Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Why Slow-grown Beef is the Way Forward

We’ve got used to farms giving us lots of cheap meat, poultry, milk and eggs and we rarely stop to think about how this cornucopia is created. Even more rarely do we think about the lives of the animals involved in this “machine”.

How things are

Most intensive farming methods involve keeping the animals indoors permanently and dosing them with growth hormones and antibiotics. These conditions mean that the animals have severely-restricted movement and they suffer from mental and physical problems as a result. The breeds used are often specially-selected for their rapid growth and this selection can also cause problems.

Tightly-confined cattle suffer from increased aggression and pathological behaviours like licking other cows or barn fixtures out of boredom. The overcrowding also leads to more bruising and cuts – hence the routine use of antibiotics. This over-use of antibiotics is an important factor in the rise of the so-called superbugs that threaten our health.

What we should be aiming for

The opposite of intensive is extensive, a farming system in which cows, sheep and chickens are allowed more physical freedom to express their natural behaviours – chickens can scratch and cows can walk around and forage.

Growing meat this way is slower; and there are significant nutritional advantages to waiting; the chickens and cows eat more natural foods like insects and a wide variety of forage plants and this confers more nutrients to the eggs and meat.

In the case of beef, extensively-farmed beef has up to a third less fat than intensively-reared, as well as up to seven times more omega-3 fats. The slow-grown beef ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats is also better for human health (the optimal ratio is 4:1). In addition to this, the physical exercise the free-range cows get produces leaner, more protein-rich meat with lots of trace minerals and vitamins, especially vitamin E.