For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page, our Farm Issues page, and our Genetic Engineering page.
The health risks posed by meat, eggs and dairy products from animals raised on factory farms are well known. But now there’s growing evidence that organic alternatives not only eliminate those health risks, but actually provide significantly more nutritional value.
We know why these products, when sourced from factory farms, can’t be good for our health. Animals on factory farms are fed slaughterhouse waste, blood, manure, arsenic and byproducts from corn ethanol production (which increases the rate of E. coli).
Factory farms also pump animals full of antibiotics, growth hormones, and genetically modified vaccines and growth hormones which, according to scientists, are associated with increased rates of breast, testicular and prostate cancers.
Organic farming prohibits the use of most of the above, including the routine administering of antibiotics and growth hormones. That fact alone leads to higher-quality animal products. But the latest science also tells us that products that come from animals raised organically provide higher levels of antioxidants, lower levels of saturated fats and cholesterol, and higher levels of healthy omega-3s and many vitamins.
Here are some interesting comparisons between meat, milk and eggs from animals raised on factory farms, vs. their grassfed, free-range and organic alternatives.
50-80: Percent more antioxidants in milk from organic cattle compared with milk from cows raised in factory farms.
10: Number of ways a 2009 study—a joint effort between the U.S.D.A. and researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina—found grassfed beef to be superior to grain-fed beef, including being higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease.
60: Percent more antioxidants and healthy fatty acids in organic milk versus conventional milk.
68: Percent more omega-3 fatty acids contained in organic milk, on average, than conventional milk, according to a three-year study in the United Kingdom conducted independently by the Universities of Liverpool and Glasgow during 2002 and 2005, centering on a cross-section of UK farms over a 12-month production cycle.
Up to 90: Percent more antioxidants in milk from organically-fed herds compared with milk from conventional herds.
68.2: Percent more omega-3 fatty acids in organic milk, compared with non-organic milk, including a superior ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids, believed to be beneficial to human health.
20: Times more omega-3’s found in eggs from pastured hens compared with eggs from hens raised in factory farms.
66: Percent more vitamin A in eggs from pastured hens compared with eggs from hens raised in factory farms.
3: More vitamin E in eggs from pastured hens compared with eggs from hens raised in factory farms.
7: Times more beta carotene in eggs from pastured hens compared with eggs from hens raised in factory farms.
3-6: Times more vitamin D in eggs from pastured hens compared with eggs from hens raised in factory farms.
33: Percent less cholesterol in eggs from pastured hens compared with eggs from hens raised in factory farms.
25: Percent less saturated fat in eggs from pastured hens compared with eggs from hens raised in factory farms.
40: Percent of Americans consume a sufficient supply of omega-3 nutrients. Twenty percent have levels so low that they cannot be detected.
One half to one third: Amount of fat a sirloin steak from a grassfed steer has versus a similar cut from a grain-fed steer.
Equal: Amount of fat in grassfed meat as found in skinless chicken or wild deer or elk.
100: Fewer calories in a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer compared with a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer.
17,733: Number of calories a typical meat eater would save annually if (66.5 pounds a year) by switching to grassfed beef, resulting in a loss of about six pounds-per-year.
2-6: More "good" fats (omega-3 fatty acids) in grassfed meat versus grain-fed. People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diets are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat, and 50 percent less likely to have a serious heart attack and cancer.
5: The amount of "conjugated linoleic acid" or CLA (another “good fat”) in meat and milk from grassfed ruminants raised on fresh pasture than from animals fed conventional diets. CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer.
60: Percent lower risk of breast cancer in women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diets compared with those who had the lowest levels of CLA, according to a Finnish study.
4: Times the amount of vitamin E in meat from the pastured cattle compared with meat from feedlot cattle, and almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements.
20: Percent less fat content in wild salmon versus farmed salmon. And farm-raised fish contain higher amounts of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats instead of the preponderance of healthier omega 3s found in wild fish.
70: Percent more fat in farmed Atlantic salmon than in wild Atlantic salmon because of the high fat content in their feed, according to a USDA study, and 200 percent more fat compared with wild Pacific pink or chum salmon.
32: Percent fewer calories in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus farmed salmon.
50: Percent less fat contained in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus farmed salmon.
More than Double: The amount of iron contained in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus farmed salmon.
33: Percent more calcium contained in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus ½ filet farmed salmon.
33: Percent more potassium contained in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus ½ filet farmed salmon.
Nearly 25: Percent less sodium contained in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus ½ filet farmed salmon.
Nearly double: Amount of zinc in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus ½ filet farmed salmon.
More than three 3: Less saturated fat in a ½ filet of wild salmon versus ½ filet farmed salmon.
Health Food Face Off: Wild Salmon versus Farmed Salmon, based on National Nutrition Database, U.S.D.A
European Union funded Newcastle University study preliminary results indicate organic foods healthier, safer
Organic milk is better for you - whatever the weather, Newcastle University Study, Journal of Dairy Science
Effects of winter stocker growth rate and finishing system on: III. Tissue proximate, fatty acid, vitamin, and cholesterol content1, Journal of Animal Science
Top 10 Reasons to Eat Grass-Fed Meat, Natural Resources Defense Council
The Health Benefits of Grass Farming, By Jo Johnson, NY Times best-selling author of “Why Grassfed is Best”
No yolk! Free-range eggs contain more vitamin D, Mother Earth News
Farmed Fish vs. Wild Fish: How Healthy Is The Fish At Your Favorite Grocery?, Prevent Disease
“Comparing the fatty acid composition of organic and conventional milk,” Ellis, K., Innocent, G., Grover-White, D., Cripps, P., McLean, W.G., Howard, C.V. & Mihm, M., Journal of Dairy Science, 89: 1938-1950 (2006).
Compiled by Zack Kaldveer, assistant media director for the Organic Consumers Association.