Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

August 19, 2017
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Why organic meat and dairy?

Studies show that there may be a benefit in purchasing organic-fed lamb and chicken, as the omega-3 fatty acid content is increased. These same benefits may exist when buying grass-fed cows, pasture and free-range hens. This can help Canadians, as many are not getting enough omega-3 and are getting too many omega-6 fats in their diets, which can have negative long-term consequences.

It’s important to know that a difference does exists between organic, grass-fed, pasture and free-range products, as these production practices may have an effect on the food’s nutritional value.

Lamb

A study performed in Spain found that organic suckling lamb meat had a lower saturated fat content and higher polyunsaturated fat content, when compared to conventionally fed lamb.1 Similarly, in a study performed in the United Kingdom, organic lamb loin chops were found to have higher levels of linolenic acid and total omega-3 fatty acids when compared to convention lamb loin chops.2 This study analyzed 360 samples from three major UK supermarket chains.

Chicken

Organic-fed chickens have also been shown to have nutritional benefits, as shown in a study performed on 40 chickens in Korea, who were randomly assigned to be raised in an indoor pen with organic or conventional production system.3 Organic-fed chicken breasts were shown to have higher levels of polyunsaturated (PUFA) fatty acids and a higher PUFA-saturated fatty acid ratio, when compared to conventionally fed chicken.

Beef

Although limited research exists on whether beef from cows fed organic food are more nutritious, studies have shown that grass-fed beef has higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a protective fatty acid against atherosclerosis, vitamin A and vitamin E than grain-fed beef.4, 5

Milk

Studies have shown that the CLA content of milk from cows fed grass was five times higher than in cows fed processed grains.6

Eggs

Pasture hens, which by definition receive approximately 20 percent of their feed from forage and insects,7 were shown to have higher levels of beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, E and A and lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat when compared to the USDA data for commercial eggs, in a recent non-peer reviewed report based on findings from 14 independent farms around the United States.8

In free-range hens, the results are conflicting with studies showing that free-range hens have higher level of omega-3 fatty acids,9 while others are showing no differences in fatty acid composition among conventional cage, free-range or organic labelled eggs.10 Moreover, omega-3 eggs, which are developed by changing the feed of the hens so that it contains 10 to 20 percent flaxseed,11 have a significantly higher omega-3 content when compared to conventional caged hens and organic-fed hens.12

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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