Organic farming is clearly better for livestock and your palate, but benefits to the human body are still not obvious. A pair of new studies, though, could help strengthen the argument for why eating organic is also the healthier option. Researchers behind the two papers, which appear this month in the British Journal of Nutrition, say their findings show that organic meat and milk both contain 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids than their conventionally raised counterparts.
Two provisos quickly worth noting: The study was co-funded, alongside the EU, by a British nonprofit that supports organic farming, and it’s based on 196 preexisting papers on the topic, instead of on any new research. Still, per the analysis, organic meat was also lower in two kinds of saturated fat and has slightly more iron and vitamin E. The authors say as a result that eating organic (any kind of animal meat is fine, they note) could pay off in ways besides just a tastier dinner. And it’s not “something magical” about the organic process, they argue, but rather just what the animals are being fed — pasture grass instead of unnatural feed.
Omega-3s — considered one of the “good fats” — have been shown to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, which is one reason the USDA started recommending Americans eat more omega-3-rich fish in 2010. The problem, as the New York Times points out, is that if millions more people suddenly became pescatarian, the world’s already-endangered seafood supplies would run dry. Whether people can actually get healthier by eating a slab of grass-fed meat and drinking some organic milk every day isn’t something scientists can answer yet, but any hopeful news whatsoever about red meat is more than welcome right now.