How to buy meat you can feel good about

How to buy meat you can feel good about

Learn about the GTA business delivering sustainably-raised meat that is healthier for you and the planet

Laya Bail and Charlie Iscoe, founders of Sunday Farms, with one of their partner farmers, Nathan Kuepfer of Riverside Acres; Photo: Elaine Fancy

Do you know where your meat comes from? Sourcing ethically raised, nourishing meat is important for the environment and our health—and it tastes better. But a reliable source for meat that checks all the boxes is hard to find. Luckily, local businesses like Sunday Farms, one of the largest providers of pasture-raised meat and wild-caught seafood in Ontario, make it easy to bring that kind of quality home. 

Toronto-born founders Laya Bail and Charlie Iscoe were inspired to start Sunday Farms after leaving their New York City finance and marketing jobs and returning home to Ontario at the start of the pandemic. On Laya’s family farm near Creemore, the duo began researching the impacts of factory farming and, concerned by what they uncovered, launched Sunday Farms as a solution for busy consumers looking for quality products they could trust. (Read Laya and Charlie’s full story.)  

Why you should know where your meat comes from
Elaine Fancy

“Almost all meat in Canada comes from factory farms, which have well-documented negative impacts on the environment and our health,” says Charlie. Making matters worse, misleading labels are common in the food industry. For instance, “grass-fed beef” is an unregulated term. As long as a cow eats some grass, it can be considered grass-fed. “The reality is that only two per cent of beef in Canada is actually 100 per cent grass-fed.” 

As the couple knows from experience, finding that two per cent can take a lot of time—something most busy consumers don’t have. Sunday Farms conducts detailed reviews of partner farms, including a thorough evaluation of their practices, in-person tours of their operations and product tastings. Only a select number of farms meet the company’s standards.

While most consumers rarely know where their meat comes from, transparency is a key pillar at Sunday Farms. Profiles of farm partners, details about their practices and helpful educational content are proudly displayed on the company’s website so consumers can feel confident about their choices. The site thoughtfully caters to the unique needs of different households and now features wild-caught Canadian seafood and a user-friendly ‘à la carte’ ordering process—without the need for a subscription or order minimum. 

Why pasture-raised meat is healthier and tastes better
Dylan Swart

How a farm raises its animals doesn’t just have an impact on animal welfare. As Laya says, “When it’s raised better, it tastes better—and also happens to be better for you and the planet.” She adds, “As an example, 100 per cent grass-fed beef is much more flavourful than grain-fed beef. It’s like moving from sliced white bread to a handcrafted French baguette.” The reason is simple. Pasture-raised, 100 per cent grass-fed cattle are much more active and carry the characteristics of the land they graze on. “It’s like how wine adopts the qualities of its grapes and the soil they’re grown in. The result is a more complex, deeper flavour.”

From a nutritional standpoint, “cattle fattened up on a grain-based diet are exposed to numerous health problems due to their inability to properly digest grains, which leads to discomfort for the animal and higher use of antibiotics,” Charlie says. On the other hand, “the digestive system of a cow is designed to absorb valuable nutrients from grass, and those nutrients get passed on to you.”

Studies show that 100 per cent grass-fed beef is higher in healthy fats, lower in calories and higher in several essential vitamins and minerals. An independent third-party lab test of Sunday Farms’ products showed their beef has four times the amount of omega-3s and 70 per cent less saturated fats than factory-farmed beef.

Pasture-raised versus factory-farmed: What are the environmental stakes?
Elaine Fancy

The environmental differences between factory-farmed and regenerative, pasture-raised meat are often overlooked—likely because so few farms are in the latter camp. “Unlike factory farming, regenerative agriculture works with nature rather than against it,” says Charlie. “Whereas factory farming uses chemicals and techniques that negatively affect soil health, regenerative agriculture rebuilds soil health, and grazing animals play an important part in that cycle.” 

“We believe the food we eat has a direct and powerful impact on the health of individuals, communities and the environment,” emphasizes Laya. “That’s why all of our animals are pasture-raised on chemical-free fields, fed their natural diets without hormones or antibiotics, and raised on local farms that practise regenerative agriculture. The combination of these standards is unfortunately so rare in our modern food system—but we’re out to change that.”

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