Humane Choice certified producers allow their animals to graze on open paddocks. This includes pigs and poultry.
Consumer concerns for animal welfare, as well as their own health and welfare, have driven the meat and egg industries into this current scramble for the right to use the term ‘free range’. Consumer research has shown that free range to most people means that the animals spend their lives on pastures.
With big industry calling for free range standards that fit in with their commercial reality, we will begin to witness the intensification of free range production systems. How do you intensify free range? By using small areas of land that are denuded very quickly by large numbers of grazing animals transforming the area into dirt lots with not one blade of grass to be seen. While we would like to assume the pigs will be happier in these conditions as opposed to being kept indoors in stalls and pens, intensified free range raises concerns about animal health and environmental sustainability. It also makes any claims of a better flavoured meat questionable as the animals are unable to forage or graze.
Pasture raised animals are able to obtain a lot of their nutrition from grazing. Just how much will depend of the type of pastured provided. Farm animal dietary needs will also differ. While sheep and cattle may gain all their needs from pasture, pigs and poultry are omnivores (single stomach just like us) and grubs, worms, small animals and insects form a natural part of their diet. Vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids can be obtained by all grazing animals from a diet that includes pasture.
Green forage and pasture is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, along with the insects and grubs that may be consumed, therefore the meat and eggs from pasture raised animals may provide Omega-3 in your diet.
Pigs and chickens on pasture also benefit from spending their days in the sunshine! Being able to exercise naturally and extensively means that, pigs in particular, will develop muscle without the need for hormones and growth promoters.
Disease is minimal in well managed pastured raised systems so this means there is little need for the use of antibiotics. Overuse of these drugs in the intensive farming industry is a major human health concern.
Finally, but most importantly, well managed, pasture raised animals live a happier life without the stress that is induced by overcrowding and the inability to carry out natural behaviours. Combined with a more natural diet and environment, this translates to a superior quality product.
So if you imagine pigs and poultry roaming in grassed paddocks when you picture free range, think pasture raised and seek out a Humane Choice true free range producer or supplier.