Grain vs. Grass Fed Beef

    Before WW II, all American beef was grass fed & finished.

Grass finished means the cattle ate pasture grass for the duration of their lives. Today, most cattle spend from 60-120 days in feed lots being fattened with grain before being slaughtered. Meat from a grass-fed steer has about one-half to one-third as much fat as a comparable cut from a grain-fed animal. Lower in calories, grass-fed beef is also higher in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to help reduce the risk of cancer, lower the likelihood of high blood pressure, and make people less susceptible to depression. Also, meat from grass-fed cattle is rich in another beneficial fat called conjugated linoleic acid CLA, which lowers the risk of cancer. The benefits of CLA are so widely acknowledged that some ranchers who don't grass-finish their cattle add CLA supplements to their animals' feed once they're taken to the feedlots. UC Cooperative Extension and CSU, Chico, received a $14,000 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation California Food and Fiber Future project to study and promote the health benefits of grass-fed beef. Two CSUC students, Amber Abbott and Margaret Basurto, conducted a literature review, in which research results that were reported in 55 articles, letters, Web sites and commentaries by scientists representing a wide variety of institutions were studied, collated and aggregated. Their report concluded that ranchers who produce grass-fed cattle may rightfully claim the product is more healthful than conventionally produced meat.

Now, cattle's diet significantly alters the fatty acid composition of their meat. Cattle fed primarily grass have 60% more omega-3 fatty acids and a more favorable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation and help prevent heart disease and arthritis. Omega-6 promotes inflammation, blood clotting and tumor growth. Because the two substances work together to promote good health, it is important to maintain a proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The essential fatty acids are also highly concentrated in the brain and appear to be particularly important for cognitive and behavioral function. Raising cattle on grass boosts the beef's level of a conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an important group of polyunsaturated fatty acids found in beef, lamb and dairy products. Over the past two decades, numerous health benefits have been attributed to CLA in animals, including a reduction in cancer, heart disease, onset of diabetes and accumulation of body fat. To achieve these benefits, the average person should consume about 5 grams of CLA per day. A 3.5-ounce serving of grass-fed beef provides 1.23 grams of CLA, 25% of the daily requirement. The same amount of conventional beef provides less than 10% of the daily requirement. Martha Grogan, M.D. cardiologist with the Mayo Clinic also confirms that grass fed beef has;

  • Less total fat
  • Higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids
  • Higher levels of another type of fat (conjugated linoleic acid) that's thought to reduce heart disease and cancer risks. CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a slightly modified form of the Omega-6 fatty acid. Basically, if you took the very curvy linoleic fatty acid, and made it straighter, you would have CLA. While our body produces over 100 fatty acid, there are 3 fatty acids the body can not make on its own they are linoleic acid, arachadonic acid and linolinic acid. Since these 3 fatty acids are essential to good health they are called Essential Fatty Acids.
Many Americans have moved away from eating red meats and fatty foods. This change in the American diet, means that most Americans are now deficient in CLA. This may be one of the primary reasons that obesity has gone up as the fat in our diet has gone down.

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, published in the December 2000 issue of the Journal of Nutrition found that CLA reduces fat and preserves muscle tissue. According to the research project manager, an average reduction of six pounds of body fat was found in the group that took CLA, compared to a placebo group. The study found that approximately 3.4 grams of CLA per day is the level needed to obtain the beneficial effects of CLA on body fat. The best and easiest way to increase CLA levels is through CLA supplements. In addition, if you want to take the same amount used in clinical studies on weight loss, you need a brand that will yield 1,000 mgs of active CLA per capsule. Since CLA is always in a carrier oil, only 80% of the capsule will be active CLA. For this reason, you need to take a 1285 mg capsule of CLA oil to yield 1000 mg. ( 1grm.) of active CLA.

Also on the green side, grain for grain fed beef must be planted, fertilized and harvested by using fossil fuels. That grain must be transported to feedlots, which uses more fossil fuels. So grain-fed beef extensively uses more natural resources than grass-fed beef. Today's cattle have evolved with a specialized digestive system and developed a symbiotic relationship with a variety of microbes, allowing for the digestion of fibrous plants and grasses through fermentation. What cattle haven't evolved into is an animal that easily digests corn, soy, starch and other sugars. Grain-fed beef cattle often require a number of antibiotics and other chemicals to bolster their immune systems weakened by complications that stem from an increase in digestive acids, resulting from the radical departure from their natural diet. This practice has introduced antibiotic and acid-resistant strains of bacteria into the US food supply. While grain-fed beef contains traces of the antibiotics necessary to help cows cope with a grain diet, cows raised on grass have no need for such assistance in digesting their food, according to North Carolina State University. Grass-fed beef also has less fat and cholesterol, making it a healthier choice of meat.

Now grass-fed beef generally costs more than its grain-fed equivalent, but I for one am really tired of people complaining about paying a little more for healthy or organic foods. For instance FYI it is perfectly legal for restaurants to glue cheap cuts of meat together in the shape of a filet mignon and represent it for sale as such. With the alternatives being fake food. (It's not a secret any more.) We know now, with the vast amount of information on the internet, corporate Agra America is guilty of poisoning us with its fake foods and food substitutes, food colorings, fake butter, trans fats, that improve their bottom line all proven to cause widespread health problems, and many health complications people are experiencing today. So be warned of those "taste like" fake foods out there, while they may be a few pennies cheaper at the market you'll pay extra for them with poor health in the future guaranteed. Good Luck...

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