Is Organic Meat Better? | Chris Kresser

Is Organic Meat Better?

by

Published on

Several recent scientific reviews have examined the nutritional differences between organic and conventional meat. Read on to learn what the researchers found, if organic meat is really better, and what other factors you should consider when buying your next steak dinner.

organic meat
Is organic meat better for you? iStock/emholk

U.S. organic food sales have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $31.5 billion in 2011 (1), and the demand for organic meat products has steadily increased over the last two decades. Most consumers cite an improved nutrient profile as their primary reason for buying organic (2). But is organic meat really better for us, nutritionally speaking? In this article, I’ll discuss the major differences between organic and conventional meat so that you can make an informed assessment of your meat purchases.

What Is Organic Meat?

Before we dive into the nutritional differences, it’s important that we define what organic meat actually is. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic livestock conditions require that animals must be given year-round access to the outdoors, except in inclement weather. They must be managed without antibiotics (except in cases of illness), added growth hormones, or prohibited feed ingredients like animal byproducts, urea, and arsenic compounds.

Organic livestock must be raised on certified organic land meeting organic crop production standards and any feed must be 100 percent certified organic. Organic ruminants—such as cattle, sheep, and goats—must have free access to organic pasture for the entire grazing season, and 30 percent of their diet must come from organic pasture. Organic practices help to support animal health and are also markedly better from an environmental perspective (3).

Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of what the “organic” label actually means, let’s dive into the nutrition research.

Organic vs. Conventional: Fatty Acid Profile

Fatty acids are essential to health and are one of the key areas where organic and conventional meats differ. Two recently published meta-analyses assessed the differences in fatty acid composition between organic and conventionally raised meat and dairy products. We’ll look at the findings of each in more detail.

Meat: The amount of saturated fat was similar in organic and conventional meat, while monounsaturated fats were slightly lower in organic meats. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were 47 percent higher in organic meat (4). Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and have been shown to be protective against cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline (5).

Dairy: The amount of saturated, monounsaturated, and total polyunsaturated fatty acids was similar in organic and conventional milk. Organic milk had 69 percent higher alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) than conventional milk. ALA is known to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol and enhance its clearance from the bloodstream (6). Organic milk also had 41 percent higher conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and 57 percent higher omega-3 fatty acids.

So what about the organic method is driving this difference? The authors suggest that the pasture-based diets prescribed under organic farming standards are the primary reason for differences in fat deposition in the meat. This is consistent with differences seen between grain-fed and grass-fed animals, as we’ll come back to later on.

Five good reasons to choose organic meat.

Organic vs. Conventional: Other Nutrients

While most studies have seemed to focus on the fatty acid differences, a few studies have attempted to assess minerals, toxic metals, and other parameters of nutrition in organic versus conventional meat. Both organic and non-organic meats are rich in essential nutrients, including protein, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and B vitamins.  

In the same meta-analysis that looked at fatty acid composition, organic dairy was found to have slightly lower iodine and selenium levels, but higher iron and vitamin E levels (4). The authors of the study suggest that the iodine concentrations in conventional milk may be too high in animals receiving large amounts of fortified feed. On the other hand, organic dairy systems support a higher intake of natural alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) and carotenoids (precursors to vitamin E), which surpasses the amount of vitamin E that conventional dairy animals get from synthetic alpha-tocopherol (7).

A different meta-analysis conducted in 2012 found that organic dairy had significantly higher levels of protein than conventional dairy (8).

Would You like Some Antibiotics with Your Chicken?

Organic and conventional meats also differ regarding antibiotic use. Antibiotics are used in conventional meat production as a means to promote growth.

For many years, farmers did not know why antibiotics helped to make animals larger, only that they worked! We now know that it is their devastating effect on the gut microbiota, the microbes that inhabit the intestines, that produces this effect. By essentially inducing a state of chronic microbial dysbiosis, or an altered gut community, the antibiotics increase the amount of energy that the animals can harvest from the same quantity of food (9). Ironically, most people never think that the same agents that fatten up meat animals (antibiotics, grains) will likely also cause weight gain in humans.

Beyond changing the microbial composition of the gut, many antibiotics are absorbed systemically, meaning that they make their way into the bloodstream and can become “lodged” in various tissues. Antibiotic residues have been detected in meat and other animal products at low levels (10), despite the required USDA withdrawal period before slaughter to try to reduce the amount consumed by humans.

Organic products are also less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These “superbugs” pose a real threat to human health, as research and development for new antibiotics no longer interests most pharmaceutical companies. Bacterial contamination of meat products occurs at about the same rate in organic and conventional meat, but the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics is 33 percent higher in conventional than in organic pork and chicken (11).

Hormones May Alter the Composition of Animal Products

Hormones are another factor to consider when weighing the merits of buying organic meat. Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, zeranol, and trenbolone acetate are among the most commonly used hormones, typically implanted in the ear of the animal three months before slaughter to help promote growth (12). Most of these hormones have been banned in Europe since 1989.

Okay, but do we really ingest enough of these hormones to make a difference? Probably not, but studies have shown that hormones might alter the composition of the meat or dairy product in other ways. For example, while recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) is not itself found to be present in dairy products (because the hormone denatures during pasteurization), it may increase the production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) (which survives the high heat of pasteurization). Increased IGF-1 levels have been associated with both colon and breast cancer (13). Today, the European Union, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and Canada all do not allow the use of rBGH due to both animal and human health concerns.

Pesticides from Animal Feed End up in Meat

Organic meat also has fewer synthetic pesticides involved in its production, which lends to improved animal health and less environmental impact.

Like antibiotics, fat-soluble pesticides used to produce chicken feed have been shown to transfer to chicken tissues (14) and eggs (15). We then consume these pesticide residues when we eat the animal product.

This is particularly true for fatty meats. Pesticides, hormones, and other toxins tend to concentrate in the adipose tissue. This means that choosing organic may be a particularly wise choice for fattier cuts of meat. It also means that when we ingest these toxins, we store many of them in our fat tissue. Repeated exposures can allow these substances to “bioaccumulate” over time, particularly if you don’t have a healthy detoxification system.

