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Real Food, Part 4: Let livestock eat grass

June 26th, 2007 · No Comments · Environment, Food selection, Healthy eating

In her book, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, author Nina Planck notes that cows (and sheep and goats) were bred to graze and that chicken and pigs were meant to forage. If left to do so, the animals yield milk, meat and eggs that are healthier for us than the products of animals raised on manufactured animal feed. And that was her contention before the recent scandals over contaminants in pet, pig and chicken feed, I might add.

I’m willing to believe that the old-style animal husbandry yields better products, especially since pastured pigs and chickens and grass-fed cattle are far less likely to be dosed with hormones to promote hyperproduction and antibiotics to prevent diseases common among animals crowded in tight enclosures.

Raw milk promoted

Planck goes a step further and encourages people to drink milk raw and whole, without pasteurization and without homogenization. Why would you want to drink raw, whole milk? Because pasteurization kills some beneficial bacteria and destroys some enzymes, other beneficial substances and assorted vitamins, including A and C. She asserts that raw whole milk tastes better and that the fats in milk from grass-fed cattle contain more Omega 3s and other substances that are good for us.

Planck makes raw milk sound like the cure for everything that ails you, and there’s a movement afoot that promotes raw milk, if you’re interested. She says that raw milk isn’t unsafe, although it does go bad quicker. I’m not entirely convinced; here’s a news story about the pros and cons of unpasteurized milk. Then there are raw-milk cheeses, which are much admired and enjoyed by cheese lovers and generally regarded as safe.

Grass is greener

Meanwhile, Planck applauds the nutritional and taste advantages of grass-fed beef (lower fat, for one thing), the pork from pigs allowed to root (more fat), and the flesh and eggs of chickens that peck at bugs along with their seed in the barnyard. Fair enough. Certainly, letting cattle graze and allowing chickens and pigs to forage are better for the livestock as well as for the environment—no manure lagoons.

Raw milk aside, where are we going to get all that good food? Milk and cheese from grass-fed cattle are hard to come by, unless you’re really looking, and the beef, pork and chicken meat from grass-fed or pastured livestock may be even harder to find. If you find them, cost may stop you from buying.

Planck raises many interesting questions in this book. In the next and last installment of this series, I’ll talk about some of them and draw a few conclusions.

The series so far:

The final installment, coming up

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