Buying meat locally is the healthiest option. Admittedly, local food is not always easy to obtain* and it will be more expensive than mass produced grocery store meats.
A baby-step towards better health and eating healthier meat, is buying Kroger's "simple truth" brand. (I am not being compensated by Kroger.) Note there are two tiers of "simple truth" - regular and organic. Packaging looks similar for both and of course organic will cost more. The biggest difference being that the organic animals cannot be fed GMO grains.
From the label in the picture above for chicken, you read -
: No antibiotics ever
: No added hormones
: 100% vegetarian diet
: Raised cage free
It is good to know that the chickens are raised "cage free" but this basically means they are crammed into a barn like structure. They do not have access to sunshine, grass and bugs - all three things that make a healthier end product. When you buy local, the animal will have the best environment.
My favorite thing about the "simple truth" brand is that there are no antibiotics given to the animals. Unless you read "no antibiotics" on chicken or pork, you can bet your bottom dollar that piece of meat has antibiotics in it whether it needed it or not. This excessive dosing of animals will translate to your body. If you are eating Tyson or Sanderson chicken regularly, your meat has antibiotics in it. I am doing everything I can to add probiotics in my diet and try to avoid these cheap meats laced with antibiotics.
If you look closely at the "no added hormones" on the label, you'll see a tiny cross. In small lettering somewhere on the package you will read that the "...FDA prohibits the use of hormones in poultry." In effect, this one is non-speak or just feel-good-marketing-lingo. Nobody can use hormones in chicken. Not even Tyson.
The next one on the label says, "100% vegetarian diet." For those of you who have done your homework know this is not a good thing when it comes to chickens. Oh yes, chickens love a vegetarian diet (all grains) but they also love to eat insects and even small reptiles. Like a human diet, diversity is the key.
Simple truth also offers "grass fed" beef.
As of yet there are no regulations on the labeling of "grass fed."
This could mean the above ribeye was fed grass the first months of its life then shipped to a grain-fed lot in Kansas City where it finished its days. Or it could mean this piece of beef never had a kernel of corn or soy pass through its digestive system. It takes a lot longer for beef to reach finishing weight on grass alone and thus the reason we pay more for it. The only way you could know if your beef is truly grass-finished is if you talked to the farmer (buy local.)
Should you buy Simple Truth?
Yes and No. If you are currently buying Tyson or looking for the cheapest cuts of meat then yes switch to Simple Truth. Try to squeeze out a few more dollars from your grocery budget (Simple Truth costs more than Tyson). If you are already in the habit of buying meat locally, then stick with it. Locally raised on a small scale is the healthiest option.
Another convenience with Simple Truth is the fact that many Kroger stores carry it.
Let me encourage you though, to search out local options for meat. In central Arkansas we have many quality grass based farms and farmers that want to provide healthy meat for you.
Meat farmers I have bought in bulk from are:
Falling Sky Farm (they also have a meat share)
Farm Girl Natural Foods (have a farm share)
Freckle Face Farm
Youngblood GrassFed Farm
Where are you on the spectrum? Buying Tyson? Simple Truth? Whole Foods? Local meat? Take your next baby step towards healthier food.