Putting It All Together

Taken as a whole, organic meat tends to have a more favorable fatty acid profile and reduces exposure to antibiotic, hormone, and pesticide residues. In reality, organic or non-organic is just one factor to consider when sourcing animal products for your next meal. Other important considerations include:

  • Grass-fed vs. grain-fed: If you remember from the beginning of this article, organic livestock are required to be get at least 30 percent of their nutrition from pasture. However, ruminant slaughter stock are exempt from this requirement for the last fifth of their lives (up to 120 days). The organic label therefore tells you nothing about the animal’s diet—in fact, most organic meat in the U.S. is fed at least some grain prior to slaughter. Check out my previous article on this topic for more about the nutritional difference between grass-fed and grain-fed animals.
  • Source: If you look closely next time you’re at the supermarket, you’ll likely see that some of the meat that has the USDA certified organic label was not even produced in the USA! In other cases, the animals were raised in the US, but the meat itself was shipped to another country for packaging. Unless immediately frozen and shipped, it’s likely that the meat has lost some of its nutrients. Look for locally produced meat when possible.
  • Cost: Cost is, of course, one of the biggest hurdles to many people choosing organic. Organic meat tends to be more expensive, not only because of the effort to use sustainable practices, but also because of the cost of organic certification for the farmer. In most cases, there is an application fee, annual renewal fee, assessment on annual sales or production, and inspection fees, in addition to the time required to complete extensive paperwork. Instead of charging conventional farmers for using synthetic chemicals, the burden is on organic farmers to prove the quality of their methods to the USDA. The best option? Get to know your local farmers, and ask about their growing practices! Many small farmers use organic and sustainable practices but do not find it cost effective to get the certified organic label. They are usually more than happy to discuss their methods or even let you visit the farm. Look for cheaper cuts of meat like organ meats, chuck roast, or round steak. Many of these cheaper cuts are just as, if not more, nutritious than their pricier counterparts.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Do you eat organic meat and other animal products? Have you found a good source at your local farmers market? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

178 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. Another reason to avoid non-organic, non-grass-fed meat, is that it also is likely to contain residues of beta-antagonist drugs like ractopamine, which are not hormones.

    Beta-antagonists like Ractopamine are used in feedlot pork and beef production to help the animal convert the high starch diet into muscle instead of fat. It is fed, in their diet, right up to the end, before slaughter, with no withdrawal period, virtually guaranteeing there will be drug residues in the meat.

    Ractopamine is bad for the animal, as it causes sore hooves, and in some animals lameness. Dr. Temple Grandin has publicly called for a ban on Ractopamine.

    Ractopamine residues in meat can cause racing heart in some people and possible other issues. The EU and many Asian countries do not allow its use in meat, and regularly test for it meat. They regularly reject shipments of US meat because ractopamine contamination.

    You can read more about the dangers of beta-antagonists like ractopamine at:
    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/24/ractopamine-beta-agonist-drug.aspx

  2. I have been sourcing and consuming grass-fed and finished beef for many years. Usually one has to purchase a side or quarter and arrange for butchering. This can include the bones as well. One source of grass fed beef in Northern California is Open Space Meats based in Newman. He pastures his herds from the coast to the Sierras depending on the time of year. It is possible to buy his beef by the particular cut. I’m not associated in any way, just a satisfied customer.

  3. Chris, can you elaborate on the pesticide differences? Some people claim that organic pesticides can be just as toxic and synthetic pesticides. What is the likelihood that toxic pesticides have tainted “conventional” meats relative to organic meats?

  4. Great article, as usual Chris. Thanks. Being in the midwest, we are fortunate to have some nearby farms raising organic and grassfed beef and pork. My solution on the cost factor has been to buy the liver, which is excellent and inexpensive, and to buy meaty soup bones – often the shank bones – along with some marrow bones. I use the bones to make stock for soup, and the meat is enough to make 3 – 4 batches of beef soup. We only eat out occasionally. We do buy a little ground pork and a little ground beef chuck, which is not terribly expensive, but probably only eat a pound of each a month. We keep a flock of chickens for eggs, feed them organic feed along with what they scrounge for in the yard, and the eggs are incredibly delicious. The chickens contribute to our gardening and recycling efforts too–very useful! We eat the eggs every day when the hens are laying, usually with greens or broccoli and the apple bacon from Trader Joe’s. And we buy the occasional rotisserie chicken from Costco. And there is a spring-fed trout farm in the area that provides amazing trout and we eat it occasionally. Like other folks have mentioned here, we find that processed meat just does not agree with us, so we avoid it as much as possible. As senior citizens, we do not eat as much as we once did, fortunately, and we are letting the way we feel dictate our eating habits. Organic vegetables from the store taste so much better than non-organic. Our ordinary grocery stores are carrying more and more organic veggies, prices seem to be improving, and I really like supporting their efforts.

  5. I am unconvinced that we should be eating meat at all. The overriding evidence is that we should not but even if organic meat is less harmful the majority of people simply cannot access it and yet articles like this will give the impression that meat is OK. I have grave concerns as to why Mr Kresser keeps pumping meat through his blog

    • That is because meat is OK.

      Unless you feel the need to soak in and believe vegan-biased agendas and feel that meat will make you sick.

      • Not so, you do not want to consume lots of animal meats it clogs the arteries because it’s high in “saturated” fat . Look at the American diet lots of animal meats[ red and pork] .

        And strict Vegans don’t get heart attacks for they don’t consume any “animal” meats as well as fish and chicken which is also wrong . And whole dairy .

        Some saturated fat is good not a lot .That’s were “whole” dairy comes in contrary to popular opinion which has saturated fat and omega’s . check out my blog site [foundation of nutrition the bible] .

