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“Organic” v. “Natural?” v. “Pastured?” – what’s a mom to do??

You and I, and the community of conscientious eaters at Champoeg Creamery are different from the rest of the world.

We go the extra mile for our families, cooking from scratch instead of taking the easy way out and grabbing some takeout. We don’t just think about what we’re going to eat for dinner in a few hours – instead, we’re planning tomorrow’s, the next day’s and even next week’s dinners.

You and I both work so hard to educate ourselves to make the BEST decisions when it comes to spending our food dollars so our families eat well, even if that means we sacrifice other things in our lives.

But what’s a mom to do when we’re trying so hard to do the right thing, but we’re surrounded by companies that DON’T have our family’s health as their first priority, and instead value profits over quality?

Who To Trust?

It’s taken me years to get where I am today where I eat nearly 100% of my food off the farm (well…except for my favorite Oregon Pinot, of course), but for the longest time I had absolutely no idea where to start when it came to feeding my family right.

Walking through the grocery store, I debated over low-fat, gluten-free, Non-GMO, organic versus natural versus grass-fed, and was totally overwhelmed!! Who knew that food could come labeled with so many words that I had to look up in the dictionary or spend an hour researching?

But slowly, over the years I’ve taken one small step at a time so now I feel confident knowing my family is eating the healthiest food possible.

I’ve watched my kids’ eczema disappear, felt my energy increase and allergies vanish, and seen my husband’s colitis heal.

That’s how I know I’m doing the right thing, and I want to share with you what I wish I’d known as my family started this real food journey over a decade ago.

What I Wish I’d Known Then.

Do you ever buy one brand of food over another because it has the word “natural” on the label?

I’m guilty of it! Even my 9 year old will grab the orange juice that’s labeled “natural,” thinking it’s better.

But ‘natural’ doesn’t actually mean what we as moms feeding young children think it should mean.

Terms like ‘natural’, ‘organic’ and ‘grass-fed’ on grocery store labels lead us to believe we’re buying a better product. A healthier food.

But the sad truth is…those labels don’t mean a darn thing.

There is no agency monitoring the use of the term “natural” – anyone can label their food product as natural and you see it all the time.

Products labeled “natural” will include ingredients with GMO’s, artificial colors & flavors, hormones and pesticides. It is a deceptive marketing ploy used by companies to reel in unsuspecting shoppers.

Is Organic Really All That?

“Organic” is another word that makes me want to think it’s the healthiest I can buy.

And yes, organic has a lot more legal requirements than the term ‘natural’ or even ‘grass-fed’, but it still does not mean what we think it should mean.

All it means is that the animals are fed organic feed but not necessarily out on green grass pasture. So they can be confined to a feedlot, given vaccines (but no antibiotics), and never see the light of day in some cases, but they’re simply pumped full of organic feed.

So again, what’s a mom to do?

Eating products from pastured animals is far healthier for you, the land, the people and of course the animals.

Because the truth is, organic milk or meat doesn’t mean much when compared to a cow that’s been standing in lush green grass its whole life, free to roam instead of confined to a tiny pen, and living a stress-free life under the open sky.  And that organic cow had lots more vaccines than its pastured counterpart on our farm.

The challenge there is small farmers like us cannot afford the organic certification, so even though we don’t use hormones, antibiotics or synthetic fertilizers we are not “certified organic” – just organic in practice.  And truly, far beyond organic because of our own practices of moving the animals to fresh grass every day.

So What Does Pastured Really Mean?

But here we go again with more ‘labels’!!

There is also no legal definition of the term “pastured” so you must do your own homework which means a visit to the farm so you can meet your farmer.

Every producer’s definition of “pastured” seems to vary, too.  The only way to understand a particular farmer’s definition is to see their animals on pasture.  Green grass pasture.  Many farmers call their dirt lots or dead grass patches pasture.  But there’s a huge difference in the taste and nutritional makeup of these animals vs. those knee-deep on green grass.  

Our standards for pastured are extremely high just because that’s how I roll. There’s no one holding me to that standard except me.  There are no ‘pastured meat’ police making sure a farm’s meat is truly pastured on grass.  Our customers are the ones in charge of our standards because they are here looking at the pastures every day!

