The Niagara News is the community newspaper of Niagara College located in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. It is created and produced by the students of the Niagara College Journalism program.
By MEGAN BEAM Staff Writer The controversy between free-range versus factory farms has been swirling for years. And it has sparked questions, such as whether livestock raised on free-range farms are better for you than factory-farm animals. Proponents of food raised free-range know why they made the switch and the health benefits associated with sourcing food in a more natural way. Joanne Garrison, nutrition and wellness specialist from Circle of Health, says that becoming aware of the increase in hormonal and other health issues she found people were dealing with is what made her decide to make the change. “There is a well known saying, ‘You are what you eat.’ Well, I had someone say to me ‘You are what your food eats,’ so I think that’s what made me wake up,” says Garrison. Compared to meat purchased from factory farms, grass-fed beef is far leaner and possesses less fat. It is higher in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which help to reduce heart disease, strokes and Type 2 diabetes. Grass-fed beef also contains a higher amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which boosts the immune system and keeps cholesterol levels regulated. CLA also helps to increase metabolism rates. While they can be found in most dairy products and animal fats, the human body is not capable of producing them. Garrison says she has been buying natural meats for almost 15 years now and one of the biggest differences she has noticed has been that she finds the meal to be more satisfying. “The kids didn’t want to have dessert and snacks after supper,” she says. “Change in flavour and texture is most noticeable. Change in clean up, the oils that come from cooking the natural meats aren’t sticky or hard to clean from bakeware or pans. The meat isn’t slimy and doesn’t foam like some meat I had previously.” But what does it mean when a company says they provide free-range meat? Free-range is a term used when livestock is raised without the use of added hormones, antibiotics and other additives. Nutrafarms Inc. is one of many companies looking to provide consumers with quality meat while ensuring the animals are raised in a healthy and safe environment. “In my opinion, natural is the most important aspect, which is as little human contact with the animal as possible,” says farm representative Jodi Robinson. Instead of being confined to cages or pens for the entirety of their life, livestock on free-range farms are given the opportunity to roam freely across acres of fields where the only form of confinement is the property fence-line. Robinson says that during the past four years Nutrafarms has opened five new branches and they are still seeing growth. “People are much more aware and are taking control of what they eat and what type of ethical standards they want to support when purchasing meat and fish,” says Robinson. Robinson adds during the coming months they plan to start producing halal products for the increasing Muslim population due to the lack of retailers producing it.