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From Farm to Fork: Buying Farm Fresh vs. Supermarket Meat and Eggs – What’s the Diff?



As consumers, we have a wide range of choices when it comes to buying meat and eggs. We can choose from a variety of products sold in supermarkets, or we can buy farm-fresh meat and eggs. With the current rising cost of food, it can be tempting to opt for the convenience and affordability of supermarket meat products. While supermarket products are convenient and readily available, they may not be the best choice when it comes to quality, flavour, and nutrition. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages of buying locally grown food, including greater transparency, better quality products, and support for local farmers and the economy. In this blog post, we will delve into the advantages of purchasing from small farms versus supermarkets. We will discuss how small farm products often taste better and are better for your health, making them a worthwhile investment for those looking to prioritize their own well-being, while also supporting local farmers.


Here are 5 reasons why you should consider locally raised meat and eggs.


1. Better Flavor

Farm-fresh meat and eggs tend to have a better flavour than their supermarket counterparts. This is because the animals on small farms are typically raised in a more natural environment, with access to fresh air, sunshine, and plenty of space to move around. This results in meat and eggs that are richer in flavor and have a more natural taste. One of the reasons for this is the level of stress the animals experience. On small farms, with access to the sun and open spaces, the level of stress is far less than a factory farm, where animals are open cooped up in cramped spaces 24/7. Doesn't sound like much a life, does it?


When animals are subjected to high levels of stress, it can cause changes in their bodies that can affect the quality and nutritional value of their meat. When an animal experiences stress, it releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause the muscles to become tense and less flexible. This can result in tougher, less tender meat that is less enjoyable to eat.


Stress can also affect the nutritional value of meat by causing a buildup of lactic acid in the animal's muscles. When an animal experiences stress, its body produces more lactic acid, which can cause the pH of the meat to drop. This can result in meat that is more acidic, which can affect its taste and texture.


Another factor that contributes to taste differences is beef hanging time. Beef should be hung for 10-14 days at minimum after processing to allow the meat to tenderize as much as possible. When you buy from a small local farm, the beef has been hung for a minimum of 14 days to a maximum of 21 days, resulting in a noticeable difference in tenderness. At the large processing plants where the factory farm animals are slaughtered and processed, the beef is hung for a shorter time frame (to save time and make more money), resulting in tougher meat. This is one of the most noticeable differences between grocery store beef and farm fresh beef, the degree of tenderness, and hanging time plays a role in this difference.

Grocery store (left)

Farm fresh (right)


When it comes to poultry, factory farms often use a technique called water chilling (vs. air chilling), which involves cooling the chicken in large vats of chlorinated water. Not surprisingly, the chicken absorbs some of this water, and this absorption of water decreases the flavour of the chicken AND adds water weight to the product. Why do they do this? It allows the chicken to cool faster thus allowing them to process more/faster. It also increases the weight of the meat so they can sell it at a higher cost (since you pay by the lb/kg). As a result, you’re paying more per lb/kg for water chilled chicken than air chilled chicken, since you are essentially paying for the extra water that's been absorbed by the meat. Ever notice that when you cook supermarket chicken, it shrinks to like half the size once cooked? Now you know why.


At smaller processing facilities, where the small family farms have their chicken processed, the chicken is most often air chilled, resulting in a better tasting product and less cost to the consumer.


2. Better Nutrition

Farm-fresh meat and eggs are often more nutritious than their supermarket counterparts. Why? The animals on small farms are typically raised on a diet of grass, hay, and other natural feeds, which is more nutrient-dense and diverse than the grain-based diet used in factory farms. In addition, farm-fresh eggs have been shown to have higher levels of vitamins A, E, and omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for good health. In short, the animals on small farms typically have access to a diet that is richer in nutrients, thus their meat/eggs are also richer in nutrients.


As with the example above, stress levels can also cause changes in the levels of certain nutrients in meat. For example, stress can cause a decrease in the levels of vitamin E and other antioxidants in meat, which are important for maintaining good health.

Farm fresh (top)

Grocery store (bottom)

Photo Cred: The Homesteading Hippy


3. Safer and Healthier

Farm-fresh meat and eggs can also be safer and healthier than supermarket products. Animals on small farms are typically raised without the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, which are commonly used in factory farms. These chemicals can have a negative impact on human health and can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Why do factory farms use hormones and antibiotics, then? There are several reasons for this. Firstly, hormones can be used to promote faster growth and increased milk production in livestock, which can increase efficiency and profitability for the farm. Secondly, antibiotics can be used to prevent and treat diseases that can spread rapidly in crowded and unsanitary conditions on factory farms. In short, they are using medication to treat the conditions they are causing by factory farming in order to produce more meat, faster, thereby increasing their profits, and this can have negative impacts on your health.


On the other hand, small farms typically do not use hormones or antibiotics because they often have a more holistic approach to raising animals. Small farmers may prioritize the health and well-being of their animals and may prioritize sustainability and environmental stewardship over maximizing profits. They may also have more space for their animals to roam and may be able to provide better living conditions, reducing the need for antibiotics.

Likewise, little to no preservatives are required in raising local meat given it’s travelling a shorter distance to the consumer and doesn’t have to sit in a truck or in a grocery store refrigerator for who-knows-how-long.


4. Better Treatment of Animals

After reading all of the above, this probably goes without saying. Local farms genuinely care for the animal’s well-being because they realize that it results in a product of much better nutritional quality. Their herds and flocks are usually free to roam in open fields as nature intended and are raised for longer before processing.


5. Supports Local Agriculture

Buying farm-fresh meat and eggs also supports local agriculture. Small farms are an important part of our rural communities and provide jobs and economic opportunities for farmers and other rural residents. By supporting local agriculture, we help to maintain our rural communities and preserve our agricultural heritage.


In conclusion, there are many reasons why farm-fresh meat and eggs are superior to supermarket products. They are more nutritious, have a better flavor, are safer and healthier, the animals receive better treatment, and it supports local agriculture. While supermarket products may be convenient, they often come at a cost to our health, our environment, and our rural communities. By choosing farm-fresh meat and eggs, we can make a positive impact on our health and our communities.



Yours in health,










References:


1. Hjort, M., & Stenmark, J. (2015). The economic and social benefits of local food systems. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 5(4), 33-46.


2. Landers, T. F., Cohen, B., Wittum, T. E., & Larson, E. L. (2012). A review of antibiotic use in food animals: perspective, policy, and potential. Public health reports (Washington, D.C. : 1974), 127(1), 4–22. https://doi.org/10.1177/003335491212700103


3. Karsten, H., Patterson, P., Stout, R., & Crews, G. (2010). Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 25(1), 45-54. doi:10.1017/S1742170509990214


4. Krauss, R. M., Eckel, R. H., Howard, B., Appel, L. J., Daniels, S. R., Deckelbaum, R. J., ... & Winston, M. (2000). AHA dietary guidelines: revision 2000: a statement for healthcare professionals from the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association. Circulation, 102(18), 2284-2299.


5. Njoroge, A. W., & Njagi, L. W. (2016). Nutritional Value of Eggs from Different Poultry Production Systems. Journal of Nutrition and Health Sciences, 3(3), 1-5.


6. Thacker, P. (2013). Antibiotic growth promoter use in livestock: implications for human health. Alternatives Journal, 39(1), 23-25.


7. Xing, T., Gao, F., Tume, R.K., Zhou, G. and Xu, X. (2019), Stress Effects on Meat Quality: A Mechanistic Perspective. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 18: 380-401. https://doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12417

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