Friday, 29 April 2016

Pasture-raised, Free range, and Grass-fed: Clarifying Confusing Terms in Animal Husbandry

There exists a broad array of confusing terms surrounding meat and dairy not grown on conventional factory farms. Among these include pasture-fed, grass-fed, and free range. Often, one hears of the virtues of consuming meat, dairy, and eggs, ranging from health benefits to ethical concerns.

Unlike organic produce, animal product labels are not as well regulated. Hence, there is a very real danger of them being co-opted by less scrupulous individuals to mislabel deliberately their products to imply that they were a lot more humane than they actually are. In general, however, the terms are understood to refer to a number of practices on raising the animals widely considered best practice among animal-welfare advocates.

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Free range refers to a method of raising animals that have them periodically go outdoors. This implies a lot of things but often farmers simply let the animals roam for part of the day and leave it at that. Some free-range animals are pasture-fed, which refers to animals raised outdoors all their lives allowing them to feed on food they foraged for themselves.

In the case of grazing animals like cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens, this can be partially synonymous with grass-fed. Pigs, meanwhile, are not grazers, and should appropriately be labeled with pasture-raised.

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Grass-fed animals, however, do not have to be raised outdoors as their pasture-raised counterparts. Likewise, in places with heavy winter, pasture-fed animals are fed an assortment of foods such as grain. Certain animal products may be labeled grass-fed but actually, come from animals that have eaten grass up until the last three months of their lives, upon which they are “finished” with grain to increase their weight.

Geoffrey Morell and P.A. Bowen Farmstead are dedicated to raising grass-based livestock to produce both high quality meat and fine artisan raw cheese. Visit this website for more on the farm and its products.