Why Pastured Poultry And Pork Are Better For Your Dog

Julia Henriques
 Pastured Poultry And Pork

Many dog owners like feeding their dogs poultry or pork. But if you do that, it’s far better for your dog if you choose pastured poultry and pork instead of factory farmed meats. 

Factory farming produces an estimated 72% of the world’s poultry and 55% of the world’s pork. 

And one of the big problems is what the animals are fed. Your dog is what he eats …and factory farmed animals raised in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) are too. 

Poultry And Pork Diets

Let’s take a look at what poultry and pigs eat …

Factory Farmed Poultry
Chicken and other poultry feeds contain ingredients like corn, soybean meal (both genetically modified crops) and dried bakery products (which means waste from human bakery manufacturing, like bread, cookies, cake, crackers and flour). Also on poultry feed ingredient lists are hydrolyzed poultry feathers, safflower meal and a long list of synthetic vitamins and minerals.

Pastured Poultry
Not surprisingly, birds in the wild don’t eat corn or soybeans. They live on grasses and insects. There’s a huge difference between the natural grasses and bugs the chicken or turkey is supposed to eat … and the corn and soy waste products they’re forced to eat. Pastured poultry get protein in their diets from insects and worms they peck out of the ground.

Factory Farmed Pigs
Factory farmed pigs are fed huge amounts of genetically modified corn and soybean meal, laden with chemical fertilizer and herbicides. The animals have deficient immune systems caused by stress in crowded conditions and poor diet.

Pastured Pigs
In the wild, pigs (who are omnivores) eat just about anything they can find: roots, grass, leaves, grubs, insects, nuts, berries and other fruit. Domesticated pigs raised on pasture will also eat table scraps, garden vegetables, melons, and raw cultured milk. Pigs also like to eat weeds and they’ll eat plants like pigweed, burdock, nettle and lambs quarters in their pastures. 

Omega-6 In Factory-Farmed Animals

Factory farmed animal feeds are very high in omega-6 fatty acids … and so is the meat they produce. And foods high in omega-6 aren’t good for your dog. 

The omega-6 fatty acids produce hormones that increase inflammation, which is an important part of your dog’s immune response. Giving foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids balances out the omega-6 fats and lowers that inflammation. But factory farmed poultry and pork are so high in omega-6 fatty acids that you can’t feed enough omega-3s to fix the imbalance.

Check out these omega 6:3 ratios …

  • Chicken: 21:1
  • Pork: 24:1
  • Turkey: 11:1
  • Duck: 11:1

A healthy ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 should be really no more than 5:1. So if chicken and pork are a major part of your dog’s diet, it’s hard for him to be truly healthy and have a robust immune system.

Turkey and duck aren’t as bad as chicken or pork, even though they’re fed the same poor diet. The omega-6 fats are still a bit high, but you can balance them with some fish, rabbit or grass-fed beef.

RELATED:  Read more on omega oils ...

Nutrition In Pastured Poultry And Pork

While there are few studies citing the exact levels of nutrients in pastured meats, it’s clear that they’re much better than their factory farmed counterparts.

Pastured Poultry

Pastured poultry is leaner and healthier than poultry raised in confinement. Their insect and plant diet creates meat that’s higher in protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids, and other nutrients like iron, calcium and vitamins A, C, D and E. 

Pastured chickens have been shown to have 21% less total fat, 30% less saturated fat and 28% fewer calories than factory-farmed birds.

Two 2008 studies at Portuguese universities found that pasture-fed chicken contained significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than chickens raised without access to fresh forage.

Pastured Pork

Studies show pastured pork meat has a better omega-6:3 ratio (though it’s still not great), ranging from 11.8 to 18:1. The ratios in pigs in confined farming operations ranges from12.4 to 31.2:1

CIWF (Compassion In World Farming) Foundation reports that omega-3s are 18-43% higher in free range pigs than in factory farmed pigs. And organic pig meat is a huge 291% higher!  

Pastured pork is also higher in vitamins D and E than its factory farmed counterparts.


Aside from the ethical considerations of keeping animals in inhumane, overcrowded, often filthy conditions indoors, where they barely have room to move, one other big problem with factory farmed poultry and pork is antibiotics. 

The stressed animals in CAFOs are more prone to disease, and crowded conditions create a breeding ground for pathogenic bacteria. So factory farmed animals are given antibiotics to prevent disease as well as to treat it. That’s not only harmful to your dog eating antibiotics in his meat, it’s also creating antibiotic-resistant pathogens in those meats … including harmful bacteria like salmonella and E coli.

What To Buy

It’s not hard to find pastured poultry and pork at many grocery stores now … particularly at specialty stores. But it can be expensive.

So here are some other ways to source meats like pasture-raised free range turkey, homegrown pork and poultry, and even heirloom chickens and pigs. 

  • Get to know your local farmers and buy directly from the farm or co-op. Websites like localharvest.org and eatwild.com can be a good way to find farms in your area, 
  • Shop at farmers markets – and they’re another way to meet local farmers.
  • You’ll need freezer space … but you can save by buying in bulk from local farms. You can often buy a ½ pig, or poultry in bulk quantities.
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