        • Well the whole eating saturated fats leads to clogged arteries has been debunked! The studies that this belief was based on was faulty and the processed food companies exploited the data to sell more cereal. The problem is sugar and most grains! Sugar, really glucose, can cause insulin spikes and eventually inflammation in the arteries. The body makes its own cholesterol to try to repair sites of inflammation. (This is basic anatomy/physiology). Why do you think the US has the highest rate of diabetes in the world? A vegan diet is constantly elevating insulin because you need glucose for energy. You are not getting enough fat and can’t be a fat burner for energy. When there’s not enough glucose, your body has to resort to eating its own muscle. That’s not where I want my energy to come from! Marathoners who eat high fat diets have vastly greater stores of energy (fat) than carb eaters who hit a wall early when the glucose runs out. Plus dementia, Alzheimer’s and depression has been on an astronomical rise because the brain is composed largely of fat and it needs fat to be healthy. Well, vegetables are not going to give you that much fat for your brain, and oh yeah, hormone production. You can’t just eat avocados all day– that would be terrible after a couple days!!! And a good steak tastes marvelous and has the iron that I need as a pre-menopause woman!

          • Beth , your right about some things . Vegans do not get enough saturated fat .
            We have the highest rate of sugar diabetes because we consume lots of sugar” refined” carbs [ white bread , pastries , candy, cakes, pop] not from whole grains which have naturally occurring sugar, totally different. Which no one seems to understand . The sugar in an apple, raisins , whole grains , is naturally occurring not the same as the above “refined” carbs I mentioned . No one’s eating fruits / veg , whole grains are you kidding,? but white bread commercial sweets , pork, red meat, skim milk tap water .
            And the brain is made up mostly of fat your right, but it’s primary fuel is” carbs” go check on it .
            And Alzheimers is caused by cooking in [ Teflon aluminum] skillets flat out . The material when heated comes of on the food and when ingested lodges in the brain . It was “unheard” of before the inception of these skillets in the late 70’s to early 80’s . Throw them out, use iron or stainless steal skillets .

        • Michael Clark Duncan, the large black man who starred in “The Green Mile” became a vegetarian in 2009 and a spokesperson for giving up meat. He died at age 54 of a heart attack. I’m sure there are others too.

          • Vegans die of heart disease, cancer and other ailments, just like ordinary mortals. The Internet is awash in unfounded, undocumented claims about the supposed protective effects of a vegan diet. They are just one more element of the vegan mythos, like the claim that the vegan lifestyle causes no animal deaths or environmental impacts.

            • Annie , true strict Vegans do not get heart attacks, nonsense . And cancer is another story you can be vegan and be eating candy , commercial grains , pastries white bread with cancer causing chemicals which causes cancer .
              What about the documented ” numerous large” study’s [Ornish, Pritkin] of people who” reverse” heart disease [ clogged] arteries on meatless diets .

              No vegans don’t get heart attacks but they do have lots of musculo – skeletal problems from eschewing whole dairy which is very important .

              And the American diet is very high in meat products [ hamburgers , steak, roast beef ]and pork [ ham , sausage , kolbasi , bacon , as well as lunch meats [ salami, baloney , chipped ham etc ] .

              • Bill, I am trying to say this diplomatically, but your responses to other commenters consist of blanket, unsubstantiated assertions and logical fallacies. When someone offers a fact that does not fit your viewpoint, your response is accusations/denial — “He was cheating”, “No one’s (sic) eating (fresh fruit and vegetables)”, “Everyone is getting heart attacks.” Your assertions are unsubstantiated and not based on science, and they lack credibility. Vegans DO get heart trouble, strokes, cancer and all the other lethal conditions that lesser mortals do. Please do some research and read something more credible than “Vegan Times”. BTW, how do we know all those “healthy vegans” aren’t cheating? Maybe they are eating some grass-fed beef and wild-caught salmon to get their B12, DHA and omega-3s, but they’d never admit it. Maybe that’s why their numbers look good. That assertion is no less credible than asserting that vegans that are not immortal were cheating.

          • How do you no he wasn’t cheating ?,people are hypocritical all the time saying they don’t take steroids , smoke, but behind close doors is another story . And maybe he just “got started” but it was too late his arteries were clogged . It’s like someone giving up smoking after a long time but the damage was done or irreversable too late, they die of lung cancer .

            And it could have been a heart defect , not attack.

    • #1 reason to eat meat– for the omega 3! AND for enough saturated fats for your brain health, energy, satiation, skin health, hormone health, vitamins and minerals, etc. Vegetables just don’t cut it unless you want to starve your brain and be a sugar-burner because your diet consists of basically glucose from all the carbs you eat! Why do you think the US has the highest numbers of diabetes in the world and the whole low fat recommendations have back-fired majorly? Mainstream medicine is just beginning to see the importance of cholesterol in the diet and eventually will see that high fat is not inflammatory– sugar/carbs are! That’s why cancer is on the rise too. So if you want to take a chance at getting cancer or definitely diabetes, then become a vegan. I’m sticking to my organic meat and dairy. I’ve never felt better, had more energy, been clear-headed, beautiful skin at 49, and lost weight so easy… plus I get decadent desserts that are healthy (It’s called the Ketogenic diet.) Google Maria Emmerich for good info!

      • I’m on the same page, but as I age I wonder if this new sugar thing will be at least somewhat debunked as so many other end all studies over the years have been. The more I read, hear, learn, the more objective I try to be. I know when people preach to me in the latest nutritional definitive’s, I look for an exit. Just consider, not too long ago cigarettes were healthy and avocados where bad.

        • Read the old book “Sugar Blues” and you’ll see the history of sugar and how it took over commerce and trade, and as that happened, people’s health declined dramatically. It’s not just a fad to say that sugar is bad. There is nothing good about white sugar or processed breads or high fructose corn syrups. It’s a fact. Facts don’t change. And I really don’t want to be a part of the market that is responsible for slavery spreading all over the world. Now people are addicted which is another form of slavery!

