Years ago well before our kids ever started school, my husband and I always dealt with local beef farming friends for our beef who believed as we did that grass fed beef is healthier for us. Cannings Free Range Butchers is one larger scale farm producing grass fed beef and free range animals. We actually took it further because our pork and chicken are free range, locally raised by people we know. They are small scale producers with only 5 to 10 cattle. The organic farmer I get my chickens and eggs from only has about 20 chickens and a rooster. There is a notion that grass fed, hormone free beef is more expensive but that simply is not the case. We pay about $2.30 per lb across board for all cuts of beef, so one pound of sirloin steak will cost us $2.30 as will one pound of ground beef. The reality is, overall we pay less for our grass fed, hormone free beef than we would pay for store bought than store bought, farm factory raised beef. We know the cows were treated in a humane fashion during their life-time. The bottom line is, grass fed, free range beef is the healthier choice in frugal kitchens. Here's a few pointers:
- ethical and humane treatment - Animals raised for food still deserve good and humane treatment over their life-time. That means they are not caged in areas so small they can barely move. The farmer usually is a small time producer with a herd numbering under 20 depending on the animal but it is definitely not large scale farming. The farmer and/or family is tied to the farm and the welfare of the animals meaning they are the primary care givers for those animals. In most cases, they don't have hired help and if they do, it is likely a seasonal worker to help out if they are away but more likely it is a family member or neighbour that comes in to help the farmer if needed.
- grass-fed - I honestly cannot stress enough the importance of free-range grazing aka grass-fed. That means the livestock is not being fed grain, usually corn. Corn, as used for livestock feed is most likely GMO and proteins from the corn can be rather problematic for the growing number of folks experiencing severe corn allergies. Grass-fed livestock tend to have stronger immune systems so are healthier requiring less intervention via antibiotics, another growing concern. Antibiotics given to livestock can leave trace residue in the meat that later affect humans consuming the meat.
- no growth hormones - Farm factory raised meats are often given growth hormones to get them ready for market quicker. That is not the case with local producers raising grass-fed beef or other livestock. Growth hormones can cause a lot of problems in children and are now implicated in the earlier onset of puberty in young girls.
- eco-friendly - In general, those farmers using grass-fed and free-range methods are those who are most concerned about the environment. They tend to use green growing methods that have lower carbon footprints. In most cases, the livestock they sell is sold locally meaning lower transportation costs from farm to table and they don't use practices that pollute the land or waterways.