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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We have an extremely tight budget. I can get local grass-fed beef, and the HFS has pastured chicken, but I wouldn't be able to afford anything else if I bought these. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br>
So here's the question. At the local grocery store, I'm able to get "natural" beef and chicken. The packages say that there are no antibiotics, no growth hormones, and fed a vegetarian diet. Is this at least better than conventional?
 

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Yes! My MIL is taking the Traditional Foods Nutritional Therapy coursework right now (she graduates this spring!!!) and she said that one of the things they teach is to use the "Better Than" approach. Can't get the locally pastured beef/chicken? Get the "natural" beef/chicken because it's "Better Than" feedlot/caged poultry. We have to use the "Better Than" method frequently ourselves...you're not alone!
 

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I agree it's better than conventional, and we have to use it a lot as well.<br><br><br>
I do have to say, I doubt the natural beef at the supermarket is cows that ever seen daylight or grazed on green grass, and I doubt the chicken ever perused grassy areas with ample worms and bugs, but we too, have been going with it lately.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Cassandra M.</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7273767"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I do have to say, I doubt the natural beef at the supermarket is cows that ever seen daylight or grazed on green grass, and I doubt the chicken ever perused grassy areas with ample worms and bugs, but we too, have been going with it lately.</div>
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Actually, conventional beef is usually born and grazed on open range (not necessarily high quality green pasture, mostly getting just whatever they can forage on the rancher's land or cheap-lease public-owned rangeland, and supplemented with hay), then the last few months before slaughter are spent on a feedlot, which is usually at least open air (but very crowded and foul, nonetheless). Cows don't do well at all in permanent confinement, which is why they can't get away with keeping them cooped up for their whole lives, only for a relatively short period at the end to fatten them. During that time in the feedlot, there's a lot of disease, their digestive systems are incredibly stressed by being fed high amounts of "concentrate" feeds (meaning more concentrated calorie sources than grass and hay, like corn, soy, waste from food processing, parts of other animals ground up, etc.). "Natural" beef is the same (started on range, finished on feedlot) except if they say no hormones, no abx, only vegetarian feed then those aspects would be different. I agree it's a better choice than conventional beef.<br><br>
Pigs and chickens raised for meat conventionally <i>are</i> confined from day one until slaughter, usually inside, no sunlight, being fed processed feed complete with drugs (although they can't legally give hormones to chickens, only abx). "Natural" chicken is still fully confined. Even "free range" chicken is fully confined in actuality. Personally, I'd choose the natural beef fed no animal by-products over the natural chicken, because at least it spent some portion of its life living somewhat close to how a cow should, the same can't be said for chicken or pork. If you like lamb, it may be an even better choice, I've read they're confined for a shorter finishing period than beef and have the same type of early life on range.<br><br>
Personally, I'd choose no meat over any meat from an animal that spent even part of its life in a CAFO, because I'm so horrified by that system, but I realize that's easy for me to say since I have a great source for fully grassfed beef and lamb. If I felt the meat was necessary for my family's health and it was "natural" beef or none, I'd choose that beef. Kinda sucks that choices are so limited in many areas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Conventional chickens definitely have a sad, sad life. I know there was a local ND who came to my yoga class in college and told us about how the chickens are stacked in cages 5 or 6 rows high for their lifetimes. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br>
The local grass-fed beef also seems to be finished up with grain (probably partly due to our climate...no grass in the winter), so at least it sounds like natural beef isn't too bad compared. And I thought I had heard before that lamb is pastured longer, though I've only been able to find conventional lamb (no "natural" or organic) so I've never bought any. I may be able to get my hands on some wild-caught venison so that will be helpful. But the good stuff is just too far out of reach for our budget after buying organic produce, raw milk and raw milk products, and organic grains.<br><br>
Good to know on the preference for the natural beef over chicken. We don't make much chicken anyway so maybe I can find a better source for that occasional indulgence and just focus on the natural beef for now.<br><br>
It really is all in balancing what's better, isn't it? <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> I have to not kill myself over not being able to follow NT perfectly since that's just not possible right now, and just go with what's better for us at this time. I thank you for your help with this question!
 

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Very interesting...I didn't know all of that.<br><br>
Conventional dairy cows don't see daylight though, right? How do they survive if meat cows cannot? Abx and growth hormones?
 

