photo courtesy of Highview Pastures

Although I don’t buy 100% organic produce (probably closer to 85-90%), I do try to buy 100% organic and grass-fed or free-range meat. Not only does it offer significant nutritional advantages over conventional meat, I believe it provides a better life for the animals.

Conventionally raised animals are typically fed a diet comprised mainly of grain and corn. Like humans, animals that eat a high carbohydrate diet are less healthy than those that eat more vegetables. The animals are also usually crowded into factory-like farms, whereas grass-fed and free-range animals are allowed to move around more freely and maintain their natural behaviors.

Grass-fed meat is healthier. It contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat while its overall fat content is lower. Grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been linked to easier weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.

Additionally, overuse of antibiotics in livestock can result in antibiotic-resistant strains of infections. (Actually the issue isn’t even confined to livestock.  A study published in the Journal of Environmental Quality found that when vegetables were grown in fertilizer derived from the manure of antibiotic-fed livestock, the vegetables absorbed antibiotics.) And, although it has not been clinically proven, many believe hormones in meat and dairy contribute to early onset of puberty in girls (early puberty has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer later in life).

To protect us as much as I can, I buy all of my beef  from Cedar Summit farm in New Prague, Minn., my Thanksgiving turkeys from Highview Pastures farm in Farmington, Minn.(by buying directly from the farm I end up paying pretty close to what conventional meat sells for at the grocery store), and my chicken from either The Wedge co-op or Kowalski’s.

Recently, however, I was at Super Target getting some other things (Super Target has great prices on Amy’s Organic Kitchen line) and noticed the Gold’n Plump Natural chickens. Hormone and antibiotic-free (but not free-range), I decided to give it try. It was priced well and I figured it would save me a trip to the co-op. And, it was hormone and antibiotic-free–which seemed to me the most important things to avoid.

(Side note: I make a whole roasted chicken almost every week. Not only do we love it, I use the rest of the meat for pasta, quinoa, pizza and other dishes through the week. I freeze the carcasses to make chicken stock (which I use to cook brown rice, quinoa, wild rice, etc) and soups. I’ll be teaching/presenting this concept of  “A Week in the Life of a Chicken” on Sunday May 1 with my friend and colleague Jen Antila of Catalyst Cooks.)

I didn’t really give the source of the Gold’n Plump chicken much thought as I prepared it for roasting (easiest recipe EVER–see below) nor as I brought it to the table. As soon as I began to carve it though, the difference was obvious. The chicken was far fattier than the free-range ones I usually buy. Once we started eating, the difference was even more clear. It had far less flavor than our usual chickens.

So, while I saved myself about a $1.50 on the Gold’n Plump chicken, I got less actual meat, less flavor and less nutrition. I won’t be doing that again!

Easy Easy Roasted Chicken

  • whole chicken
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • carrots
  • onions
  • potatoes

Drizzle bottom of roasting pan with olive oil and then place the chicken into the pan (I truss my chicken, but it’s not necessary.). Chop veggies into approximately 1-1/2-inch pieces and place around the chicken. Drizzle veggies and chicken with olive oil and generously salt and pepper. Place in preheated 380-degree oven for approximately 1-hour (depending on size of chicken–internal temperature should be 180F). About 15 minutes into baking time, I add 1 cup of water to the roasting pan which keeps everything moist.

Enjoy and be well!