          • Not saying I don’t buy the sugar thing, but lots of “facts” have changed over the years. Avocado, nuts, fats in general were all bad not too long ago. Those, at the time, were the “facts”. I’m a Paramedic, and the first line drugs for cardiac arrest 20 years ago aren’t even considered now, they have also changed dramatically. Not saying your wrong, but is it really the poison some of the literature and documentaries make it out to be?

        • Rick, I understand where you’re coming from. I suggest that you might want to take a look at the westonaprice.org site. Dr. Price was essentially saying much of what you hear from people like Chris based upon his research. Chris, of course, add a great deal of new research results to what he presents.

      • Right on, Beth!
        I’m into LCHF (low carb high fat) myself, and never felt better, started a year ago, mainly for sports performance and general health. Meat & fish is part of my diet, although I eat protein in moderation.
        A friend of mine, has been active all his life, but had a poor diet (pizza, pasta, hot dogs, sodas, sweets). He had a heart attack at 60, his doctor recommended a vegan diet. After 2 years as a vegan he had another heart event. Hmmmm.

        • I’m sorry to hear about your friend Eva. My stepfather was put on statins and low-fat everything for high cholesterol and ended up getting cancer three different times, the last which took him 3 years ago. Had I known that his diet was basically sugar to his body and sugar grows tumors, I could have kept him here with us!!! I don’t know how many nutritionists in the past have recommended low fat and it’s never, ever helped anyone I’ve known… it’s only hurt them.

    • That’s interesting and a good point. I would love to hear more on why you don’t think we should be eating meat because I mostly feel the same way 🙂

      • Reasons why we should eat meat (in my opinion in moderation): our humans stomach acid, our canine/cuspid teeth and digestive enzymes (protease/peptidase) to break down meat protein. Otherwise why would God put them there-just for the heck of it?

        • Well if you’re going to rely on the god-myth, yes, he just put them there…in a fit of whimsy. Same reason dinosuar bones arethere to confuse and bemuse us into not believing in him.

          Those things are present due to evolution, not becuase God designed us to eat meat.

    • Overriding evidence???????
      You sound like the brainwashed global warming idiots who think “cow farts cause climate change. I was a vegetarian for 10 yrs and it made me sick, so I started eating meat again.You can’t get enough B12 from vegetables and meat is the best source of that along with other nutrients.I don’t see any good alternative holistic drs advocating a vegetarian diet .So please don’t worry yourself over Dr Kesser’s recommendations.

    • Alas, I hear you. As I’ve done my own research over the years, I’ve noticed people tend to lean towards studies/information that suits there own bias. I’ve seen about a dozen documentaries on Netflix on the food industry and I would contend that there is no such animal (pun intended) as a completely unbiased objective documentary on food. As we have seen over the years, what’s the new definitive today is tomorrows myth. I don’t preach food to anyone if for no other reason than it’s too subjective. I’m a Paramedic/Fireman in Miami, Fl and most of the people I see are elderly. The only thing I see that seems to be consistent is the healthiest geriatrics are those who are active and take few to no medications. Bottom line, the older I get, the more amused I get when people think they’ve got the answer. None of this was to belittle your position, just my 2 cents.

    • I have yet to hear credible, non-emotion based arguments to eat no meat at all. Care to try your hand at it? I’m willing to be convinced…but remember no emotional pleas.

      • Grassfed meat is great, but isn’t the consequence of more people eating grassfed meat that we all need to cut down on meat in general? It just is not possible for everyone to have meat every day and it being grassfed, unfortunately there is not enough land…

        • I’m by no mean educated on this question, but in my opinion, it takes a really big piece of land to grow all the grains one cow will eat in its life.

        • This is a common misconception. First, all beef starts out grass-fed. At some point, the cattle are then moved into feedlots to “fatten up” for market. Beef can graze on land that is totally unsuitable for agriculture — think of the land in grazing leases in the US. This is what the “plant-based” crowd does not tell you. Grassland ecosystem that cannot support crop agriculture without massive amounts of irrigation and chemical inputs has been destroyed for crop farming. This is how the US lost 97% of its prairie, which used to support millions of bison. That land is now planted in wheat, soy (95% of which in the US is GM soy) and similar crops, which only grow by pumping down fossil-water aquifers for irrigation in areas that are naturally arid, and by copious use of chemical fertilizers derived from petroleum. The production of those fertilizers, BTW, causes the release of large amounts of CO2. Then, there are the problems associated with monocropping in these areas. The devastation to the environment and to wildlife has been mind-boggling. Likewise, rainforest acreage (which, despite its diversity, has soils unsuitable for crop farming) has been, and is still being, destroyed to grow vegetable crops. Much of it is destroyed by slash-and-burn techniques that pollute the air and cause untold suffering for wildlife. So, as is the case with our current production of oversized chickens, both cattle and humans would be healthier with smaller, grass-fed cows. And the problem with the amount of meat Americans eat is the same as with the amount of everything else we eat. We need to get out of the “super-size me” mentality. Part of our overconsumption of all foods may be that we are overfed and undernourished. There are people in the US that are quite obese, and eat 3000+ calories a day, yet they have numerous vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

          • @AnnieLaurie Burke
            You also might want to add that some very recent research but UC (Stanford I believe) and backed up by a few other university researchers and some actual field trials in California, another western state (Nev., New Mexico, and/or Arizona) and several places in Africa shows that proper beef herd grazing practices actually does 2 amazing things…

            One that I think you alluded to, restoration of the soil for future crop use and the other is that if all of the beef raised in the world were raised using proper grazing and was only pastured (no grain based feedlots) that the world’s atmospheric CO2 concentration would drop to the pre-industrial revolution levels within 5 years.

            • Chris recently linked to a series of articles by Diana Rodgers on this very topic: http://chriskresser.com/eat-meat-just-source-it-sustainably/

              People that blame the rise in atmospheric CO2 on cows seem to forget that, up until about 200 years ago, there were vast herds of wild ruminants on several continents, happily foraging on grass and similar browse, and digesting it by the same process as modern cattle, with no CO2 spikes.

