Nutritional aspects of pasture-raised poultry and their eggs.

1. The meat of pastured chickens is distinct from indoor raised animals by having thick yellow skin and yellow subcutaneous fat layer. The yellow color is from the pigment -b-carotene(vitamin A precursor) that is abundant in the grass that the birds ingest on the pastures apart form the chlorophyll.

2. The meat itself is darker color, more firm, lean, less fatty because of more developed muscles consistent with the movement and physical activity outdoors.

3. The nutritional composition of pastured chickens is different from factory raised birds and indoor confined animals. The slow growing breed is particularly well adjusted for life on the pasture and exhibit the lowest content of fat, both in breast and in thigh meat, the lowest proportion of mono unsaturated fatty acids(MUFA) and the highest proportion of polyunsaturated fatty acids(PUFA).The total n-3 PUFA(omega-3) of slow-growing birds was double that of fast-growing meat birds. [1]

4. The pasture-raised broilers on no soy organic feed are higher in vitamin D3 and E and have an Omega 6:3 ratio 3:1, in contrast to pastured soy-fed broilers with Omega 6:3 ratio 8:1. [2]
In contrast commercial non-organic factories produced poultry meat was shown to have ratio ranging 17:1 to 25:1 with the all pro-inflammatory metabolic results.

5. Compared to eggs of the commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. [3]. Omega 3 fatty acids enriched eggs are considered to be part of heart healthy diet[5]

6. Vitamin A concentration was 38 percent higher in the pastured hens' eggs than in the commercial hens' eggs, but total vitamin A per egg did not differ. [4]

7. The 2005 study MOTHER EARTH NEWS conducted of four heritage-breed pastured flocks in Kansas found that pastured eggs had roughly half the cholesterol, 30% less saturated fat ,50 percent more vitamin E, and three times more beta carotene and vitamin D. [6]

8. Grass-fed grass finished beef tends to be lower in overall fat content, an important consideration for those consumers interested in decreasing overall fat consumption. A number of clinical studies have shown that today's lean beef, regardless of feeding strategy, can be used interchangeably with fish or skinless chicken to reduce serum cholesterol levels in hypercholesterolemic patients. [7]

9. Grass-fed grass finished beef (on a g/g fat basis), has a more desirable lipid profile (more C18:0 cholesterol neutral SFA and less C14:0 & C16:0 cholesterol elevating SFAs) as compared to grain-fed beef. [8]

10. Grass-finished beef is also higher in total conjugated linoleic acid (C18:2) isomers, transvaccenic acid (C18:1 t11) and n-3 fatty acidss on a g/g fat basis. This results in a better n-6:n-3 ratio that is preferred by the nutritional community. [9]

11. Grass-fed grass finished beef is also higher in precursors for Vitamin A and E and cancer fighting antioxidants such as glutathion and superoxide dismutase activity as compared to grain-fed contemporaries. [10]


1. Sirri F., Castellini C., Bianchi M., Petracci M. Effect of fast-, medium- and slow-growing strains on meat quality of chickens reared under the organic method. Animal Consortium, February 2011, V.5, Issue 2, p.312-319.
2. Jeff Mattocks, Mike Badger. Pasture and feed affect broiler carcass nutrition.American Pastured Poultry Producers association. APPPA website, April 2015.
3. Lopez-Bote C.J., Arias R.S., Rey A.I., et al. Effect of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acid and alpha-tocopherol content and oxidative stability of eggs. Animal Feed Science and Technology, Volume 72, Issues 1-2, May 1998, Pages 33-40.
4. Karstena H.D., Pattersona P.H., Stouta R., et al. Vitamins A, E and fatty acid composition of the eggs of caged hens and pastured hens. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, Volume 25, Special Issue 01, March 2010, pp 45-54.
5. Hegde M.V., Zanwar A.A., Khan S.A., et al. Omega-3 fatty acid enriched eggs are heart friendly. Atherosclerosis Supplements, Volume 12, Issue 1, June 2011, Page 148.
6. Giannenas I., Nisianakis P., Gavriil A., et al. Trace mineral content of conventional, organic and courtyard eggs analysed by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Food Chemistry, Volume 114, Issue 2, 15 May 2009, Pages 706-711.
7. Beauchesne-Rondeau E., Gascon A., Bergeron J., Jacques H. Plasma lipids and lipoproteins in hypercholesterolemic men fed a lipid-lowering diet containing lean beef, lean fish, or poultry. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2003;77(3):587-93.
8. Garcia P.T., Pensel N.A., Sancho A.M., Latimori N.J., Kloster A.M., Amigone M.A., Casal J.J. Beef lipids in relation to animal breed and nutrition in Argentina. Meat Sci. 2008 Jul; 79(3):500-8.
9. French P., Stanton C., Lawless F., O'Riordan E.G., Monahan F.J., Caffery P.J., Moloney A.P. Fatty acid composition, including conjugated linoleic acid of intramuscular fat from steers offered grazed grass, grass silage or concentrate-based diets. Journal Animal Science. 2000;78:2849-55.
10. Descalzo A.M., Insani E.M., Biolatto A., Sancho A.M., Garcia P.T., Pensel N.A., Josifovich J.A. Influence of pasture or grain-based diets supplemented with vitamin E on antioxidant/oxidative balance of Argentine beef. Meat Sci. 2005 May; 70(1):35-44.

Z Farms Photo: Cows 5