Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI) recently published a study showing that Americans are highly susceptible to micronutrient malnutrition. Part of the problem with an "overfed but undernourished" society has to do with the way food is produced. With beef, it involves the method in which cattle are fed and/or raised. Grass-fed beef is superior for a number of reasons- here's why.
Cattle Are Naturally Grass Eaters
All cattle begin life as grass-fed animals. However, in large-scale Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), young calves are moved from outdoor pastures to confined spaces, where they are then fed grain almost exclusively.
Grain-fed cattle grow to full size much faster than grass-fed cattle. Rather than taking 5 years or so to reach slaughtering size, many grain-fed cows reach that benchmark in about 16 months. But that fast growth does come with some downsides, namely the need for a nearly constant supply of antibiotics to ward off infection.
Cattle are naturally designed to be grass eaters. When their diet is disrupted, this can result in a number of health problems for the animals. It may also drastically alter the nutritional content of their meat.
Grass-Finished vs. Grain-Finished
Since all cattle begin life in a pasture, all beef could technically be labeled as "grass fed." Accordingly, you should use caution when buying meat with this label. Knowing how the cattle were raised and what their diet consisted of is important. In addition, you should also look for beef that has been grass finished rather than grain finished.
Grain-finished beef comes from cattle that were originally fed in pastures, but later moved to an indoor facility and offered grain. Grass-finished meat is derived from cows who were started as well as "finished" solely with grass. If the label does not specify, you will need to perform some research to find out how cattle were raised and what their diets consisted of.
Grass-Fed is Leaner
A six-ounce portion of grass-fed beef will contain approximately 92 fewer calories than its grain-fed counterpart. According to Jo Robinson, author of the book Pasture Perfect, this can amount to a calorie savings of over 16,600 per year.
That calorie savings assumes you eat around 67 pounds or so of beef each year, which is the average for most Americans. That amounts to around a five-pound weight loss with no further changes in diet and exercise.
More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
While grass-fed beef is lower in fat, it also contains a fatty acid composition that differs significantly from that of grain-fed meat. Grass-fed beef contains nearly five times the amount of Omega-3 fatty acids as grain-fed meat, according to an article from Healthline.
Omega-3's provide an array of health benefits by helping you ward off depression and improve your vision. But they also help safeguard your heart by:
- Reducing triglycerides or "bad" cholesterol levels in the blood
- Helping to stabilize blood pressure
- Raising HDL or "good" cholesterol levels
- Preventing blood clots from forming
- Reducing inflammation in the arteries
- Preventing plaque buildup
Higher Amounts of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Grass-fed beef contains nearly twice the amount of Conjugated Linoleic Acid as its grain-fed counterpart. CLA is an Omega-6 fatty acid found naturally in many meat and dairy products. It provides numerous health benefits, most notably weight loss. So in addition to cutting calories, you could receive an extra boost to your weight loss efforts, just by switching to grass-fed beef.
Some evidence also suggests that CLA can prevent atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This could be another way in which grass-fed beef can help protect you against heart disease. According to the US National Library of Medicine, CLA might even help regulate your blood sugar and safeguard you against certain forms of cancer.
Richer Nutrient Content
Animals that are fed a healthy diet will naturally produce more nutritious meat. Grass-fed cattle produce beef that is higher in Vitamins A & E. Grass-fed beef will also contain greater amounts of beta carotene, a carotenoid used to produce Vitamin A.
In addition to these vitamins, you'll find a host of other nutrients in grass-fed beef, including selenium, zinc, creatine, Vitamin B12, and iron. While these nutrients are also found in grain-fed beef, they tend to be more abundant in grass-fed varieties.
Fewer Bacteria or E Coli
According to Food Revolution Network, an organization committed to "healthy, ethical, and sustainable food", the widespread practice of feeding grain to cattle is directly responsible for an uptick in the number of E coli cases.
It seems that grain creates the perfect environment for bacteria in cattle to grow. Grain creates an acidic balance in the digestive tract, leaving cows more susceptible to developing E coli that can then be passed on to consumers. Prior to the 1980s, E coli was virtually unheard of, but is something that is now found in the digestive tracts of nearly all CAFO cattle.
The constant feeding of antibiotics to cattle can directly impact food safety as well. Routine antibiotics have resulted in new "superbugs" that are drug-resistant and pose significant threats to human health.
Choosing Quality Grass-Fed Beef
When choosing beef, it's important to note that grass-fed and organic are not the same thing. Organic beef comes from cattle that have not been given antibiotics or added hormones. It does not mean that cows were raised in a pasture and were never given grain.
Both certified organic and grass-fed cows produce dairy and meat products, but they differ greatly. Organic cows are fed organic feed that may include grains, while "grass-fed" cows are exclusively fed grass, hay and forage.
Look for a company that meets Australian Certified Organic (ACO) standards. ACO's standard exceeds that of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) when it comes to the organic label. Accordingly, you can be sure that your meat is raised free of hormones or antibiotics, while still being fed the most nutritious diet possible.
At Cleaver's Organic, we meet or exceed ACO standards, and raise all our cattle in a safe, humane environment. The result is a better-tasting product with greater nutritional value and health benefits. When choosing grass-fed beef, it's important to know what you are getting, which is why we invite you to contact us today in order to find out more.