      • Boregard , Are you kidding,? how about America ?,we consume tons of red meat [ steak , hamburgers , roast beef ] and pork [ ham, bacon, sausage ] lunch meats [ baloney , salami , chipped ham, kolbasi ] and everyone is having heart attacks and way overweight .
        Refined carbs [ white bread, candy bars, pastries, doughnuts, cakes , pop ] etc is full of refined table sugar which causes sugar diabetes . No one is eating whole grains fruit/ veg as well as whole dairy which is very important actually prevents heart attacks and has omega’s and saturated fat which you need but not a lot .

        And again there are numerous study’s of heart disease [ clogged] arteries being reversed thru low fat [ meatless] diets Pritkin , Ornish . check out my blog site foundation of nutrition the bible .

        • I think boregard asked for a “credible” argument? Yours is not credible. “Everyone” is not having heart attacks. In fact, CVD rates have been declining, despite the trainwreck that is the Standard American Diet. “From 2001 to 2011, the death rate from heart disease has fallen about 39
          percent …” (American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/idc/groups/ahamah-public/@wcm/@sop/@smd/documents/downloadable/ucm_470704.pdf). And, while LFHC diets have been successful in treating degenerative conditions, there is a large number of people whose conditions were reversed by following HFLC diets, such as Paleo, and specifically switching their red meat intake to grass-fed. The difference since the onset of the obesity epidemic is not meat, but sugar, refined seed oils (and transfats, which were promoted as “healthy” for quite a while), refined grain products, and a large increase in average caloric intake. So, at least part of your reply is accurate. We could all gain more from these discussions by refraining from subjective assertions, such as “everyone is doing x”, or “y (natural) food is BAD!” Perhaps we could share facts and sources, and help one another make more informed, science-based dietary decisions.

    • If meat is so bad, how do you explain communities like the Maasai or the Inuit whose traditional diets consist largely of meat, dairy, and/or seafood, and who have been extensively studied and found to be free from the degenerative diseases so prevalent in industrialized countries? Meat is not bad for you, and I have never seen any convincing evidence to the contrary. Studies that purport to show negative effects from eating meat rarely take into consideration that the average person is not eating meat by itself – rather, it is cooked in rancid oils, slathered with condiments full of sugar and chemicals, on a bun made from refined grains and more chemicals and rancid oils, with a side of fries cooked in more rancid oil, and washed down with chemical-laden flavored sugar water (soda). Please show me the studies that control for those factors and demonstrate ill effects from eating organic and grass-fed meats, and then we’ll talk. In addition to omega-3’s, which others mentioned, meat is one of the best sources of zinc and CoQ10 in the average person’s diet, and therefore I don’t think it’s a good idea for people to eat less of it.

      • Right On Laurel! There are a few studies that have segregated the meat from the stuff that you mention. In general the results are improved health and longevity from eating high quality meats.

        Even one of the older and more famous studies on ‘heart attacks’ that showed that eating saturated fats (esp. from meat) led to greater rate of heart attacks was reanalyzed. The results were amusing. On of the reasons why those eating meat were experiencing more heart attacks is that, unlike the others, they were living through the heart attacks! Death from all cause mortality was also quite a bit lower for those eating meat.

    • my son has a sulfite allergy.

      He reacts to sufites in foods aswell as the sulfur containing amino acids in particular methionine. I believe it is because he has a deficiency in the enzyme sulfur oxidase which helps turn sulfites to sulfate which is safe in the body. I believe the deficiency is because of the high amount of sulfites in our diet. It has been extremely hard for me to get him to eat any meat or fish. When I looked up foods that are low in methionine I found these are most of the foods he eats and foods that are high he avoids. Animal products are high in methionine. Meat is very high. I know our bodies need methionine. But I am trying to keep sulfites out of his diet and increase the enzyme sulfur oxidase so he will be able to process more meats in the future.

      If you are interested see these two websites:

      http:www.beatcfsandfms.org/html/Sulfides.html

      http://www.alamoasthma.com/sulfite.shtml

      Anyone with a sulfite allergy what helped alot with my son was know its in the cream of tartar in baking powder (so therefore in Self raising flour). It’s in dairy in glucose syrups (ice-cream, lollies, icing), in gelatin (in cream). In brown sugar (in the molasses), in icing sugar ( in the starch to stop clumping)

      To help with baking 1 cup of unbleached plainflour and 1/2 teaspoon of bi-carb and 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon/lime juice equals 1 cup of plainflour. (lemon/lime juice concentrates contain sulfites)

      Cheers Theresa (from Australia)

  6. I live outside the USA in the Philippines and we have imported beef from Australia, and at a minimal. Mostly here is chicken and pork. I asked the meat market for some beef liver, NO beef pork or chicken only. Organic ? HUH ! ha ha no. We are now getting some organic vegetables but expensive isn’t the way I would express the prices lets just say I pay less for my rent per month.

  7. Best deal I find on grass-fed beef is shank steaks. They make a great crockpot stew.

    Salt and brown steaks or other bone-in beef in frying pan and throw in pot.
    Deglaze pan with dark beer and pour in pot too.
    Add chopped onions, celery and carrots and 1-2 whole gloves garlic, not chopped.
    Top off pot with filtered water.
    Cook on low in crock pot for some hours until meat is falling apart.
    Add salt and pepper to taste.
    Serve with rice, pasta, potato, plantain, yuca or whatever other starch side you want.

    I do pretty much the same thing with a whole chicken, most little bones removed, though I add a can of peeled tomatoes and use white wine instead of beer. It’s great with orzo when you cook the orzo right in the stew itself.

    My recipe for Bolognese is about the same but the veg are chopped up fine and no garlic! and don’t actually “brown” the ground meat, just get it cooked. I love it with orecchiette which is finished cooking for the last minute or two in the sauce and left so al dente that’s it’s almost crunchy.

    Always avoid “enriched” pasta, just look for organic semolina durum.

  8. I’m really shocked at how many exceptions there are – only 30% organic feed? Can be feed whatever up to 120 days before slaughter? etc…

    And the fact that these expense of a farmer going organic comes mostly from administrative fees to the USDA! No wonder this system is so broken.

