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The Difference Between Non-Organic and Organic Meat

Because organic meat is generally more expensive than non-organic meat, you may be left wondering if the extra cost is really worth your while. There is a difference between organic and non-organic meats, and for some people organic is the best option.

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What is Organic Meat?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic meat comes from animals fed 100-percent organic feed, not given antibiotics or hormones, and allowed to graze in open pastures similar to the animals' natural living conditions. Organic feed given to these animals is grown in soil that's free from pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

What is Non-Organic Meat?

Non-organic meat is similar nutritionally to organic meat, but may come from animals given antibiotics or hormones. While the addition of these substances doesn't necessarily affect the nutritional value of the meat, some people prefer organic meat because antibiotics and hormones from non-organic meat can enter the bodies of people who eat it.

Effects of Hormones

Many people are concerned about hormones found in the food supply, and for good reason. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy reports that hormones given to beef cattle end up in meat and in people who consume that meat -- and there may be a link between hormones in food and increased incidences of certain types of cancer, thyroid diseases, obesity, diabetes, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, infertility, asthma and allergies. Hormones can end up in animal feed when the fats of other animals are added to non-organic feeds.

Effects of Antibiotics

The presence of antibiotics in non-organic meat is also a potential concern, according to a review published in 2010 in Toxicological Research. Authors of this review suggest that using antibiotics in food animals could cause resistant bacteria strains that may be harmful to human health, and antibiotics in food might disrupt the healthy bacteria balance in the human gut.

Nutrition Similarities

Organic and non-organic meats are both rich in essential nutrients -- including protein, iron, zinc, phosphorous and B vitamins. Both types of meat contain varying amounts of saturated and unsaturated fats, depending on how much fat marbling is in the meat. Lean cuts of meat are higher in protein and lower in fat and calories, but eating too many higher-fat meats can lead to high blood cholesterol.

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An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com.

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