Without getting into the politics of whether we should or should not eat beef, I would like to give you information about the nutritional differences between grass fed and grain fed cattle.
To begin with, the fat content of beef is the primary reason it has lost ground as a respectable entrée on America’s dinner table. Not only do most beef cuts have a high fat content, ranging from 35-75%, but also the majority of it is saturated.
Here is an interesting fact about grass-fed beef . . . CLA is a naturally occurring fat found in animal fats such as beef. As soon as you start to feed them grain, they start to lose their ability to produce CLA. Animals that graze on pastures have from 300 to 400% more CLA than animals fattened on grain in a feedlot. The amazing thing is that the fat is a completely different color than grain-fed beef. It is nearly clear and much thinner. This should not be surprising, but is an interesting physical confirmation of the huge difference there is in the fat between these two types of food.
Meat from a grass-fed cow has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed cattle. Omega-3s are considered to be “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. There is substantial medical research that 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 also 50 % less likely to have a heart attack. Omega-3s are essential for your brain as well. In addition, people with a diet rich in omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer’s disease.
Much of the beef you find in your local grocery store, and even in whole food stores, is from grain-fed cattle. Organic beef is marginally better. Keep in mind however, beef which has been labeled “organic”, does not necessarily mean it is grass-fed. It means that the animals were fed grains that are organic. The label must specify “Grass-Fed” to be truly grass-fed beef!
The average lifespan of most cattle goes something like this: The calves spend their first 6 months to a year feeding on pastures. They are then sent to “feedlots” to fatten up. It is obviously cost effective to get them to that point as quickly as possible. So the feedlots supplement their diets with large amounts of grain, soy and often steroids, antibiotics, hormones and additives to promote faster growth.
The good news is some of the smaller, family-run farms do still exist. A growing number of ranchers have stopped sending their animals to the feedlots to be fattened. Instead, they are keeping their animals home on the range where they forage on pasture, their native diet, for their entire lifespan. Better still, these ranchers do not treat their livestock with the hormones or feed them growth-promoting additives. As a result, the animals grow at a natural pace. For these reasons and more, grass-fed animals live low-stress lives and are so healthy; there is no reason to treat them with antibiotics or other drugs.
If you would like to switch to grass-fed meat and cannot find a local rancher to purchase it, ask your local grocery store or whole foods store if they carry it. Read the label to be sure it is not supplemented with even minimal grains. If they don’t, ask if they would be willing to order it for you. You may also find reputable businesses online that sell and ship the meat to you. It would be helpful to ask if they have been certified by the AGA – American Grass-fed Association Certification Committee.