A reader recently emailed a great question: "My kids are telling me I should be buying grass-fed beef because it's healthier, is this true? And if so, why are all cows not fed grass?
Answer: The short answer to the first part of your question is yes - studies show grass-fed beef is a much healthier choice than corn-fed (or grain-fed) beef for a number of reasons:
|Is Grass-Fed Beef Healthier?
- Grain-fed cows experience many health problems including bacterial infections that require antibiotics.
- Grass-fed beef is higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids ALA, EPA, and DHA. Meat from feedlot animals (grain-fed) has been found to contain only 15-50 percent as much omega-3s as meat from grass-fed cattle.
- Meat from grass-fed livestock is four times higher in vitamin E.
- Grass-fed meat is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a nutrient associated with lower cancer risk.
Unhealthy Cows Make Unhealthy Beef
We are what we eat. The stomachs of cows are naturally pH neutral. A corn-based (grain-based) diet, however, creates an acidic environment that contributes to a host of health problems. Corn-fed cattle are prone to serious health conditions such as bloat, diarrhea, ulcers, liver disease, and a weakened immune system. To combat these health problems, cattle are continually fed antibiotics, which leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that increasingly render modern medicine ineffective.
The unfortunate reality right now is that grain-fed beef is much more prevalent in our society. It dominates supermarkets and restaurants, which leads to the second part of the question...Why?
The answer is money. Several decades ago, the cattle industry began feeding cattle a diet based on grain, particularly corn. During World War II, farmers were producing more grain than the American population could consume, so they started feeding the surplus to cattle. They found that a grain-fed diet allowed them to fatten up cows faster for slaughter. Seventy-five years ago, it took a cow 4 or 5 years to reach a weight of 1,200 pounds. Today, cattle can be slaughtered at just 14-16 months of age, thanks to massive amounts of corn, protein supplements, antibiotics, and growth hormones.
But Wait, There's Hope!
We may have an American beef industry that is currently fueled by corn-fed cattle, but luckily we live in a society that has the power of choice. We are in the midst of a health-revolution in this country and many are just now becoming aware of this issue. In America, big business responds to what the consumer demands and as more of us demand grass-fed beef for our families the industry will provide it.
Currently grass-fed beef is available in the U.S. at stores such as Whole Foods Market and Sprouts. And here's the great part - Not only are you eating healthier meat when you choose grass-fed, but you'll also find that grass-fed beef tastes better, and is less expensive in many cases too.
Remember that grass-fed and organic are not the same thing. Stores often sell organic beef and dairy products from animals raised without antibiotics or hormones. While these animals were likely fed less grain than the industry norm, they may still come from feedlots where they were fed grain. Look for meat labeled both grass-fed and organic.
Article by Melissa Miller
Labels: Health Tips, Is Grass Fed Beef Healthier?, Nutrition