Grass Fed Beef: Does It Matter? 

Growing up you probably never heard the term “grass-fed” or “organic” referring to produce and animal products. That’s because there was no distinction between grass-fed or grain-fed products you were buying. I grew up around my grand-parents farm where grass-fed and organic just meant normal. Now if I go out to eat I’m always pleasantly surprised if a restaurant has “grass-fed” options. I would assume because of my own previously uneducated views that people are probably muttering things like “Listen to this silly tree huggin’ hippie. Go order your grass fed, organic, gluten-free crap hippie food somewhere else”.  I have grown use to the comments from friends and the ensuing conversation about what they don’t know. If you aren’t aware, grazing on grass is the natural diet for cows. The same for buffalo and bison. Grain is the large corporate answer for fattening beef to get more out of every cow. The grain also causes more fat to accumulate and thus increases the taste.  Simple dietary changes in animals might seem harmless it’s just yielding more food right? Well it’s certainly making a huge negative difference in humans, why would animals be different? I would hypothesize that when farming went “big” they just didn’t fully understand the repercussions of feeding animals a diet they aren’t meant to eat.

There are tons of fads out there about dieting, good science and bad science. Things like “organic” products aren’t necessarily what they say they are.  And most don’t know why they’re going to pay a few dollars more per pound of “grass-fed” meat that they buy. You heard it on an elite daily blog though, so you must heed the information. What’s behind these terms? Does “grass-fed” validate the $10-$15/lb of meat price tag? Does “organic” validate Whole Foods doubling the price of the same product at Publix? Grass-fed animal products will be the focus today. If you want to learn what the heck happened to the organic industry read more in the articles section.

Now why would you want to feed an animal something that it processes totally different than natural diet? Well to fatten the calf, as they say. Feeding cattle grains rather than grass will definitely grow the animal larger, increasing the flavor. If you hold a grain fed steak next to a grass fed steak, you will see the grain fed meat is much more marbled with fat and thus with flavor. This is a big win right? More fat accumulates throughout the animal gives it a great taste and you get more meat off each cow. This goes the same for bison and other livestock.  Production goes up, profits go up, everyone is happy!

Unfortunately those aren’t the only side effects of grain fed red meat. Livestock and red meat in particular are naturally free ranging animals that graze on pounds and pounds of grass over their wild lifetimes. Again with big business getting involved the natural side of things tends to disappear. When a cow eats the natural diet, the grass is fermented in the rumen of the cow. They digest the bacteria from this fermentation process. When grain fed, the fat of these animals ends up being much less nutrient dense, causing us humans to miss out on very important vitamins and minerals.

For example; CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) is a popular supplement. Natural CLA is prevalent in the fats of grass fed red meats. These same fats also have a high Omega-3 fatty acid content as well. When fed a grain diet and assessing these same animals, the fats contain much less of both CLA and Omega-3’s. CLA is one of our bodies strongest cancer fighting compounds. What would seem like a small change in the name of increase ends up causing serious losses in such important compounds we need to be ingesting in our food sources.  This seems like a simple experiment and it validates why you would want to bone up a couple dollars for the grass fed beef. More importantly, it points out that Americans have basically been undergoing an experiment for large farming corporations over the last 50-60 years! Is it really any wonder why disease is skyrocketing along with these changes? An animal fed a different diet than it would naturally eat doesn’t develop the way that it should. Humans eating foods they wouldn’t naturally eat aren’t developing as they should. I think the two would quite closely correlate.  In the end, the glorious tasting grain fed steak you love to order isn’t going to kill you. Depriving yourself of vital nutrients over a lifetime of poor food sources just might.

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