All natural. Cage free. Hormone free. Free range. No antibiotics. Organic. All these terms and more clutter the labeling for “healthy” chicken and eggs throughout the stores and markets. But what do they really mean? I’ve discussed “organic” meat already (see post here), and discovered that just because something is organic doesn’t necessarily make it perfect. In the end it comes down to the farmers themselves and how they treat their animals. It turns out that some practices are more valuable than others, too.
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According to a study conducted by the University of Perugia in Italy, organic standards alone give you decent meat free of unnatural stuff like pesticides and hormones and junk that is generally unhealthy. If that’s all you care about, then shopping for chicken meat will be pretty straightforward.
But the study also found that with organic alone you won’t be getting the best possible, healthiest chicken meat if the farmers are skipping an all natural practice that may seem obvious but is not ensured by organic standards: pasturing the animals.
What does “pasturing” mean, exactly?
According to the study, chickens that were considered properly pastured were able to forage on the land, peck around, and generally live as they might in nature, with enough space to move around freely without crowding with other chickens. The results are healthier meat and of course, happier birds. And happy birds taste so much better!
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The table below summarizes the study’s findings along with some of our own research and experiences in regards to standard, organic, and pastured organic chicken.
Overall it’s clear that organically raised and pastured chicken is more humane, healthier, and better quality.
Benefits of AntiOxidants
I won’t get too deep into this as I’m no scientist or doctor, but generally, antioxidants are believed to help prevent disease and sickness by keeping molecules in our bodies from oxidizing and thus weakening and leading to issues. They may reduce inflammation, reduce the effects of aging, and boost our immune systems. Plus, they tend to be in foods that are already very healthy, so increasing them in your diet will undoubtedly improve the way you eat overall. It’s just a good idea.
How to ensure you get the best meat
There are two ways to make sure the chicken you eat is as good as it possibly can be:
1. Know your farmer and confirm they do a good job pasturing and raising their birds organically.
Maybe you feel like you’re getting to know us? 😉 You can learn more about ordering our chicken here:
2. Raise them for yourself!
We actually started on this journey years ago when we got to know local farmers and fell in love with the great pastured chicken they produced. It became normal for us to budget in orders of the excellent meat. When we finally had our own land, we eagerly took the next step and raised chickens and have been rewarded substantially!
Now everybody dance!