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Yes, it is about doing the best that we can (with traditional eating) without driving ourselves crazy. I just try to make the best choices within my budget too. Sometimes I wonder why it is seems so hard to eat traditionally, when part of the beauty of traditional eating (for those in traditional socities) was that they made use of what they had.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Cassandra M.</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7275644"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Very interesting...I didn't know all of that.<br><br>
Conventional dairy cows don't see daylight though, right? How do they survive if meat cows cannot? Abx and growth hormones?</div>
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They do see daylight, they are just very concentrated in confinement. They are typically fed a very high-protein concentrated diet to make sure they can produce the amount of milk they make.<br><br>
Gotta run! More later.
 

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I would go for the lamb ( I can get that even in the supermarket for not very much...often is goes on sale for like $1.99 a pound) and it is mostly ( if not completely) grassfed)<br>
Also, eat more fish...I can get frozen wild fish for not too much<br>
And then learn to stretch meat...One soup chicken ( pastured, $8 from our raw milk farm) feeds our family of 4 for 2-3 meals.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Cassandra M.</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7275644"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Conventional dairy cows don't see daylight though, right? How do they survive if meat cows cannot? Abx and growth hormones?</div>
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Let me point out I'm not a farmer, so whatever I say is based on my own observations and reading about animal agriculture, it's just a topic I tend to pay attention to, both because I plan to get a family cow and I'm interested in animal agriculture in general.<br><br>
Dairy cattle are managed differently than beef and can withstand different pressures, because they've been bred differently and the production goal is different, that being to produce large volumes of milk rather than build muscle quickly. RbGH, the hormone given to some dairy cows (not all conventional farmers use it) is intended to increase milk production, and arguably shortens the cow's lives, it's not therapeutic in any way. They do get abx pretty commonly, and those given rbGH often end up on more abx than normal because they're more prone to mastitis. I can't speak for other states with harsher winters, but here in CA most conventional dairy cows are outside even in winter, except during milking, but they're in dirt lots, not green pastures. (There are <i>some</i> of those "happy cows" here in CA like they show in the cheese commercials, but they're the minority for sure.) They usually have some shelter available, but the pens are too small for the number of cows in them to grow any grass, and they're standing in manure most of the time. I've read that in colder states, the cows spend most of the time indoors in the winter, under a variety of different management methods, some cows are loose in a large barn with lots of other cows, some are tied up or in small individual stalls.<br><br>
They don't survive long typically, under the common methods used these days. They start to get sick and lame from biologically inappropriate feed, too much time spent standing in wet manure or on hard concrete, etc., and if that happens their milk production suffers so they're "culled" (sent to slaughter, I think mostly culled dairy cows end up as ground beef or in non-human-food products). I believe the average life span of a conventional dairy cow is 2 or 3 lactations, which would mean 5 years or less. I know that some people who defend modern dairy practices say the cows are pampered because otherwise they don't produce well, but there's a difference between giving a cow enough volume of feed to maintain body condition and giving them <i>appropriate</i> feed, as well as a difference between treating them with drugs when they're sick as long as it's financially beneficial to do so (rather than replace the cow) and managing them in such a way as to maintain true health. A cow managed in a more natural manner, on pasture, not fed the processed feeds designed to push milk production to the limit, can live a healthy life and produce good milk for 12 to 15 years or so.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>Tcarwyn</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7280466"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I would go for the lamb ( I can get that even in the supermarket for not very much...often is goes on sale for like $1.99 a pound) and it is mostly ( if not completely) grassfed)<br>
Also, eat more fish...I can get frozen wild fish for not too much<br>
And then learn to stretch meat...One soup chicken ( pastured, $8 from our raw milk farm) feeds our family of 4 for 2-3 meals.</div>
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Neither DH nor I like fish, so that is not an option for us.<br><br>
Are you talking about conventional lamb? Because again, I have never seen natural nor organic lamb.<br><br>
I'm impressed you can get a pastured chicken that cheaply! I can get a 2-3 lb natural chicken for about $6.50, but the HFS's prices on pastured chicken are all well over $12.
 

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I know this thread is starting to veer a little bit from the OP, but I wanted to add in part of a conversation I recently had with our neighbor about beef...he used to work at the local Sale Barn (cattle auction house). He said that the guys trucking for Dinty Moore (is that spelled right?) used to come in at the end and buy all the reject cattle...that it was NOT uncommon to use a front-end loader to load the cattle that could not walk up the ramp (I wonder how many of those cattle were still alive by the time they made it to the slaughterhouse?).<br><br>
As for chicken, our church group worked for a few days (as a fundraiser) at a poultry "farm" that sent chickens to Campbell's (as in the soup). The brethren who worked that fundraiser claimed that they would never buy any Campbell's soup that had chicken in it again. The cages were stacked 5-6 deep, it was hard to breathe in the warehouse, the chickens were covered in sores and forced to stand/lie in their own droppings.<br><br>
All the more reason to stick to Traditional Foods!!!!!
 

