You are what you eat. That should be the mantra that we all focus on when we put food in our bodies. Despite rising food prices, good health needs to focus on quality not quantity if our global wellbeing is to improve. As an individual, being aware of the provenance of your food will give you more control over the choices you make when buying and preparing meals, sheep feed.
You would do well to follow the guidelines of Qurbani, the Islamic festival of sacrifice, which has strict rules about the quality of meat that should be used. The animal should be in good health, over six months of age, and well kept by its producers.
Yet you don’t have to follow any religious guideline to understand that well reared meat is going to be much better for you taste wise and health wise than mass, factory produced meat. Factors to check are:
Do you know where your meat comes from? How far has it travelled? Can you track it down to the farm? Even the field and the herd it was in? These are all factors that a responsible farmer will adhere to in the quest for a high quality product. There are a number of different standards that producers need to attain in order to meet various criteria, and you would do well to do your own research for your own particular area. Look for national and international certification standards such as ISO, Pasture for Life, AGA American Grassfed, Red Tractor or other Organic standards organizations which set, check and monitor the consistency of its members product quality levels.
There can be no better food source for sheep and cattle than rich, nutritious grass. Pasture fed livestock on a well managed farm where rotational grazing is implemented will not only guarantee a better quality of product, but will also mitigate the effect on the environment. Health benefits include:
- Lower total fat levels and lower saturated fat content compared to grain fed animals.
- Higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and a lower, more balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
- Higher levels of CLA Conjugated Linoleic Acid, and higher levels of vaccenic acid, which can be turned to CLA.
- Higher vitamin and mineral levels than grain fed meat. Particularly rich in vitamins A and E, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.
What you might not realize is how much the taste of the meat is influenced by where the animal was grazed. In the same way that the taste of wine is influenced by the soil and climate of the area the grape is grown in, the taste of the meat is similarly nurtured according to the type of grass, and the soil in which that grass grows.
Are the animals well cared for? Not just in terms of being fed and watered. But in terms of being treated with respect. The effect of stress in animals have shown to significantly affect the overall quality of the meat.
If you choose to eat meat, it can have a wealth of health benefits. Eaten in moderation, it is nutrient dense, providing an excellent source of protein, iron, essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
Meats to avoid are the processed meats – for example, sausages, hot dogs, salami. These products contain harmful chemical components used to preserve the red/pink colour of the meat, improve flavour, and prolong the shelf life of the product. Processed meats have long been linked to diseases such as cancer and heart disease.