My local preferred grocery is HEB. They are a Texas-based company which over the last several years has begun to provide more "healthier" and oftentimes, local options in their "Market" stores. In their Central Market stores (open early specifically for local chefs in Austin, Dallas, and Houston to shop for certain restaurants) you can often find items such as rattlesnake, alligator, pheasant, etc. They offer a wide selection of organic fruits and veggies. In their meat market they have a wide selection of choices but Organic, Grass-Fed, and Free-Range are not always seen very often except for small packages of ground beef or bison - save for the Central Markets which have the best selection of most anything one could want - on par with a Whole Foods or Trader Joes.
They do, however, sell their own label "Natural" cuts of both beef and chicken listed with the following criteria:
- No hormones
- No antibiotics
- No additives or preservatives
- Vegetarian Fed
- Minimally processed
It seems like, with the exception of their diet, these animals have been raised to "organic" standards.
My understanding of the "vegetarian" diet is that these animals have been primarily fed grains (corn, sorghum, etc)...no guarantee of the quality of food of course.
Could one expect these to offer similar benefit (EFA profile) to cuts labeled Grass-Fed or Free-Range?
One thing I noticed immediately, especially with the chicken cuts, was how little sodium there was compared to the frozen stuff in a bag.
I love those Central Market stores!
They can't label something "grass-fed" if it's not. If the cattle is let outside but fed grain - they will usually call it "pasture-raised" or "free-range." They can also label it "grass-finished" (ahem, bs). In poultry, the "free-range" distinction is a little less concrete - there is no requirement as to the quality of the range or how long they are given access to it.
Read up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_range
Tyson labels their frozen chicken breasts as "natural". There is no way considering how large they are. Them are factory farmed for sure.
Unfortunately, you are going to see more confusion before clarity as the conventional meat processors retool their operations in response to a demand for "healthier" meats. I love Central Market, Whole Foods and Sprouts for what they offer in Dallas, but unfortunately, you still have to read the package and talk with someone to get the real details. For example, at Whole Foods, they have varying grades of pastured chicken. The scale goes from 1-5 depending on a set of criteria regarding amount of time in the cages vs. outside, etc. Interestingly, the person trying to "sell" me the higher quality more time outside chicken told me chickens do not like to go outside and that they have to force them to go outside. Having grown up on a farm, I know that to NOT be true...so I move on to source my chicken from a local farmer at the Dallas Farmer's Market. I know how their chickens are raised and allowed to forage for grubs, worms, etc.
Knowing the exact source of your meat by getting to know local farmers is the optimal way if possible. Ask them how big their paddocks are for the beef during raising time and if they have a different size for finishing. Ask exactly how the chickens are kept. Do they run the pastures or are they in long cages that allow them to go outside? If they offer tours, take a tour to see how you meat is raised. Second choice is to carefully scour places like Whole Food, Central Market and Sprouts for the best options and the third choice is to buy the stuff marked No Hormones, No antibiotics, etc.
Last edited by Beef Cake; 04-29-2010 at 08:24 AM.
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@ Suki: "Grass finished"...LOL sounds like a cow someone buffed to a high sheen with a pad of St. Augustine.
Thanks for the replies. The HEB site actually gives a decent explanation of different labels too: http://www.heb.com/yourHEBStore/heal...tentID=4406004
There are a few farms locally that have grass-fed beef and free-range poultry, but from what I can tell the quantities you have to purchase in are un-doable for me right now due to a lack of storage.