If you enjoy the flavor and nutrition of beef in your diet, you have the choice between two different types.
There’s grass fed beef from cattle that live on wide-open pasture, grazing green grass and forage under the watch of their caretakers.
Then there’s beef from large cattle operations. These cattle live in cramped, unsanitary condions, are over-fed industrially produced corn, and injected with antibiotics and hormones to fight off certain disease.
That might sound a little dramatic… but it’s actually a pretty accurate description of 80% of beef in the U.S. that’s raised on factory farms. Corn feeding, antibiotic & hormone use, and environmentally destructive practices have become the standard for conventionally raised beef. As a result, more beef can be produced for less money in less time.
In contrast, grass fed beef has many health and environmental benefits that conventional grain fed beef doesn’t. Here, I wanted to take a look at a few of the big ones.
1.) Grass Fed Beef is Healthier For You
How an animal is raised and what they eat has a direct correlation to the nutritional quality of your food and how it supports your body’s overall health. When cows are fed grains and corn instead of grass, the nutritional makeup of the beef changes. Green grass and forage is a far superior energy source than corn and grains, resulting in significantly healthier meat.
Here’s a break down of some of the nutritional benefits of grass fed beef.
More Omega 3s and a Balanced Ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Omega 3s and omega 6s are two different types of fatty acids that make up the fats we eat. They’re both very important nutrients in the human diet because our bodies can’t produce them on their own, so we have to get them in our food. Omega 6 has pro-inflammatory properties, while omega 3 has anti-inflammatory properties that balance things out in our body. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is 1 to 1.
When a diet becomes consistently unbalanced and contains more inflammatory foods (higher omega 6), it causes a response that over time along with other factors can increase the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, type 2 diebetes, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, autoimmune disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s.
The rise of processed foods and omega-3-deficient foods in the modern diet has shifted the ratio from about 1:1 to 15:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. This significant change has been linked to the dramatic increase of chronic diseases in modern society.
Grain fed or corn fed beef has a ratio of 15:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids.
100% grass fed beef on the other hand has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than grain fed beef, with a typical ratio of 3:1.
In a nutshell, foods with more omega 3s and a balanced ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of disease caused by chronic inflammation. Futher, foods with higher amounts of omega 3s are becoming increasingly scarce in modern diets, making it more important than ever to consume foods with higher amounts of omega 3s like grass fed meats, fish and vegetables.
Want to start cooking with healthy 100% grass fed beef at home?
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is another type of healthy fat that research suggests is a powerful cancer fighter and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. One of the best known and most abundant sources of CLA is meat and dairy from grass fed ruminants.
Studies have shown that beef from 100% grass fed cattle has three to five times more CLA than grain fed beef.
Antioxidants & Vitamin E
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant and anti-inflammatory nutrient that’s been linked to reduced risk of coronary heart disease, cancer, cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s, and age-related eye disorders.
Grass fed beef has four times more vitamin E than beef from grain-fed cattle.
100% grass fed beef is by far the most natural type of beef available. It’s raised clean, untainted by the practices of massive industrialized operations that dominate mainstream cattle and cattle-feed production. In most cases, especially when produced on small scale farms, the resulting food is rich in complex nutrients that support a healthy, balanced diet and doesn’t have any artificial fillers or preservatives.
2.) Grass Fed Beef is Cleaner & Safer
In contrast to a 100% grass-fed cow that lives its entire life out enjoying the fresh air and ideal food supply of an expansive, unadulterated grassy pasture… an industrial feedlot cow spends its days in a giant field of muddy poo and requires regularly administered antibiotics to fight off infection. Most industrial operations also use steroids to grow the animal at an unnatural rate and feed on factory-farmed corn that its stomach isn’t designed to digest (cows are ruminants) as a primary food source.
I don’t know about you, but if you are what you eat, I really don’t want to eat that.
It’s impossible to run a factory farm operation without administering antibiotics. The cattle would get very sick because their environment is overwhelmingly unsanitary and stressful. In fact, feedlots are so dependent on antibiotics that they’re responsible for nearly 90% of the total use of antibiotics in the United States. We’re now learning the devastating effects of using such a massive amount of antibiotics with the advent of the superbug, or antibiotic resistant bacteria. The problem is getting so out of hand the UN has declared it a fundamental threat to global health.
If nothing’s done abut the irresponsible practices of industrialized agriculture, antibiotics will continue to lose their effects, setting up an unthinkable crisis where antibioitics no longer work, not to mention the trillions of dollars we’ll cough up finding a solution.
100% Grass Fed Beef is 100% Antibiotic-Free.
Hormones, Steroids & Growth Promotants
80% of all US cattle are injected with a combination of hormones and steroids as a growth promotant. Since 1988, the European Union has prohibited the use of hormones in cattle production. As a result, the United States hasn’t been permitted to export their beef to European countries since.
An international debate has continued about whether or not hormones in the food supply effect human health or not. Some of that controversy surrounds a debate of whether or not studies that showed significantly increased risk of cancers and hormone disruption in young females due to them is valid.
100% Grass Fed Beef is 100% Hormone & Steroid Free.
Staph, E.coli, Salmonella, and Swine Flu
What do all four of these things have in common? They’re most commonly found in factory farmed meat.
In the largest study done to date, Consumer Reports found that cows raised more sustainably were significantly less likely to have two of the most commonly found bacteria, staph aureus and E.coli, than conventionally raised beef.
Cattle raised in feedlot conditions are more susceptible to contaminating our food with these harmful bacteria.
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In 2012 factory farmed animals produced as much manure as the entire U.S. populations sewage, 369 million tons. The difference, manure on factory farms don’t undergo any wastewater management.
The bioligical waste from factory farms and it’s potential impact on human health is tremendous. The waste from factory farms poses an immediate health risk to surrounding communities, and in times of flooding can be devastating to water supplies for miles.
3.) Grass Fed Beef is More Sustainable
Cattle raised in a holistically managed system is incredibly more sustainable than beef raised in an industrialized system.
Industrial farms are characterized by their exessive size, irresponsible use of resources, reliance on chemicals and utter disregard of their short and long term environmental impact. A beef feedlot operation has a laundry list of environmental disasters, and to top it off, this style of agriculture also relies on massive industrialized crop farms that grow the corn and soy as feed. The amount of resources wasted, land destroyed, and harmful chemicals used in this system is breathtaking.
In contrast, a pasture grazing operation is designed around a single sustainable concept – healthy soil. The grass relies on healthy soil, the cattle relies on healthy grass, and the soil relies on healthy fertilization (cattle). It’s beautiful.
And, many grass fed beef farms like ours work dillegently to plan and maintain a holistic system that’s not only sustainable, but actually restores and revitalized damaged grasslands and prairies that are vital to the health of the planet.
We encourage you to learn more about the holistic management system our earth-loving friends at Tallgrass Network implement on our farms if you’re interested.
If you didn’t know much about the benefits of grass fed beef before, I hope you walk away with a better idea of why so many people are making such a big deal about switching. The massive growth of the industrialized beef industry has taken us in a frightening direction. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Luckily, with more information and resources available than ever about the effects our food system has on our life and the planet, consumers are driving demand for higher quality foods. As a reaction, more farms are starting to support the movement and use responsible practices.
What do you think, are the benefits of grass fed beef enough to make the change from grain fed beef?
To learn more about Farmer Girl Meats’ farms and how we raise our 100% grass fed beef and pasture raised meats – Click here.