Sorry, I had to pull a silly line from a childhood commercial for a well known fast food chain. And to to to use another famous quote..... "If I knew then what I know now", I would have NEVER eaten that particular BEEF. There has been alot of new research available in the past 5+ years that have brought beef back into its much deserved celebrity status. It had been given such a bad rap over the years simply because of how we chose to factory farm and raise these animals in this country.It is for this very reason, I became a vegan years ago! For those of you who have sworn off RED meat in fear of its fatty content and potential threat to heart disease, PLEASE take a moment to revisit this nutrient dense superfood. It does a body good.
So why the passionate promotion and what is there to like about beef? To its credit, beef offers among the biggest boost of protein per ounce of any traditional food. (Yes, insects and other underappreciated delicacies in some cases offer more. But, Divas do not eat bugs! To boot, beef is an excellent source of niacin, vitamins B6, B12, K2, phosphorus, selenium, as well as iron, potassium, and riboflavin. In its best form (and we’ll get to that), it also serves as a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (do you realize that CLA is one of the leading weight loss supplements on the market, ladies!) and omega-3 fatty acids. (See why I am so compelled to defend red meat’s honor?)
The inevitable caveat, however, is this: not all beef is created equal. Most of the beef consumed today is not, by any stretch, what your great-grandparents (let alone our primitive ancestors) would’ve eaten. Modern day CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) do a real number on the nutrition of today’s beef cattle. Forget the happy cow image of relaxed, casual grazing on healthy, nutrient-rich grasses. CAFO cows are fed a diet of grains typically mixed with soy product and, honestly, whatever the farmer sees fit. (I read an article that interviewed a beef farmer who fed his cows those orange jelly candies. Why? Because he got an enormous load of them cheap from the local candy manufacturer since they were “defective.”) But there’s so much more. Let’s break it down….
Grass vs. Grain FedWhat is the big deal with grass-fed beef anyway? Well, for one, the conjugated linoleic acid content. As mentioned in yesterday’s cheese post, CLA is believed to offer anti-cancer properties. It can also help decrease the risk of insulin resistance. Another big difference? A pastured diet results in a nearly 1:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. This is the ratio believed to characterize our hunter-gatherer ancestors (you know, Grok and company). What does a grain-fed ratio look like? Try 6:1. A skewed ratio is a prescription for inflammation and possible precursor/risk factor for chronic disease.
Finally, there’s the E-Coli issue. With all the concern about food safety in the last decade or so, one fact doesn’t get enough if any real press: grass fed (and finished) beef is considerably less likely to be infected with E-Coli (abstract), particularly acid resistant E-Coli that cannot be effectively “disarmed” by our digestive systems.
It’s worth noting that many cattle start off grass-fed early on in their lives but are nearly always switched to grain in the months before slaughter. Most of the initial omega-3 stores and other nutritional benefits are lost during that time. Grass-fed and –finished are not synonymous.
AntibioticsIn the age of so-called “super bugs,” bacteria resistant to even our most powerful drugs, you’d think the routine use of antibiotics for livestock would be scaled back if not outlawed. Not so. The majority of antibiotics in this country is administered not to sick humans or even sick animals but to basically healthy but unnaturally confined livestock. Because of the unnaturally crowded CAFO conditions (in addition to the poor diets), sickness is more common. However, instead of fixing the problem and changing the environment, all cattle are given a steady “preventative” dose of antibiotics to keep the herds clear of disqualifying disease. In response to growing antibiotic resistance, the European Union has outlawed the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, and debate is firing up in this country as well. Check out these websites for more information on the threat of CAFO antibiotic use to public health: Keep Antibiotics Working and The Pew Charitable Trusts: Human Health and Industrial Farming.
HormonesHeard of hormonal implants? (Not the human contraceptive kind…) We mean growth hormone implants placed in young cattle that will continue to administer hormone supplements for the long term (designed for continual “re-implanting”). Check out the internet for not only an explanation of the implant procedure but the dizzying array of hormone versions used in American livestock. Hmmm. So, that’s what’s for dinner….
Concern over hormone use has grown considerably over the last decade. Though the debate continues over the exact effects widespread use of these “natural” and synthetic hormones have on human consumers, the thinking tends to center around “how much” impact rather than “if.” The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures Relating to Public Health (a real mouthful, yes) conducted a review of relevant studies as well as subsequent follow ups on additional research. Their findings revealed legitimate human impact in the areas of human hormonal disruption and cancer risk.
Other IssuesHow about toxic pesticides (hormone disruptive, cancer-causing substances) used in growing feed and the prevalence of genetically modified grain feed? If you have reasonable access to organic, we suggest it. No one wants to be a guinea pig for Big Agra’s latest chemical or genetic concoction.
In addition to the pile of health issues, many consumers take issue with the ethical concerns and environmental impact of conventionally raised beef. Among them… Because of the extreme, unnatural confinement, CAFO cattle show significant signs of anxiety. The disposal of hormone-laden waste is an increasing controversy in certain regions of the country. Additional pesticide use for grain feed adds to our environmental chemical soup. It’s a sad existence for the cattle and an enormous burden on the land and waterways.
It’s true that meat as a whole is a resource-intensive food commodity. But humanely raised, grass-fed cattle from organic (or as close to it as possible) farms offer all the health benefits with a more sustainable farming approach.