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I have worked in conventional dairies, as well as with beef cattle. Very large dairies (like those you see across the southwest) keep their cattle in large dirt lots outside all the time, except for milking, with access to shade from the sun. In colder areas, they are still outside, but have access to shelter in the form of freestall barns (large barns, usually bedded with sand, that the cows can go into an out of stalls at will). The cows are basically confinement-kept, but yes, they do technically get to see the sunshine.<br><br>
Dairy cattle are fed a very highly concentrated diet; it usually consists of some sort of grain (corn, cottonseed meal, soy, wheat, etc.) and roughage (silage, haylage, etc.). Depending on the size of the dairy, cows will receive hormone shots and regular antibiotics. Smaller dairies may not do regular antibiotics, as they know their cattle better, and don't usually medicate unnecessarily (too expensive). Dairy cattle have a fairly short lifespan, usually less than 8 years; in large dairies, it is shorter, as it's cheaper to just replace the cow than to spend much money on treating her. In smaller dairies, the farmer will often take the time and money to treat a cow (esp. if she is a good producer), before just shipping her out to slaughter.<br><br>
Beef cattle do spend a large part of their lives on "pasture", but considering the average life of a calf destined for freezer paper is only about 15-18 months, that's not really saying too much! Pasture may just mean a really big dirt lot shared by lots of other calves after weaning. It may mean rangeland, a wheat field (new, not ready for harvest), or good quality grass.<br><br>
Once weaned (around 6 months, on average), calves destined for feedlots are usually "preconditioned", which means they are implanted with a growth hormone, vaccinated, and dehorned and castrated (if applicable). They may spend the next 5 or 6 months on pasture, and then go to a more concentrated feedlot where they are fed very high protein feed (read corn, soy, cottonseed meal, etc.) to encourage rapid weight gain. Some producers shorten this time frame to have calves finished out by a year.<br><br>
Lamb is usually grass-fed, for a couple of reasons. First, lambs go to slaughter very quickly, well before a year of age. They don't need very much, compared to cows, to finish out. Second, lambs really don't tolerate a high grain/concentrate load very well. It shuts down their gut and kills them if fed in too large a quantity. Because of that, most lamb, even that found in your local grocery store, is usually not grain-fed, implanted, or treated with antibiotics.<br><br>
This is my experience with the beef/dairy/lamb industry. I'm sure there are people with other experiences that will contradict mine, as farming/ranching practices tend to vary by region.<br><br>
I agree with PP, that you have to go with a "better than" approach. If you are fortunate enough to be able to afford high quality meats, excellent. If you aren't, then take the "better than" approach to make sure you get the biggest bang, nutritionally speaking, for your buck.
 

