diets of these animals are often (but not always) supplemented with grains, seeds, soy, table scraps, or farm surplus (for example fruits and vegetables left over from harvest). The supplemental harvest may or may not be organic and non-GMO. These animals are also not typically given antibiotics or hormones.

Grass-Fed and Pasture-Raised

The term grass-fed and pasture-raised are often used interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Grass-fed goes, to pasture-raised, but with pasture-raised, but not necessarily the other way around. A cow can be raised on pasture and still fed grain or finished on grain. Omnivorous animals do not thrive without a supplemental feed so pasture-raised is as good as it gets.

Grass-Fed versus Grass FINISHED

Here we can circle back to get the most bang for your buck. Some producers, grain finish their grass-fed beef in order to bulk the animal and increase marbling. They can still advertise as being grass-fed. The problem here is that finishing the animal on grain completely skews the balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. One of the main benefits of investing in that grass-finished beef is the better omega 3:omega 6 fatty acid ratio. Grass-fed beef has up to four times more omega-3 than grain-fed beef. This ratio can be completely reversed in as little as one month!

According to Dr. Sara Ballantyne, grass-finished beef:

Has up to 10 times more beta carotene Has up to four times more Vitamin E Is higher in B-vitamins, zinc, iron, phosphorous, and potassium

Roger Harris of South Chestnut Farm shares valuable information about sourcing your grass FINISHED beef.

Look for Grass-Finished beef, bison, and lamb, but look for Pastured pork, chicken and turkey.

Always ask your farmer if the animals are 100% grass-finished pesticide-free. Also, be sure to ask if the grass they ate is organic or pesticide-free.

Pastured Eggs

There are several different kinds of eggs and their nutritional content varies depending on how they were raised and what they were fed.

  • Conventional eggs: These are your standard supermarket eggs. The hens that lay these eggs are usually fed grain, supplemented with vitamins and minerals.

  • Organic eggs: The hens were not treated with hormones and received an organic feed.

  • Pastured eggs: Chickens are allowed to roam free, eating plants and insects (their natural food) along with some commercial feed.

  • Omega-3-enriched eggs: Basically, they’re like conventional chickens except that their feed is supplemented with an omega-3 source like flax seeds. May have had some access to the outside.

There are also several terms that are used interchangeably:

Free-range means that the hens have the option of going outside.

Cage-free simply means that they aren’t raised in a cage. They could still be raised in a smelly, dirty, and overstuffed hen house.

This study showed that pastured eggs were higher in vitamin A, E, and omega-3s, as well as lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. Another study showed that free-range eggs, which were laid by hens allowed to roam out in the sun, contained three to four times the amount of vitamin D than the eggs of hens that were raised indoors.


Just one pastured egg yolk contains about 115 mg of choline. Choline plays a major role in children’s brain health and cell structure integrity. In traditional cultures, women ate 5-7 egg yolks daily during pregnancy! Pastured eggs should be included whenever possible, as they contain a superior nutrient profile.

As Jonathan of Valley Love Organic shares in his video, it is important to ask what your farmer is feeding their egg-producing hens. If they are fed pesticide-laden soy-based or GMO/soy-based feed, their eggs are going to be far less nutritious. The only way you will know if they are feeding them a less than optimal supplemental diet is by asking your farmer!

Always ask your farmer!

Don’t be shy about asking your farmer about their product! It is important to know what you are eating and what you are feeding your kids! 🙂

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