Wandering the aisles of slickly-decorated supermarkets and picking up sterile-looking packages makes it easy to forget that animal products started out in a far different environment. How those animals were treated can make a big difference in our diets—and our ecosystem. Take a look at some compelling reasons why shoppers should make sure their food is coming from a humane source.
1. IT LOWERS THE RISK OF BACTERIA.
Study after study has demonstrated that grass-fed cattle raised outside of stuffy feedlots have a lower incidence of bacterial contamination. In one comparison, animals raised on pasture had only a 2 percent chance of being infected with disease-causing campylobacter bacteria; another demonstrated less risk of more dangerous strains of E. coli, and less risk overall of contracting the germ, which can cause severe illness in humans.
2. THE ANIMALS FEEL BETTER.
When eating roughage like grass, livestock typically produce more natural digestive enzymes that contribute to their better overall health. When fed fattening grain diets common in industrial farming, an increase in stomach acidity can result in a variety of problems like dehydration or liver issues.
3. THEY’RE FAR LESS FATTY.
Meat from chickens or cows that have been free to roam and chomp on grass have a markedly better dietary fat profile than their grain-fed counterparts. A humanely-raised chicken, for example, can have 30 percent less saturated fat and 28 percent fewer total calories.
4. YOU MIGHT REDUCE YOUR RISK OF HEART DISEASE.
Because grass-fed animals have higher levels of heart-healthy Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) fats and omega-3 fatty acids, consumption could lead to a reduced risk of heart disease as well as diabetes and high blood pressure.
5. IT’S MAKING FOR HAPPIER PIGS.
With more people preoccupied with consuming dairy products and cattle, pigs have traditionally been underrepresented when it comes to healthy living conditions. But consumer preferences for humanely-raised animals of all kinds have led to increased effort on the part of suppliers to rear pork in comfortable surroundings—and more pig farms are cropping up to meet the demand.
6. IT’S BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT.
Humane animal farms typically use far less fossil fuels and release fewer air contaminants than grain-fed facilities. Manufacturing and shipping feed takes up resources, while collected manure—as opposed to “naturally” deposited waste—can contribute to greenhouse gas pollution.
7. THEY CAN FIGHT CANCER.
Grass-fed animals tend to have higher amounts of Vitamin A and E precursors as well as antioxidants like glutathione—the latter has been demonstrated to be a thorn in the side of cancer cells. Additionally, the CLA found in cattle cuts may have cancer-fighting properties.
8. IT SUPPORTS SMALL FARMERS.
If you’re concerned with supporting small businesses, eating humanely-raised products can go a long way. Many small or independent farmers avoid using antibiotics and hormones to offer healthier, better-tasting eggs and meats; local farmer’s markets can be a great resource for supporting your local economy. It also gives you an opportunity to make sure your food is coming from a genuinely reputable source that isn’t misusing labels like “free range” or “organic.” “Humane” means animals that live well and eat well. When in doubt, ask.