Local farmers think I’m nuts for using our prime irrigated farm land to graze animals instead of far more lucrative commodity crops like garlic or hazelnuts!  (many days I think I’m nuts, too, when I get one more person criticizing me about our less-than-cost-of-production prices).

There truly is no comparison in any store anywhere of meat grown on a small farm like ours and sold right from the farm.

I am not bashing on other farms at all, but by giving you these tidbits of information, you’re empowered to go out and encourage other farmers to raise their standards, up-level their definitions and support them so we have an even bigger pool of safe, high quality pastured meat.

But let’s look at a real life example –

Mary’s Chicken is touted as one of the best on the market. If you take our small farm and others like us (not in stores anywhere) out of the picture, then Mary’s is a pinch better than Foster Farm’s Draper Valley. But Mary’s Chicken owners’ definition of pasture is exactly opposite mine.

My definition of a “pastured” animal is that they are on fresh, lush green grass every day.

Mary’s Chicken is raised on dirt in the San Joaquin Valley, not a speck of green in sight. Which means the flavor and the nutritional value are a fraction of what they are from chickens in our farm store.  Yet they can still call them pastured and they are sold in the stores that way.

Milk, eggs and meat from truly pastured animals is far more nutritious and doesn’t even compare to animal raised on dirt.

What Does “More Nutritious” Even Mean?

The levels of Omega 3’s, Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) and Vitamin E is 4-10 times higher in pastured foods.

Since you shop with us for health reasons, it’s good to know just a bit of the nutritional info as to why eat pastured meats.  For instance, omega 3 fatty acids reduce your risk of cancer and heart attack and lessens your likelihood to suffer from depression, ADD & ADHD, or Alzheimer’s.

Your organic beef from the store finished in the feedlot loses any trace of Omega-3 fatty acids.  As do store-bought eggs, chicken and pork.

CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer and is only found in the products of pastured animals.

You’ll get the required daily amount of CLA with just 1 glass of raw milk or yogurt or kefir from grassfed cows and one serving of meat from pastured animals.

You’d have to eat 5 times that amount of store-bought beef & dairy to get the same level of protection!  So it doesn’t take much and everyone can choose to budget this amount.

One more bonus to eating grass-fed beef from pastured cows is that most Americans are Vitamin E deficient and our beef has 4 times more of this amazing nutrient!  Vitamin E is also linked with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer.

Intuitively you already knew that farm fresh meat, milk and eggs are better.  Now you’re armed with some facts to support that woman’s intuition we rely on for so many things!!

Food Is Medicine

Most importantly is that you feel confident that you can heal through food.  Food is medicine.  The more you believe this the more quickly you will heal.

Our store is armed with our own team of believers – Jenny, Hayden and Christie who will help you discern the what’s/why’s and hows of farm fresh food.

And I’m always available for questions, too!!  I don’t know everything but I know people who know more than me!

Happy Meal Planning,

Charlotte

Want More? Join our private FB group “Real Food – Real Women”

 

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Peggy December 1, 2016, 9:11 pm

    Absolutely!!! And Organic can have elements of GMO in it. And it is next to impossible to actually have Organic feed, unless one puts their hay in a greenhouse (re: fodder) or lives in the outback away from other conventional farmer’s fields.

    I grew up on a ranch where we did strictly grass feed. We did no fertilizers and no sprays. Tremendous beef and pork. Chickens ran free on our 320 acres of grass.

    What does grass fed mean to me? Just like you. knee deep in grass (not a weed patch) and not alfalfa dry hay. Actual grass. It could also mean fodder (say for winter). No comparison between the home grown veggie or the true pastured beef/egg(chicken) and what is considered normally raised animals and foods. Taste and nutrition.

    Right on.

    Also, in the non-GMO project it says non-GMO, but NOT 100% GMO free. Ok, so what does that mean?

  • Kim December 1, 2016, 10:20 pm

    Charlotte…loved your comments. I buy from US Wellness meats …only because I live in Montana and you don’t ship. Wish you did, love your integrity!

  • Vanessa Coleman December 1, 2016, 10:28 pm

    Thank you so much for letting us in on the milk!!!! We are already almost through the whole gallon sadly, we’ve been deprived for a few weeks:) So fresh tasting and worth every penny!

    thank you,
    Vanessa Coleman

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Get Champoeg Creamery’s Magazine, ‘Raw Milk: A Love Story’, for free + recipes and healing stories from the farm!
Yes, please!