In recent years, healthier, more natural products have taken over supermarkets throughout the country: organic fruit, GMO-free vegetables, locally sourced eggs, and the list goes on and on. One food often left out of these lists is beef, and the importance of choosing grass-fed, not grain-fed beef when cooking. To start off, I’ll explain the dangers that come with grain-fed meat, and then I’ll go on to discuss the benefits of grass-fed meat.
Grain-fed animals are typically packed into feedlots or pens, because unlike their grass-fed counterparts, they don’t need open pastures to graze. In the beef industry, this proximity makes these feedlots dirty and prone to disease so in order to prevent these diseases, cows are feed a range of antibiotics which, in turn, ends up in your piece of beef! They are also fed growth hormones so they can grow faster. Due to their habitats (and even after being fed antibiotics), grain-fed beef is more likely to contain superbugs, bacteria resistant to antibiotics. All of this ends up in the steak or fillet that you purchase from your supermarket or butcher’s!
Now the benefits of grass-fed meat are plentiful. Grass-fed beef contains more antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. To name a few, they contain more omega3s, which can increase heart health, regulate cholesterol triglycerides, and aid in children’s learning and behaviors, and higher levels of zinc, iron, sodium, and potassium, along with vitamins like carotenoid, a precursor to Vitamin A found in plants. Vitamin A can help with vision, immune function, skin health, and also has antioxidant activity.
Scientists have also found that grass-fed beef contains more conjugated linoleic acid, which has antioxidant properties and might protect against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Finally, while it contains similar amounts as saturated fat when compared to grain-fed beef, grass-fed has a higher proportion of stearic acid which, unlike other forms of saturated fat, does not raise blood cholesterol levels. Similar benefits were seen in lamb, and pasture raised chickens were found to contain less fat and fewer calories while the eggs produced with more vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids.
Finally, there is an important environmental impact of grass-fed animals. It saves resources, protects health of animals and consumers, and eliminates need for farms to produce feed. Millions of acres of land is use to grow corn and other grains to feed animals making it one of the leading causes of deforestation.
As you can see there are risks to eating grain-fed meat and numerous benefits for grass-fed meat! Next time you’re at a supermarket, butchers, or even a restaurant, inquire about the feed of the animal. Grass-fed meat is becoming more high profile making it easier to find, and many people say the taste is the same, if not better! It is healthier for you and more environmental friendly for the planet; there’s no down side!