It used to be the case that only conventionally grown animal produce was available. However more recently consumer demand has driven a plethora of traditional and alternative farming techniques that provide the market with a range of different quality animal products. The nomenclature of animal products has therefore become confusing to the layman. Deciphering the semantics of the labelling of animal products is therefore worthy of consideration for those interested in health, as the quality of the food eaten will reflect the health benefits derived from those products. The most commonly eaten form of animal product is a result of conventional intensive farming techniques. Conventionally grown livestock are generally fed gains, as these fatten the animals quickly and provide greater profits for the farmers. The grains themselves are often conventionally grown themselves, meaning that the pesticide residues they contain are passed onto the livestock, which is in turn eaten by humans in the animal produce.
The main problem with grain fed animals is that they convert much of the starch in the grain into saturated fatty acids, and this is reflected in a high saturated fat content to their meat or eggs. This saturated fat is an idea reservoir for the storage of the pesticide residues and this creates a conduit with which to siphon the residues into the human food chain. Organic grain fed animals are grown in the same way as conventional grain fed animals, however in this case the grains are of organic origin and so pesticide residues are not present. In addition, many of the drugs and other chemicals administered to conventionally grown animals are not allowed in organically grown produce. However, the diets of all grain fed animals, be it conventional or organic, are devoid of meaningful levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and as a result they provide an imbalanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. This can be damaging to the health of the consumer because it produces a proinflammatory state when the products are eaten regularly.
Grass fed animals are generally fed diets more akin to their natural pasture diets. This includes a high intake of grass, which may be supplemented with some grains. Grass fed animals tend to be leaner than grain fed animal and as a result the saturated fat content to the meat is lower. In addition, the omega-3 content of the meat is higher because of the alpha linolenic acid in grass, and this provides a better balance of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the meat. Organic grass fed animals are fed on grass that is grown in the absence of pesticides and are not administered the same range of drugs as conventionally grown animals, and so the meat should also be absent of many potentially dangerous chemicals. Free range animals are generally allowed to roam freely and in this regard can sources their own food, which supplements their diet. Chickens are increasingly commonly grown as free range. The chicken forage for insects and grubs and this provides a natural more nutrient dense diet that increases the nutrient quality of the meat and eggs they produce. Assume that free range produce is not organic unless specifically stated.