What’s the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat?

Do you know the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat? How about where your meat comes from?

If you don’t know the answer to either of those questions, you’re not alone. Many consumers don’t. Let’s start with the basics.

What's the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat?

Grass-fed Meat: The term “grass-fed” meat can mean many things. According to the guidelines, in order to qualify for the “grass-fed” label, the meat only has to be just that, grass-fed. While this sounds great, it doesn’t always mean that grass is the primary ingredient in their diet.

What you want to buy is meat that is 100% grass-fed and grass-finished. This means that for their entire lives, the animal has never eaten anything but grass. (And maybe the occasional wildflower, since this usually means they’re pasture animals.)

Heritage Meat: The premise of heritage meat is that it comes from animals with a long history and proven quality lineage. The meat must come from specific genetic breeds of animals, and those breeds must conform to certain standards. If the animal is crossbred, it must be bred with another heritage breed to remain eligible for the heritage label. The breed name must also be on the label of the meat, and if it’s crossbred meat, both breeds must be named.

Similar to heritage meat is heritage dairy, and the same standards must be conformed to in order for the eggs or milk products to carry the label. It sounds rather confusing, but in a nutshell, the meat comes from purebred animals with a long history of quality.

Free-Range meat. Free-range meat is meat that isn’t farmed in cages or kept in a barn throughout the entirety of its life. This doesn’t mean that these animals just roam free all over the country – they are still bordered by fences and such for their safety, but free-range animals are given plenty of access to the outdoors and allowed to roam around where they please and hang out with their other animal friends without any stress. They’re not cooped up in cramped spaces and have had plenty of access to clean water and fresh grass. Generally, they’re pasture animals as well.

What's the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat?

Why should we care about the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat?

Well, there are a few reasons. The first is the welfare of the animals. The way that some of these farmed animals are treated is absolutely horrifying. They live their lives in tiny, filthy spaces and under complete stress. They’re fed cheap food made with all sorts of fillers that they shouldn’t be eating (like sawdust!) This lifestyle often makes them sick, and then they’re pumped full of antibiotics. The result is unhealthy, unhappy animals. We won’t even talk about what chemicals are in that meat that we then feed to our children.

The next reason we should care is because sustainability is important. I think that we can all agree that the United States (and the world in general) has excessively wasted our resources. In order for our Earth to survive the damage that’s been done over the last century or so, we have to get back to the basics. And that means sustainable farming. Without farms, none of us would have meat or produce. It’s important that we’re giving back what we’re taking.

Being concerned about the farming methods we support is good for the environment, the animals, and ultimately our bodies. I want to know that when I when I consume the product that the animal was treated humanely and enjoyed its life the way that it was meant to be. When a farmer adheres to sustainable and humane practices, I’m happy to support them.

Grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat delivery service?  

As I mentioned above, labeling can be confusing, and finding out exactly where your meat comes from can be a daunting process. Let’s face it. The last thing you probably want to do is stand in the meat department of the grocery store asking questions about the origins of your pot roast. You just want to grab a package and go, because your little one has already run off to the candy aisle and your oldest is fighting – loudly – with the middle child about who gets to push the cart. (You’re not alone! We’ve all been there!)

Butcher Box is one terrific solution to this problem.  They do the hard work for you by researching and choosing suppliers who adhere to strict animal welfare and environmental standards.  We tested a sample box out and are quite impressed with the quality of the meat, the packaging and perhaps the most important factor – the taste!  After all, regardless of how healthy a food may be for you, you truly have to enjoy the taste.

What's the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat?

Butcher Box only sources the highest quality and healthiest meat possible. It gets better – the high-quality meats arrive on your doorstep monthly! You no longer have to endure blank stares from the guy in the grocery store meat department because he has no idea where your meat came from.

Each piece of meat in your box comes from a farm that has been visited and their products taste-tested. The meat is Flash Frozen at its peak of freshness, and the boxes are filled with a specific amount of dry ice calculated based on your location. The box of meat will also stay fresh on your doorstep for up to 12 hours, so if you’re at work at the time of delivery, your meat will be fine when you get home. Bonus: The boxes are eco-friendly!

Butcher Box subscriptions contain 8 – 11 pounds of meat. That equals roughly 18 to 25 meals at a six to eight ounce portion size. You can choose the plan and style that suits you and the shipping is free. You can also add to your box by selecting add-ons like ground beef, bacon, and ribeye to suit family preferences.

What's the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat?

The people at Butcher box are also diligent – they continuously collect feedback about their products. That means that if a farm was wonderful last month but this month their meat doesn’t get rave reviews, the company will check into it. This ensures that the subscription boxes consistently contain only the best products.

The boxes also come with delicious recipes! The easy-to-follow recipes have been developed by chefs, nutritionists, and even health and fitness bloggers. Between the recipes and the meats, you’ll be eating cleaner and healthier than ever before. The deal is such a smart idea and I love that it’s so super convenient.

I’m thrilled with the convenience and quality of this service and am excited to provide my family with quality and healthy meats every month.  If you are interested in this service, right now, Butcherbox is offering FREE Bacon with your first order!

What's the difference between grass-fed meat, heritage meat, and free-range meat?

Have you tried a subscription meat service? What do you think?

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Tags: farm fresh, green living, rural lifestyle, sustainable living
Barb Webb. Founder and Editor of Rural Mom, is an the author of "Getting Laid" and "Getting Baked". A sustainable living expert nesting in Appalachian Kentucky, when she’s not chasing chickens around the farm or engaging in mock Jedi battles, she’s making tea and writing about country living and artisan culture.
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