    • That’s RIGHT… and is truly the conversation we should be having. The system being broken. We are talking about minor details here and not the bigger picture.

      I think eating animal products is important and a part of our human evolution. Dr. Weston A. Price sought out cultures in the 1930s/40s and couldn’t find a single one that was thriving that didn’t have some animal products in their diet.

      These cultures however lived symbiotically with the land, their animals were in the most optimal living conditions, they ate animal products as a ritual and gave thanks for the life-force it gave, and they used every part of the animal as to not allow for waste. And there is more to their story of health.

      I commend Chris for his articles, they are focused and very well researched. One shouldn’t look at one article alone, because each article is telling a very small piece of the entire picture of gaining and maintaining optimal health. If you read more of his articles, you notice that he talks about how each person is different and what works for one may not work for another. You’ll notice he talks a lot about the mind/body/spirit axis of health and includes topics on stress, microbiome, household toxicity and detoxification, epigenetics, cooking methods, community support, water, vegetables, healthy ecosystems, exercise/movement, mindfulness practices, testing, spending time in nature and oh so much more. he also invites loads of guests onto his podcasts to help elaborate the broader view of where “healthcare” is going so it’s not just his voice or his research. I urge anyone having a “beef” (pun intended) with this article and with eating meat in general, take some time to explore the libraries.

    • Right Dairy Free Creamer. Some NIH reports show that only 90 days of grain feeding can ‘wipe out’ any benefit of grass feeding.

  9. To me… Grass fed, grass finished if possible, organic also when possible. But THE most important thing is that the animal was fairly and humanly treated. My priority.
    Peace,
    Disa

    • This is not usually the case, Disa. The animals are treated very poorly. Having a small organic farm, that might have the ability to be humane is nearly impossible in this country!!!

      • That’s not true Ruth. There are a number of places in the small town where I live that have meat from small farms that are ethical. And US Wellness meats ships anywhere in the US. Vital Choice Seafood is another good company. The more we support this, the more farmers will enter into sustainable and ethical farming. That’s already happening. For some reason everyone thinks that every animal was meant to be domesticated like a pet instead of a food source. It’s a good thing animals don’t believe that or they’d all be extinct!

          • So all I have to do is eat dead animals and my hashimotos will be all cured!!!! I’ve only been vegetarian for the past 7 months. Meat eater for nearly 60 years. If I eat meat and feel badly about it, I’m sure this wouldn’t help me one bit! I’ve said this for years” if I had to kill something, just to eat the meat, I’d be a vegetarian” yes it’s emotional. I don’t want to contribute to killing anything. I’m not here to decide which animals are here for food and which are here for pets! Hey, they eat dogs in China-they skin them alive. I do not believe my health depends on eating animals. I did that for a long time and it made no difference in my health!

            • I have a feeling that the sugar content of your food will negatively affect your Hashimotos more than the proteins. But if you really hate meat, then I know Maria Emmerich offers suggestions to vegetarians who want to become Ketogenic (high fat, low protein/low carb) and that diet does seem to help with an incredible number of dis-eases. Coconut being a great source of healthy MCT oil (great for people like me who lost their gallbladder due to autoimmune problems!). And there are a network of small, organic farms selling their meat across the country. The Weston A. Price Foundation has links on their website to many of those farmers. Just because you weren’t aware of this, doesn’t mean they don’t exist! 😉

            • Ruth, you are sadly deluding yourself if you think a vegan diet does not contribute to animal deaths. Whereas omnivores can’t avoid being aware of the impact their meat eating has on the animals they consume, the much slower and more painful deaths inflicted on animals by plant food production is perhaps not so obvious. I am not going to repeat what I replied to another commenter on this thread, but do a little research and confront the environmental impact of producing plant crops. It is far more severe if you do not eat organic. However, even the production of organic plant foods takes its toll on animals and on the environment as a whole.

    • I agree with you, Disa, I can’t always to get afford organic-only meats, but if nothing else my top things that being antibiotic-free and definitely cruelty-free brand (and if not organic, b/c of that I usually look for it to be as minimally-processed as possible).

    • I was under the impression that organic would mean fed organic grains…although not as desirable as grass finished. ….but still better than GMO.

    • No, you misread her….’organic’ is exactly what it means no regulatory food body (FDA or whatever equivalent in other countries/nations have) can let a food company, especially when it relates to meats to slap ‘organic’ on their labels unless they meet all the requirements to do so. And that top requirement above all else is that no GMO in any process from source to shelf.

  10. Thank you for this valuable information, but I personally cannot tolerate poultry or beef anymore… and I have always purchased organic. Something must have changed over the past few years with regard to how the animals are raised or what they are being fed because 30 minutes within ingesting either one now, I become violently ill. Anyone else experience this as well?

    • You may be on to something. I have noticed some changes in the appearance, “cookability”, and digestibility of certain foods. With meat, this mainly seems to affect chicken. I am not sure about turkey, as I don’t eat it any longer — modern turkeys are likely the most unnatural animal man has ever bred. I used to bake or roast chicken — the skin was thin and browned nicely. I’d leave the skin on — it was one of the few overtly “fatty” foods I ever liked. Now, the skin is very thick and it DOES NOT BROWN. I cooked some organic chicken pieces (small thighs) recently on a rack for over 2 hours, starting at 350 degrees and going up to 400. The skin barely changed color; it was not crisp, but was rather stiff and grease-logged. I was amazed at the volume of grease in the pan from 3 small thighs. I got nauseous from eating one piece w/skin on, so took it off the other two. Beef never bothers me, but I favor the lean cuts cooked rare, and never use ground or tenderized (“bladed”) meat. Lamb is also no problem. Fatty foods where the fat is incorporated throughout the food (not mainly in the skin), like nuts, cheese, salmon, avocado, and coconut meat, don’t have this effect. I know that chickens are now considerably larger than those of 25-30 years ago, and bred to mature faster than they used to, so I wonder if there have been other physiological changes to the animals as this has occurred. I’ve also grown far less tolerant of cured meats. I have never used much of them, and only organic, but they seem a lot greasier and harder to digest than they used to be. Possibly the modern smoking/curing process has changed? There is so much we don’t know about the handling/processing our food undergoes, even if we buy and use minimally “processed” items.