Times are tough, we know. Nonetheless, from a purely health-focused, informative perspective, grass-fed (and –finished), organic beef stands as the ideal – the gold standard, albeit financially or logistically unattainable for many. The bottom line is this. As I always suggests, go for the cleanest meat you can find- there is such a price to pay with your health in making the INEXPENSIVE choice.
I have a local Texas resource for rotationally grazed beef. They are cowpooling! For those outside of Texas or unable to visit Starhaven Farms in Bedias, Texas. Please visit U.S.Wellness Meats by clicking on the link I have posted on my site.
Here is a Summary of Important Health Benefits of Grassfed Meats, Eggs and Dairy
Lower in Fat and Calories. There are a number of nutritional differences between the meat of pasture-raised and feedlot-raised animals. To begin with, meat from grass-fed cattle, sheep, and bison is lower in total fat. If the meat is very lean, it can have one third as much fat as a similar cut from a grain-fed animal. Grass-fed beef can have the same amount of fat as skinless chicken breast, wild deer, or elk Research shows that lean beef actually lowers your "bad" LDL cholesterol levels.
Because meat from grass-fed animals is lower in fat than meat from grain-fed animals, it is also lower in calories. (Fat has 9 calories per gram, compared with only 4 calories for protein and carbohydrates. The greater the fat content, the greater the number of calories.) As an example, a 6-ounce steak from a grass-finished steer can have 100 fewer calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer. If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grassfed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower or change in your eating habits. If everything else in your diet remains constant, you'll lose about six pounds a year. If all Americans switched to grassfed meat, our national epidemic of obesity might diminish.
In the past few years, producers of grass-fed beef have been looking for ways to increase the amount of marbling in the meat so that consumers will have a more familiar product. But even these fatter cuts of grass-fed beef are lower in fat and calories than beef from grain-fed cattle.
Extra Omega-3s. Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called "good fats" because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. For example, of all the fats, they are the most heart-friendly. People who have ample amounts of omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Remarkably, they are 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Omega-3s are essential for your brain as well. People with a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease.
Another benefit of omega-3s is that they may reduce your risk of cancer. In animal studies, these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading. Although the human research is in its infancy, researchers have shown that omega-3s can slow or even reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and also hasten recovery from surgery.
Omega-3s are most abundant in seafood and certain nuts and seeds such as flaxseeds and walnuts, but they are also found in animals raised on pasture. The reason is simple. Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are omega-3s. When cattle are taken off omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of omega-3s is diminished.
This is not true of just beef- but also of chickens. Are they living a life that nature intended?
When chickens are housed indoors and deprived of greens, their meat and eggs also become artificially low in omega-3s. Eggs from pastured hens can contain as much as 10 times more omega-3s than eggs from factory hens.
It has been estimated that only 40 percent of Americans consume an adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids. Twenty percent have blood levels so low that they cannot be detected. Switching to the meat, milk, and dairy products of grass-fed animals is one way to restore this vital nutrient to your diet.
The CLA Bonus. Meat and dairy products from grass-fed ruminants are the richest known source of another type of good fat called "conjugated linoleic acid" or CLA. When ruminants are raised on fresh pasture alone, their products contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed conventional diets. (A steak from the most marbled grass-fed animals will have the most CLA ,as much of the CLA is stored in fat cells.)
CLA may be one of our most potent defenses against cancer. In laboratory animals, a very small percentage of CLA—a mere 0.1 percent of total calories—greatly reduced tumor growth.  There is new evidence that CLA may also reduce cancer risk in humans. In a Finnish study, women who had the highest levels of CLA in their diet, had a 60 percent lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest levels. Switching from grain-fed to grassfed meat and dairy products places women in this lowest risk category.13 Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following grassfed products each day: one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat. You would have to eat five times that amount of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection.
Vitamin E. In addition to being higher in omega-3s and CLA, meat from grassfed animals is also higher in vitamin E. The graph below shows vitamin E levels in meat from: 1) feedlot cattle, 2) feedlot cattle given high doses of synthetic vitamin E (1,000 IU per day), and 3) cattle raised on fresh pasture with no added supplements. The meat from the pastured cattle is four times higher in vitamin E than the meat from the feedlot cattle and, interestingly, almost twice as high as the meat from the feedlot cattle given vitamin E supplements. In humans, vitamin E is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and cancer. This potent antioxidant may also have anti-aging properties. Most Americans are deficient in vitamin E.
- Queen Bee Wellness
- Three Goats Farm of Montgomery, Texas
- Melissa is a former beauty queen, personal trainer and certified holistic health coach. Melissa founded Queen Bee Wellness to specialize her coaching practice towards Women's Wellness and Beauty. She helps women focus on finding their own natural beauty from a integrative approach of balancing Mind, Body and Soul. Melissa believes that what we put in our mind is just as important as the nourishing food we put in our bodies and products on our skin. She strives to coach women to balance a healthier body image, approach to wellness and authentic living. With her passion for a clean lifestyle, Queen Bee Wellness therapeutic skin care products were born- to help women enhance their natural glow, without causing harm to their health from chemical laden toxic products. Melissa's philosophy to real beauty is summarized in "Wellness is Beauty". Melissa resides on a 10 acre farm in Montgomery, Texas with her husband and teen aged children. In her spare time she is chief goat wrangler and milker of her "Queen Bee" herd of dairy goats at Three Goats Farm.