Researchers at Newcastle University conducted 2 systematic reviews, which included over 200 papers, specifically looking at the types of fats within meat and milk that had been produced using different farming methods from around the world. They also found that organic meat tended to be lower in some types of saturated fats and that the fat profiles within organic meat probably reflect the outside method of feeding, allowing the cows to graze on grass.
These findings will be very important to the organic farming industry because, until now, it was unknown what the nutritional profile differences were between the different farming methods. Most people would choose organic milk and meat for ethical reasons, or for reasons due to perceived health differences, but now they can confidently choose these products knowing that science supports organic dairy. These studies complement Newcastle’s previous findings on organic fruit and vegetables.
Unless you eat seafood or seaweed, iodine is relatively low in the Westernised diet, and therefore switching to organic meat and milk will further reduce available sources. Conventional farming methods use feed for animals that has been fortified with iodine, and some countries fortify salt with it. However, it is easy to over-consume it if too many products are fortified, and besides – we want to try and convince the public to use less table salt and not more. Whether or not switching to organic meat and milk will adversely affect the iodine in our diets is difficult to predict. For pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers with concerns about iodine and wishing to switch to an organic diet should consult a health professional for guidance, but for the rest of us, eating a diet that includes eggs, dairy (yoghurt and low fat cheese), poultry, nuts, fish and plenty of fruit and veg should keep us in balance.
Many of us, particularly in the UK, eat a diet that is biased toward omega-6 fats. Whilst we do get some omega-3 from meat, most of the beneficial fats come from fish, nuts and seeds. The type of omega-3 that we need for a healthy heart and good immune system are those found in oily fish, called EPA and DHA. We can convert some of the omega-3 from meat and dairy into DHA/EPA but not efficiently. So it’s still important to get our portions of fish. However, eating organic dairy and meat will certainly help with our omega-6/omega-3 balance and shift it more toward omega-3!
For more information on iodine deficiency and diet, see the British Dietetic Association fact sheet here:
For links to the organic meat and dairy news release:
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat.