Steaks, sausages, chops, roast, ribs, burgers – it’s that time of year again when many of us get together with our favorite people to enjoy our favorite dishes.

Now more than ever, shoppers are turning to grass-fed and pastured meats to feed their family and friends.

For the consumer who wants a healthier option, they find that grass-fed meat is better for the animal, the environment and the consumer.

So, what makes grass-fed meats healthier than the cheaper grain and GMO corn-fed meats?

It’s simple: Healthy meat starts with healthy animals.

Animals raised on pasture and fed their natural diet have less stress, are healthier, do not pollute soil, and are not given antibiotics, hormones or steroids.

Because CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) do not pasture their animals, they use feed supplements in order to increase growth rates. And because CAFO animals are under more stress, they experience health risks and are given antibiotics, hormones and steroids.

What goes in must come out. When cows, for instance, are not grass fed on a pasture, their manure becomes concentrated in the soil and contaminates the soil for miles around, causing environmental challenges to other farms and the local community.

But when a cow is free to pasture, the manure is evenly spread and becomes fertilizer, making happier cows and happier neighbors.

So why would a farmer choose CAFO instead of grass-fed practices to raise their animals?

A significant reason is because a cow fed grain and corn can grow to slaughter weight up to a year faster than a cow fed only forage, grass and hay.

Because of the ability to produce more meat faster, the industry has turned in large part to CAFO farming. Consumers, however, have driven new growth towards grass-fed and pasture-raised meats.

You are what you eat.

Many of us consume meats every day and take supplements to get what we are missing.

When you eat grass-fed beef, pastured pork and lamb you get nutrients naturally instead of from a pill (like fish oil for Omega 3).

Grass-fed and pastured meats contain vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, healthy fats, including Omega-3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid (a potent cancer fighter), less total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and overall calories.

Vitamins like Omega 3 are only in meats that from start to finish have been grass fed. After only one week of eating grain and corn, Omega 3s are completely depleted.

Eating grass fed isn’t new – it’s how our grandparents raised their meat.

Producing grass-fed and pastured meats takes time, resources and skill to create great-tasting, healthy products.

But in the end you have a product you can be proud of and confident in when you serve your family and friends.

John Bohannon is sales operations manager of Hunter Cattle Company in Brooklet, Ga. This article is provided in collaboration with HealthSmart of Bluffton.