Scott Klasen, MS, CSCS, Co-Owner, Peak Performance Training
If you’ve taken a trip to the supermarket lately, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled upon the grass-fed beef behind the meat counter. What you probably also noticed was the price! So the question ultimately becomes, is it worth it? To help you better understand, the first thing you need to know is when a calf is born, it starts out eating grass. It turns out that cows have a special internal organ (the rumen) that turns grass into an efficient source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and other essential nutrients. Grass is simply the healthiest food for the cow, which makes grass-fed beef a top choice for your health.
However, after 5-6 months, most cows are shipped to feedlots, where they are switched to a diet of corn, growth hormones, and antibiotics. While this rich diet fattens the cow quickly, it eventually takes a serious toll on its health. The corn is especially difficult on the cow’s stomach, often leading to life-threatening bloating. It also triggers a severe type of animal heartburn called acidosis, which can lead to ulcers, liver disease, and a weakened immune system. This is just one reason why low doses of antibiotics are mixed right into their daily feed. Veterinarians say that a feedlot diet is so rich that it would kill the cow after about a year and a half, but on a diet of grass, cows thrive for 7 years or more!
Now I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my health, I’d sure feel better about eating the beef from a healthy animal the way nature intended! Don’t take my word for it though. Here are the top 10 reasons why you should consider the switch from grain-fed to grass-fed beef:
1. Lower in total fat. A serving of sirloin steak from a grass-fed steer has 100 fewer calories and nearly half the fat of a similar cut from a corn-fed steer. So much so that the fat content is actually similar to that of skinless chicken.
2. Lower in saturated fat. Research indicates that eating grass-fed beef can help lower total, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing beneficial HDL cholesterol.
3. Higher in Omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef contains 4 times more Omega-3 fatty acids. Yes, those Omega-3’s that we find in fish and are so good for the heart!
4. The right balance of Omega-3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. We are now starting to understand that the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega 6 fatty acids in our diets plays a crucial role in the prevention and treatment of coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune diseases, cancer, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. Grass feeding increases the Omega-3 content by 60%, producing a much more favorable ratio.
5. Higher levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). CLA has demonstrated significant health benefits in the human body, including the reduction of atherosclerosis and the onset of diabetes, along with the warding off of cancer. CLA content in grass-fed beef is 2-3 times higher than that of grain-fed.
6. 1.5 times higher in dietary protein. This may help lower blood pressure, aid in weight loss, and improve insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.
7. 3 times higher in Vitamin E.
8. 10 times higher in Vitamin A.
9. Higher in B Vitamins and Riboflavin.
10. Higher in the minerals Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium.
While the initial investment may seem high, there is no question that grass-fed beef is a superior product. So if possible, consider spending a little more now and save a lot later.
Joachim, D., & Davis, R. (2004). Fresh Choices. Rodale.