“Pasture-Raised”: Eggs, chickens and pigs raised on lush pastures, like in Neanderthal times. Or like in pastoral countrysides in Switzerland or Northern California where chickens and pigs munch on grass, herbs and juicy worms.

Farmers may supplement the grass with other feed, like barley or coconut or produce scraps, but the animals are out in the sunshine most of the day, and their digestive systems are functioning just like nature intended.

No confinement pens, or de-beaking… no  manure lagoons or udder inflammation from indigestible corn or soy… as in factory farms.

Likewise, don’t let “cage free” or “free range” mislead you. These terms enjoy a “health halo” from previous times when that’s how farmers described their pasture-raised animals, to distinguish them from confined animals. But political lobbies have succeeded in passing legal definitions of these terms that so not guarantee animals access to the outdoors.

Conventional chickens, including many that are labeled free range or cage free often live their entire lives trapped in a tiny space day and night.  Sometimes arsenic is fed to chickens. Yikes!

SO, beware the masquerade when you’re shopping for eggs, chickens or pork. A few supermarkets (eg Andronico’s in North Berkeley) clearly labels pasture-raised (aka pastured) eggs. Buy those, and when they’re not available as usually happens for a few weeks in the winter, plain organic eggs are a fallback.

What about organic? What’s the difference between organic and pasture-raised? Or grass-fed and pasture-raised? The next post has the answer…

PS  “Pasture-raised” is now used instead of “pastured,” the original term, to avoid confusion with “pasteurized” — the unfortunate practice of heating milk to kill germs—the heat  also damages nutrients and kills good bacteria.

What about organic?  An organic egg  is inferior nutritionally to a pasture-raised egg. It only means that the chickens or pigs ate feed free of pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and GMOs. But the feed could still be grains or soy. They live in covered concrete pens or in large cages where their feet may , never touch the ground. Such is the fate of organic Rosie chickens which I used to buy… But “organic” is the start of quality. At least it gives protection against poisonous weed killers and other toxins.

 

 

Often a farmer will use “chicken tractors ” to shield the chickens from predators. The tractors are moved around the pasture to give them access to the entire pasture.