Over the past few years I’ve significantly cut back on the amount of beef my family eats. I subscribed to the belief that beef was bad for you. But what I’ve learned over the past few months while researching the healthiest foods you can eat, the health factor of beef is less about beef itself and more about the way it is raised.
Most of the beef we get at the grocery store is raised at large, factory farms. In order to maximize their size, cattle are fed grain and given growth hormones. And to reduce the risk of infection and disease, in what are usually over-crowded living conditions, the cattle are also given antibiotics. These practices go against their natural diet, introduce chemicals and drugs into their system and radically affect the nutritional value of the meat coming from these cows. The main result is higher fat content and meat that is riddled with antibiotics, which are passed on to anyone who consumes it.
So what are the benefits of Grass-Fed Beef?
The natural diet of cattle is grass, not grain. But most of the beef we get has been fed exclusively on grain. By changing cattle’s natural diet of grazing on grass in a pasture to grain, the result is higher fat content and a loss of nutrients. It’s reported that grain-fed beef only has one-quarter of its natural vitamin E, one-eighth of its beta carotene and one-third of it’s omega-3 fatty acids.
- Grass-fed beef contains up to 60% more Omega-3 fatty acids – Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent certain chronic diseases such as heart disease.
- Grass-fed cattle produce 2 to 3 times more Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) than grain-fed cattle – CLA has long been studied for its anti-cancer and tumor fighting ability, as well as its ability to reduce fat accumulation, especially around the abdomen.
What’s the difference between Grass-Fed and Organic?
Some organic meat still comes from Grain-fed cows. While buying organic meat ensures you’re not getting any of the hormones, steroids and antibiotics, the meat is still nutritionally inferior to Grass-fed beef. The additional nutrients come from the cattle’s natural diet of pasture grasses.
Where can I get Grass-Fed Beef?
Unfortunately it is hard to find grass-fed beef at your local grocery store. However, here are a few resources for finding locally grown grass-fed beef:
- Ask your local butcher if they know of any local ranches specializing in grass-fed beef
- EatWild.com provides a directory of local pasture-based farms producing grass-fed meat, eggs and dairy
- Craigslist even has numerous listings by local ranches selling whole, half and quarters of beef for sale. We just bought a quarter of beef which equates to 95 lbs of beef in my freezer!
In Jonny Bowden’s book, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, he asked 10 leading doctors and nutritionists what their favorite healthy foods are and surprisingly (to me), grass-fed beef ranked right up there with foods such as blueberries, spinach, broccoli and wild salmon.
Grass-fed beef is more expensive than the grain fed beef you’ll find in your local market. But for me it’s worth it. I’d rather invest in my health now rather than pay the doctor later.