      • So glad to hear I’m not alone on this…yes, I also notice I have to keep raising the oven temperature now when cooking chicken for my family…but even so, it still does not cook the “same” as it did several years ago…and the texture is also completely different. Such a mystery.

    • I found local farmer, from where we buy pasture-raise chickens from. They don’t look, or taste, like organic chickens in the supermarkets. First of all, they are much smaller, and skin is a lot thinner. They look how chickens should look like. Skin browns nicely, and it’s a pleasure to eat it. I can’t say that, about organic chicken….

        • Pasture-raised is not the same is organic.

          HFAC’s Certified Humane® “Pasture Raised” requirement is 1000 birds per 2.5 acres (108 sq. ft. per bird) and the fields must be rotated. The hens must be outdoors year-round, with mobile or fixed housing where the hens can go inside at night to protect themselves from predators, or for up to two weeks out of the year, due only to very inclement weather. All additional standards must be met.

      • @Katrina and others
        At my daughters request, I bought three butchered, frozen, pastured chickens at a health foods store so that she could make a large batch of chicken stew. When she saw the size of the bird that I had bought, she said that I needed to get more chicken. Since the health foods store was a 60 mile round trip, I went to the local market and bought a Tyson chicken.

        When I saw her again, she told me that she threw out the Tyson chicken and just decided that less chicken was a better option. She further explained that when she pulled out the organs from the chickens she realized that the organs from the Tyson chicken were ‘sick looking.’ She also stated that as she washed the birds off before placing in the pot, that the Tyson chicken ‘felt slimy’ no matter what she did. Of course there was a ‘ton of fat’ packed with the Tyson bird too.

        • Good for your daughter to discover the less-is-more option! I’ve found that, as I have transitioned to wild-caught, sustainably-raised, and similarly-sourced animal products, I am eating less meat, but getting more benefits (including better flavor) from it. When some commenters have stated they think that such animal products are “too expensive” for most folks, perhaps they are not taking into account that people can be satisfied with a smaller portion of a food that is better-tasting and more nutritious. I have seen comments from people on a number of blogs indicating that their experience has been similar to mine. Yet, on the rare occasions I eat out, it seems the smallest steak one can order in most restaurants is an 8-ounce portion. That would easily make two meals for me. Restaurants in general, not just fast-food types, still seem caught up in the “super-size-me” mentality, which certainly doesn’t help our national obesity crisis.

    • What are you eating with your meat? Also, your age can have a factor. If 50 and older, your digestive system changes. If your a woman in menopause (hormone changes and fluctuations), or are you taking prescribed Rx’s that could be playing havoc on your digestive system.

    • This comment is in reply to Katrina who says she cannot tolerate chicken or beef – because 30 minutes within ingesting either one now, she becomes violently ill.

      What are you eating with your meat? Also, your age can have a factor. If 50 and older, your digestive system changes. If your a woman in menopause (hormone changes and fluctuations), or are you taking prescribed Rx’s that could be playing havoc on your digestive system.

      Do you cook your meat in soy or canola oil? If so, change to high heat olive or avocado oil. I slow cook my chicken cutlets in a ceramic coated frying pan with coconut oil.

      Also do what Dr. Kresser suggested – ask were the meat is coming from.

      Also, have you purchased your meat, both chicken and beef from the same market over the past years? If so, why not try buying it at a different market to see what happens?

  11. Anna, many of the “cheaper” cuts of meat are actually lower in fat than the pricier ones. The more expensive ones are usually more costly because of the high degree of “marbling”, i. e., fat, which makes them (supposedly) more tender and flavorful. I personally don’t care for the taste of fatty cuts, so have always favored the leaner stuff like flank steak. The tenderness issue is often a matter of proper preparation (and, NO, I do NOT mean overcooking). The Mayo clinic notes the leanest cuts as eye of round, top round, top sirloin (and others), and advises “ Choose cuts that are graded “Choice” or “Select” instead of “Prime,” which usually has more fat.” Prime is also more expensive. They also note “Choose cuts with the least amount of …marbling”. And please note that Angus is not always grass-fed or organic. It’s just the name of a breed. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/cuts-of-beef/art-20043833

  12. We are more fortunate here in the US Pacific NW (greater Seattle-Puget Sound Area) for access to grass-fed, organic and sustainably-produced red meat and chicken. I always opt for grass-fed and/or organic on those meats. Then, we are also blessed with an abundance of wild-caught fish and sustainably-raised seafood. Yes, there is somewhat of a price premium, but, as my dear Mom (a farm girl whose family raised all their meat and veggies organically before it became a concern, and who lived to be 96 despite a trauma that precipitated her early deterioration) used to say, “I’d rather pay the grocer than the doctor”. And, we’d all do better by reducing our overall calorie intake — that silly “super-size me” approach surely does not help us improve health and longevity, nor help our food budgets. It’s sad that some parts of the US, particularly some urban areas, have more limited access to healthful, sustainably-produced food, animal and plant. As long as our USDA has a two-pronged mission, the elements of which are diametrically opposed, I fear that won’t change. BTW, thank you, Chris, for your great summary of what the organic label really means in terms of livestock husbandry.

  13. Personally, I don’t think the price of organic meat is worth it at all. It’s so close to the price of grass-fed or pastured that I don’t buy any organic-only beef or pork. Even the price or antibiotic-free pork which is not even organic is close to pastured organic pork! I do buy organic chicken though but I just can’t seem to find any pastured chicken around here. But, seriously, all in all, I would say that what drives my buying decisions the most is the taste. I don’t even buy organic eggs because omega 3 eggs taste better. (and the yolk is so much bigger)

    • Coccinelle,

      Please check the 2nd link I submitted with my comment earlier:

      http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

      There you will find the many ways that grass-fed meat far exceeds grain-fed meat in nutritional analysis, from omega-3 content to CLA, to vitamin E, B, and D. I’m talking about getting 4 times as much nutrients from the grass fed meat. There is often a huge difference in what you get for you money, buying organic. It’s almost a no-brainer not to.

