When it comes to meat, there are 3 choices: conventional, organic, and pastured or grass-fed. In most cases, they are not all available at the same store and can sometimes be difficult to find, depending on where you live. The prices between these options are drastically different, but so are the way they are raised and processed.
Conventional meats are what you find at most grocery stores. They are the absolute lowest price and generally mass-produced. Unfortunately, they are the most unhealthy for your body. In many cases, the animals are not raised in a humane fashion as there is not enough room for all of them and the conditions are unclean (you might have heard of factory farms?). Suffering and sickness in the animals can results and drugs are needed to battle this. Also, animals can be given hormones to increase the production of meat and milk. Sometimes the feed given to the animals is even questionable as it can be quite unnatural in these conditions. Remember that the animals are supposed to be eating grass, bugs, etc.
Organic meats are a step up as there are additional regulations about what can be fed to them as well as there are usually better living conditions for the animals. This definitely shows up in the price of the product, but if I ever have a choice between conventional and organic, I’ll buy organic whenever possible for meat and milk. However, organic meats still aren’t perfect and aren’t the very healthiest for your body.
Pastured or grass-fed meats are, in my opinion, the best, but most expensive by far. They are also often available only locally at farm stores, farmer’s markets, or local stores specifically carrying healthy products (although not all health stores will carry them). For example, a store that I go to locally, Nourish Organic Market, carries only grass-fed products, however, another even bigger local health store, Harvest Health, does not. Grass-fed animals have access to the pasture and therefore their natural diet, and have room to roam and live normally. They may be supplemented with small amounts of grain, but the best part is you can usually talk to the actual farmer specifically about how the animals are raised and what they eat.
This is huge. We are meant to be eating animals that eat a natural diet, and that are raised in healthy conditions. Anything less than that is providing a less-than-nutritious or downright toxic (i.e. conventional) addition to our diet. I would personally be tempted to eat a different kind of protein entirely than eat conventional meat because it is so bad. I do not want extra hormones and things going into my body.
Yes, the cost for pastured is SO much more. But if you can make trades within your budget, maybe you can make it work. For example, I think about buying pastured chicken breasts from a local farm for $10. Yikes! I cringe and REALLY hate to pay that much. BUT, if I were to go out to eat and order a meal with chicken breast at a sit-down restaurant, I might pay around $10 for that meal.
The pastured meat would be much healthier and more nutritious and if I prepare it myself (and usually it can serve my husband and I easily), and we eat in instead of out, that makes it affordable. And I feel SO much better about how the animal was raised and what I’m putting in my body. Plus, I get to support my local farmer and that is really a win-win.