I know there are those who choose to not eat meat or any animal products in their diet. I sincerely respect that. I also know that there are some diehard meat eaters out there who will not give up their beloved beef—and most of those folks are probably men. That hunch was confirmed the other day when I read an article that shared the top 10 favorite meals of the American man. I just had to nod my head knowingly when I saw shepherd’s pie (made from ground beef), New York strip steak, prime rib, beef stew, meat loaf, spaghetti and meatballs (made from ground beef) and pot roast fill seven of those 10 spots.
I believe that grassfed is the way to go when it comes to meat products, including beef. In short, the diet of grassfed cows develops healthy cows and, consequently, healthy produce. I believe that eating organic, grassfed and pastured cuts of meat are far better for you than commercially produced beef (or any other kind of meat for that matter). But what is grassfed and how is it different from commercially raised livestock?
The American Grassfed Association defines grassfed products from ruminants including cattle, bison, goats, and sheep as “those food products from animals that have eaten nothing but their mother’s milk and fresh grass or grass-type hay from birth to harvest—all their lives.”
Being raised grassfed truly makes a difference in the produce. Grassfed animal products are higher in beta carotene and other antioxidant vitamins, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and omega-3 fatty acids, which support healthy brain function and cellular health as well as healthy cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels.†
Grassfed animals produce meat products that contain two to four times the amount of omega-3 fatty acids found in a standard cut of meat. Additionally, the amounts of CLA in grassfed meat are higher. (CLA is another good fat and grassfed meats contain from three to five times more CLA than products from animals fed standard commercial diets.) The same is true for vitamin E levels in grassfed meat; it contains nearly four times the amount of vitamin E than meat that is commercially grown. Additionally, grassfed products are lower in unhealthy fats, cholesterol, and calories. In fact, meat from grassfed animals has only about one third the fat as a similar cut from a grainfed animal.
Michael Pollan, author of an excellent book titled The Omnivore’s Dilemma, says it’s not necessarily our food that’s making us sick, but what we feed our food. Here’s why: commercially raised livestock are raised on corn, pumped full of antibiotics, and fattened as fast as possible to get them to market quickly. Seventy-five years ago, steers were four or five years old when they went to market. The age fell to two or three years in the 1960s. Today production cattle are fattened up in 14 to 16 months before they are sent to market.
“A recent study in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the meat of grassfed livestock not only had substantially less fat than grainfed meat but that the type of fats found in grassfed meat were much healthier,” says Pollan. “A growing body of research suggests that many of the health problems associated with eating beef are really problems with corn-fed beef. In the same way ruminants are not wired to eat grain, humans may not be well adapted to eating grainfed animals.”
So, where’s the beef? In my opinion, the best—and the healthiest—is found in grassfed animals.