Researchers who analyzed multiple studies from around the world have concluded organic production of dairy products and meat provides more nutrients for diners.
The findings in the British Journal of Nutrition, say organic meat and dairy have 50 percent more Omega-3 fatty acids, which contain nutrients linked to lowered cardiovascular disease risks and improved mental health.
Study co-author Carlo Leifert points out that organic and conventional foods differ.
“I think the main difference, with respect to the composition differences we’ve seen, is the feeding regimes,” he explains. “The organic standards, they enforce outside grazing and access to the outside. And they restrict, especially for ruminants, concentrate feeds.”
Leifert says the research does not conclude that organic foods are healthier – only that most studies show they contain an increased level of nutrients.
There are downsides to grass-fed cattle. They need more acreage to graze, which costs more to tend and, as a result, grass-fed beef often is more expensive than conventional beef.
Hickory Nut Gap Farm in Asheville has been raising organic meat for the last 15 years. Owner and farmer Jamie Ager says the discoveries from the study come as no surprise when you think about how animals on organic farms are fed.
“Organic cattle are generally raised on pasture,” he explains. “When you are able to get your nutrition from the grass, then it just makes sense that the fat in the meat would be healthier.”
Ager says Hickory Nut Gap Farm is seeing a growth of 15 percent a year in the demand for organic meats, fruits and vegetables.
“There’s more and more people interested in what we’re doing and the type of agriculture we promote,” he states. “And so it’s exciting to see all these people getting interested in how this works. ”
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as of 2014 organic products now are available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly three out of four conventional grocery stores.
Organic sales account for more than 4 percent of total U.S. food sales, according to recent industry statistics.