      So if you are taking any of these nutrients as supplements, you might find the cost difference of eating organic meat might be more than paid for by what you can save on supplements.

      Moreover, grain-fed meats tend to have way higher levels of E-coli contaminating them. And when they look at how much of the E-coli can survive in your digestive tract, grass-fed beef delivers so little that none can survive in you, whereas a dangerous level still survives from grain-fed meats. This could be due to the anti-biotic resistance that the grain-fed E-coli develop. If they can survive commercial anti-biotics, then they can survive your innate immune system’s antibiotic methods. That is part of the battle that goes on in your colon. Your healthy microbes try to use their own anti-biotics to wipe out E-coli. When you eat a lot of resistant germs, they persist better in that battle. Not what we want happening day after day in our gut.

      Best of health,

      Glenn

      • Glenn, Thank you very much for this explanation. It opened up my consciousness to be able to understand the microbiology of the gut, etc..

      • I think you completely missed the point of my post. I was trying to say that organic ONLY is not worth it. I know that grass-fed is better. But if I buy organic meat, it’s 99,9% of the times grain fed. That’s what I don’t like about organic ONLY. I hope I’m clearer. English is not my first language.

        • Great point Coccinelle! In, probably most parts of, the US cattle must be supplied with supplemental feed at some times during the year (this is especially true in locations such as Idaho where I live). It is important that this supplemental feed be ‘certified organic.’ However, as you are pointing out, a producer could be feeding their cattle organic grain!

          There are several studies, even on the NIH site, that show that feed grain to cattle for a little as 30 days will just about destroy the nutrition content of the resulting meat.

          So yes, you are absolutely right that it is vital that your source does not grain feed their cattle.

      • I spent a little time trying to find some supporting evidence for the claims made in this link. I didn’t have much luck. Yolk color appears to be a function of diet. While there is evidence that too much Omega-3s in the diet may not be a good thing, there doesn’t seem to be any such evidence for flaxseed-fed chicken eggs (note that I’m not suggesting that you aren’t much better off eating pastured chicken eggs).

        Posting that Omega-3 eggs aren’t healthy without having any real evidence for the claim isn’t helpful.

        • Mark, in addition it seems that a ratio of 1:1 to 5:1 (6 to 3) is best for health (favoring the lower end). Unless your only source of omega fats was the eggs, I can’t imagine how you could go below 1:1 ratio.

      • I’m sceptic. Maybe I’m wrong but big orange yolks seems better to me than small pale yellow ones instinctually.

    • If you are not already sourcing locally, you might be able to find a small farmer in your area where you can buy meat (usually as a half or whole animal, sometimes a quarter) for far less than in grocery stores. The organic, pasture-raised meat I buy is very close to the average price of high-quality conventional meat bought in the grocery store. This way I also support my local economy.

      • The meat I buy comes from the most local farm I could find. I could buy it directly from the farm but there it’s not much lower in price and I have to pay shipping. I can’t buy half an animal because we don’t have the space for that. Thanks for your tips though!

  14. I was wondering why there was no mention of omega-6 differences between organic and non-organic, CAFO meats. I looked up some articles I had saved and it turns out there is little difference in how much omega-6 shows up in meat, regardless of how it is raised.

    So the omega-6 content is not of concern, in case there were others curious about this. There is usually very slightly more omega-6 also, in organic (or at least grass fed) meats. But due to a MUCH higher level of omega-3 always in grass fed meat, the ratio between these two essential nutrients is always better in grass fed meat, and therefore probably in organic meats.

    Table 2 in this meta-analysis gives the details, and shows the resulting o-6:o-3 ratios that resulted in several different studies:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2846864/

    The o-6:o-3 ratio can drop from as high as 13:1 down to 3:1 for some mixed cattle when comparing grain fed vs grass fed.

    A study on Hereford steers showed only 3:1 for grain fed, with 1.5:1 for grass fed. These were the extremes.

    Also, it turns out that in regard to certain nutrients like vitamin E and beta-carotene, fresh grass is far superior to hay made from the same grass. Much is lost in the drying process:

    http://www.eatwild.com/healthbenefits.htm

    Glenn

    • Hi Glenn,

      The omega-6 difference is more relevant between grass-fed and grain-fed meats, rather than organic vs. conventional. As you know, some organic meats (if not most) can still be mostly or entirely grain-fed, which means their omega-6 content not be that different.

      I covered the omega-6/omega-3 ratio difference in grass-fed vs. grain-fed animals here: http://chriskresser.com/why-grass-fed-trumps-grain-fed/

      The primary difference, even then, is not omega-6 content; it’s a higher omega-3 content in the grass-fed animals.

    • No, the grain portion of the diet (all of the diet) must be organic to label the meat organic, as Chris notes in the article. Organic cannot contain GM grains.

  15. This is one of the best and concisely comprehensive assessments on this topic!. Thank you for this information.
    I have been buying organic chicken for some time now as well as angus or organic meat and recently more of grass-fed. Good to know that the typically deemed lower cuts of meat like chuck would be considered healthy as well…though do they contain more saturated fat? Also, would love to have read a comparison to Angus beef.

    • Anna, my reply to you did not show up under your question, but jumped to the top of the comments. Please check it out for some info on fatty vs. lean cuts.

    • Anna, Angus is a breed of beef. The overwhelming majority of Angus beef is from confinement feed lots complete with about anything bad that can exist in beef. There are ranchers that produce pastured, grass-fed, grass-finished beef but you do have to look for them. The Angus beef in your supermarket is no better for you than the other beef.

[if lte IE 8]
[if lte IE 8]