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<div class="smallfont" style="margin-bottom:2px;">Quote:</div>
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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>AJP</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7280550"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Let me point out I'm not a farmer, so whatever I say is based on my own observations and reading about animal agriculture, it's just a topic I tend to pay attention to, both because I plan to get a family cow and I'm interested in animal agriculture in general.<br><br>
Dairy cattle are managed differently than beef and can withstand different pressures, because they've been bred differently and the production goal is different, that being to produce large volumes of milk rather than build muscle quickly. RbGH, the hormone given to some dairy cows (not all conventional farmers use it) is intended to increase milk production, and arguably shortens the cow's lives, it's not therapeutic in any way. They do get abx pretty commonly, and those given rbGH often end up on more abx than normal because they're more prone to mastitis. I can't speak for other states with harsher winters, but here in CA most conventional dairy cows are outside even in winter, except during milking, but they're in dirt lots, not green pastures. (There are <i>some</i> of those "happy cows" here in CA like they show in the cheese commercials, but they're the minority for sure.) They usually have some shelter available, but the pens are too small for the number of cows in them to grow any grass, and they're standing in manure most of the time. I've read that in colder states, the cows spend most of the time indoors in the winter, under a variety of different management methods, some cows are loose in a large barn with lots of other cows, some are tied up or in small individual stalls.<br><br>
They don't survive long typically, under the common methods used these days. They start to get sick and lame from biologically inappropriate feed, too much time spent standing in wet manure or on hard concrete, etc., and if that happens their milk production suffers so they're "culled" (sent to slaughter, I think mostly culled dairy cows end up as ground beef or in non-human-food products). I believe the average life span of a conventional dairy cow is 2 or 3 lactations, which would mean 5 years or less. I know that some people who defend modern dairy practices say the cows are pampered because otherwise they don't produce well, but there's a difference between giving a cow enough volume of feed to maintain body condition and giving them <i>appropriate</i> feed, as well as a difference between treating them with drugs when they're sick as long as it's financially beneficial to do so (rather than replace the cow) and managing them in such a way as to maintain true health. A cow managed in a more natural manner, on pasture, not fed the processed feeds designed to push milk production to the limit, can live a healthy life and produce good milk for 12 to 15 years or so.</div>
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this thread makes me so sad <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="/img/vbsmilies/smilies/gloomy.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="Gloomy">: My mother works for a dairy farm in WI and she's always saying that "farmers always pamper their animals or else they wouldn't be able to make money off of them." Of course to her "pampering" is lots of medicine, antibiotics, inappropriate food, etc. I don't know too much about the milk cows on her farm; she's in charge of the calves and they're always sick and often die of the cold. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad">
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>RidentMama</strong> <a href="/community/forum/post/7280681"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border:0px solid;"></a></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I know this thread is starting to veer a little bit from the OP, but I wanted to add in part of a conversation I recently had with our neighbor about beef...he used to work at the local Sale Barn (cattle auction house). He said that the guys trucking for Dinty Moore (is that spelled right?) used to come in at the end and buy all the reject cattle...that it was NOT uncommon to use a front-end loader to load the cattle that could not walk up the ramp (I wonder how many of those cattle were still alive by the time they made it to the slaughterhouse?).<br><br>
As for chicken, our church group worked for a few days (as a fundraiser) at a poultry "farm" that sent chickens to Campbell's (as in the soup). The brethren who worked that fundraiser claimed that they would never buy any Campbell's soup that had chicken in it again. The cages were stacked 5-6 deep, it was hard to breathe in the warehouse, the chickens were covered in sores and forced to stand/lie in their own droppings.<br><br>
All the more reason to stick to Traditional Foods!!!!!</div>
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Thats horrible, and sad.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The only way I've been able to eat conventional for so long (because much of this isn't news to me) is to not think of it. You know, out of sight, out of mind? Bury my head in the sand because I didn't have any other options or wasn't ready for other options at the time. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"><br><br>
It all is very sad though. I know that around here, conventional dairy cattle often never leave the barn. At least, that's the case in the 2 farms that the son of one of my former coworkers had worked at. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/greensad.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="greensad"> She used to tell us that was how you could tell (to the untrained eye) the difference between beef and dairy cattle.<br><br>
So now the new question... how does one prepare lamb? I've never had it. I almost bought some last week because I thought they were grass-fed, but I wanted to double check before making the purchase. Now I know!
 

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I have only used ground lamb at home, I cook it just like I would ground beef and have substituted it in recipes calling for beef.
 

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I, too am using the "better than" approach. We haven't even started buying pastured meat Yet (other than grass-fed ground beef from Trader Joe's and Australian lamb which is primarily pastured) and our grocery bill is already $500/mo for just DH and I (mainly because of raw dairy and organic produce).<br><br>
So here is what I will be doing in terms of meat:<br><br>
-Driving up to Northern California to get 1/4 organic grass-fed steer soon (I can get $3.30/lb from Chileno Valley Natural Beef)<br>
-Driving up again in June to get a whole grass-fed lamb (I can get $3.25/lb from Walker Creek Ranch)<br><br>
These will be our primary meat sources and will last us a whole year. I'm going to settle for the following since we'll eat them less:<br><br>
-Free-range organic chicken from Trader Joe's which are around $10 each (not pastured- pastured will cost me $15 a bird mail order...plus tax will be over $20 for a 4 lb bird!)<br>
-Free-range omega 3 (flax-fed) eggs: $4/doz vs. sold only by flats at $6/doz mail order plus shipping for pastured<br>
-Wild caught sushi grade (the freshest) fish from Costco when I can get Dh to handle it a couple times a month (either in a fish taco or with the delicious butter-wine sauce in NT)
 
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