What Grass Fed Beef Means
Grass fed beef simply means that the cattle were allowed to forage and graze for their own fresh food.
They may be given close substitutes like alfalfa during the winter, but unlike grain-fed animals, the emphasis is still on providing the closest thing to a natural diet as possible.
Grains are higher in calories, and encourage the cows to grow much faster and cheaper.
But grass is much higher in key nutrients like Omega–3s and B vitamins, and result in steaks that are leaner, healthier, and much more flavorful.
6 Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Meat
More Omega-3 Fats
Perhaps the most highly touted benefit of grass-fed meat is that it’s higher in omega-3 fats.
These fats are well-known and highly-regarded for their wide range of beneficial effects on heart health, mood, brain health, immune function, skin health, metabolic function, and more.
Studies estimate grass-fed beef may be upwards of 5 times higher in omega-3 fats compared to meat from grain-fed animals.3
These bad boys are so important that the American Heart Association recommends adults consume a minimum of 500 mg/day of EPA and DHA.
Often, more is better. The unfortunate reality is the average person consumes only about a quarter of that amount (around 135 mg/day).
And because we must get these essential fats through our diets (via food and/or supplements). Making sure we’re eating plenty of omega-3-rich foods is critical for overall health.
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Better Ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 Fats
Studies over the last decade or so have highlighted the significance of the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats consumed.
A healthy diet should consist of an estimated 2 – 3 times more omega-6 fatty acids compared to omega-3 fatty acids.
The typical American diet, however, tends to contain a whopping 15 – 30 times more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. This phenomenal swing has been blamed for an increase in virtually all inflammatory disorders.
Over consumption of processed foods—which are packed with pro-inflammatory, omega-6-rich refined seed oils—certainly plays a substantial role.
Yet, the consumption of foods from farm animals raised on grains rich in omega-6 fats (e.g., corn, soy) no doubt contributes as well.
Grass-fed meat contains, on average, about a 1.5:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats.
Meanwhile, grain-fed meat typically provides 7.5 times more omega-6 fats compared to the anti-inflammatory omega-3s.
More Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Perhaps the most striking difference between grass- and grain-fed meat is the content of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).
This special category of dietary fat is responsible for a variety of health benefits. Dietary CLA is found only in the meat and milk from ruminant animals (e.g., cows).
And grass-fed beef contains substantially more (as much as 3 times more) compared to grain-fed meat.
Among the numerous benefits of CLA is improved body composition.
Research has shown CLA has the potential to reduce body fat and increase lean muscle. And while those are the most publicized benefits (which are associated with supplemental doses of CLA), CLA has quite a bit more to offer.
For instance, CLA possesses antioxidant activity, it enhances immunity, and it helps promote a healthy inflammatory response.
Super Belly Fat Burning Combo:
More Micronutrients and Antioxidants
In addition to its healthier fat profile, grass-fed meat also packages higher amounts of the key antioxidants β-carotene and vitamin E.
These help fight free radicals, support immune function, and protect the body from oxidative stress. In addition, grass-fed meat is higher in certain B vitamins like riboflavin and thiamin.
And it’s higher in key minerals including calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
On top of that, grass-fed meat has been shown to be higher in glutathione. Commonly referred to as the body’s “master antioxidant,” glutathione plays a crucial role in reducing free radicals.
This protects body cells from excessive age-accelerating oxidative stress.
Glutathione is also important for immune function. And, it’s a natural detoxifier, helping eliminate potentially harmful toxins.
No Growth Hormones or Antibiotics
According to the American Grassfed Association’s (AGA) Grassfed Standards for meat and dairy, grass-fed animals are never treated with antiobiotics or growth hormones.
The AGA cites the fact that Europe has banned the import of American beef raised using hormones, steroids, or antibiotics.
According to the AGA, “In our opinion, there are NO ‘safe’ hormone, steroid, or antibiotic residues for families to consume in beef.”
And we, at BioTrust, would agree. In addition to unnecessary animal suffering. Treatment with artificial growth hormones and steroids may result in an increase in the IGF-1 content of meat and milk.
There’s also some evidence that suggests a potential link between IGF-1 levels and certain cancers. What’s more, the use of growth hormones typically amplifies the use of antibiotics. Speaking of which…
Less Exposure to Harmful Bacteria
The use of antibiotics can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (e.g., Staphylococcus aureus). These bacteria have been linked to a range of health problems from rashes to respiratory infections to potentially fatal illnesses.
According to research published by Consumer Reports, grain-fed beef was much more likely to contain the “superbug” MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). MRSA alone killed over 11,000 people in 2011 in America.
Overall, 18% of conventional beef samples were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “We know sustainable methods are better for the environment and more humane to animals.
But our tests show that these methods can produce beef that poses fewer public health risks,” according to Urvashi Rangan, PhD, executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.
Grass-Fed Beef History and Interesting Facts
Cows are meant to spend their lives peacefully grazing on grass in wide-open pastures. But most cows today are raised in a confined animal feeding operation or concentrated animal feeding operation known as a CAFO.
In these massive facilities, not only are the cows confined and overcrowded. But they also don’t eat what’s best for them.
Rather, they eat what makes them the fattest and hence yields the most money.
When these poor cows get sick (which easily happens with the far from ideal living conditions), they’re typically pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.
It’s said that a grain-fed, feed-lot cow can grow to be big enough for slaughter up to an entire year faster than a cow that’s fed only grass, foraged foods and hay.
For grass-fed beef producers
It’s not just time they battle, but there are also higher operating costs, a shortage of processors. And consumer hesitance to make the switch to grass-fed because of concerns about differences in taste and texture.
According to Jo Robinson, author of “Pasture Perfect,” “If you eat a typical amount of beef per year, which in the United States is about 67 pounds. Switching to grass-fed beef will save you 16,642 calories a year.”
This waist line-saving perk is just one of the many reasons why we should be grateful for the hard work of grass-fed cattle raisers.
The demand for better quality beef has been rising over the past few decades. And it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.
Some fast food chains like Carl’s Jr.® now offer a burger made from grass-fed beef. Which is a far cry from the antibiotics in fast food that are more typical.
Carl’s Jr. calls it “fast food’s first All-Natural Burger,” which it further describes as “a grass-fed, free-range charbroiled beef patty with no added hormones, steroids, or antibiotics.”
Hopefully, more food purveyors will follow this lead.
But while they’re focus on improving their meat, they should also make sure there is no high fructose corn syrup in their ketchup and use a bun that isn’t loaded with questionable ingredients.
Grass-Fed Beef Caution
With grass-fed beef, you can obtain all that awesome grass-fed beef nutrition with a lower likelihood of dangerous diseases.
However, it’s important that you handle and cook your beef appropriately to avoid any food-borne illness.
To be on the safe side, the USDA recommends cooking hamburgers and ground beef mixtures (like meatloaf) to a food thermometer reading of 160 degrees F (71.1 degrees C).
For steaks and roasts, the USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F (62.8 degrees C) before you remove the meat from the heat source.
For the sake of safety as well as quality, you should then let the beef rest for a minimum of three minutes before eating it.