For years, critics of organic food have pointed out that studies have consistently shown there's no nutritional difference between organic and "regular" food.
Now, proponents of organic finally have some data to justify their choice -- but the data doesn't credit organic methods of raising animals without antibiotics or hormones, according to the British Journal of Nutrition.
Instead, organically raised animals have 50 percent more omega-3 fatty acids because they spend time outside and they're allowed to naturally graze on grass, instead of staying locked in cages or stalls and eating only grain.
“It’s not something magical about organic,” said Charles M. Benbrook, one of the study's authors, reports The New York Times. “It’s about what the animals are being fed.”
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That still doesn't mean the higher omega-3 content translates to healthier food for humans. Scientists caution that while the health benefits may seem intuitive, more research is needed before they can say with certainty that grass-fed, outside-roaming animals result in healthier meat and milk for the human diet.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat linked to improved heart health.
“We don’t have that answer right now,” Richard P. Bazinet, a nutritional sciences professor at Canada's University of Toronto, told The New York Times. “Based on the composition, it looks like they should be better for us.”
The research looked at aggregate data from 196 existing studies that dealt with the nutritional composition of different types of meat.
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Not everyone is convinced the research justifies a diet composed of organic steak and pork.
The differences in organic and non-organic beef are "trivial," said Dr. Walter C. Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Far greater, and beneficial, differences in fatty acids are seen if poultry and fish replace red meat,” Willett told The New York Times.