Grass-fed beef cattle are raised under blue skies, with plenty of sunshine and green grass in the summer and clean grain and hay in the winter.
They are healthy animals, with strong, balanced constitutions because they eat a natural diet meant for their systems, and this translates to the maximum amount of vitamins and minerals being stored in their bodies. Those vitamins and minerals are available to us when eating the meat from such animals.
In contrast, factory-farmed animals live the last parts of their lives in cramped feedlots, standing in their own waste, breathing air that is foul and polluted. Instead of grass, they are fed unnatural and unhealthy foods such as beet pulp, brewers grain waste, corn, old bakery waste, and soybean products.
These foodstuffs are unnatural to the cow’s system and upset the delicately balanced ecosystem in the cow’s rumen, the special digestive area of the stomach. This study shows that a diet higher in grain lowers the PH of a cow’s rumen, which introduces a higher rate of E. coli bacteria.
As would be expected, these animals become ill and succumb much more quickly to disease and death under these unnatural conditions.
The government’s solution to the health issues created in these factory farms is to add antibiotics to the food to try and keep the animals well. This adds another foreign substance to an already compromised system and results in super strains of bacteria that antibiotics can’t kill. The flesh from these animals lacks natural antibodies, vitamins, and minerals which make grass-fed animal products so healthy.
Health Benefits of Pastured Raised, Grass-Fed Beef
Important Note: The nutrient values below apply to beef cattle that have been grass “finished”. Most cattle are raised on the grass during the early part of their lives, but then finished on grain the last 4 months before slaughter. This 4 months on grain changes the nutritional composition of the meat, resulting in lower levels of CLA, increases the ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acids, and increases the intramuscular fat. Talk to the rancher from whom you buy your organic, grass-fed beef, and make sure the animal is grass-finished, or at least has a very short grain finishing period.
- Pasture-raised, grass-fed beef cattle absorb more vitamins and minerals from their food, passing those rich nutrients on to you in the forms of steaks and burgers.
- Grass-fed meat products are much higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA is found in the fat of ruminant animals that feed on the green grass. CLA has been found to be highly protective against cancer. In addition, CLA promotes the deposition of muscle rather than fat.
- Grass-fed meat has a better Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio. It is important to eat these fatty acids in as close to a 1 to 1 ratio as possible. The standard American diet contains an excess of Omega 6 fatty acids because of the large amounts of corn, sunflower and soybean oil consumption.
- Meats from pastured, grass-fed beef are lower in naturally occurring lectin toxins found in soybeans and grains. Factory farmed animals are fed large amounts of soy and grain, and the milk and meat from these animals have much higher lectin content. Lectins cause red blood cells to stick to each other, they can trigger inflammatory reactions, and they inhibit the absorption of trypsin, an important substance for absorbing dietary protein.
- Grass-fed cattle are healthier overall. Studies have shown that grass-fed beef is virtually free of pathogenic E. coli bacteria. Factory-farmed cattle are fed grains rather than grasses, and these changes in the acidity of their digestive tracts. The acidity increase promotes the pathogenic strains of E. coli.
- The fat from cattle raised on green grass has much higher concentrations of vitamin K2. Studies of K2 have suggested it is extremely potent for lowering arterial calcifications, which in turn lowers the risk of heart disease. The Rotterdam Study, which prospectively followed just over 4,600 men aged 55 or older in the Netherlands, showed that the highest intake of vitamin K2 was associated with a 52 percent lower risk of severe aortic calcification, a 41 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD), a 51 percent lower risk of CHD mortality, and a 26 percent lower risk of total mortality.
Vitamin K2 also supports brain health. The Weston A Price Foundation writes this about Vitamin K2: “Vitamin K2 supports the enzymes within the brain that produce an important class of lipids called sulfatides. The levels of vitamin K2, vitamin K-dependent proteins and sulfatides in the brain decline with age; the decline of these levels is in turn associated with age-related neurological degeneration. Comparisons of human autopsies associate the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease with up to 93 percent lower sulfatide levels in the brain.”
Grass-fed beef can be delicious but you might have to change the way you cook it to bring out the best flavor. Here are some steps for cooking meat, especially grass-fed meat properly.
What About Red Meat and Cancer?
Most nutritional health authorities still advise the American public to avoid red meat because some studies have linked red meat consumption to colon cancer. But humans have been eating red meat for thousands of years. This begs the question: Why hasn’t the human race died out long ago from rampant colon cancer?
The difference, I would point out, is that the red meat you buy in the grocery store today has no resemblance to the red meat our ancestors ate.
Modern meat comes from factory farms where the animals are crowded into filthy holding pens, with no natural green grass to eat, and where they are forced to breathe the foul air caused by the concentrations of urine and stool in these places. The animals are then dosed with antibiotics and hormones to force quick weight gain, and they are fed huge amounts of genetically modified and pesticide covered grain, not to mention other unnatural foods like bakery waste and dead animal flesh.
These are foods that a healthy grass-fed beef cow would not eat. When you eat the flesh of these animals, you are eating what they ate and breathed.
I submit that the cancer correlation has to do with the foreign pollutants and the general sickness of the animals which are slaughtered for commercial meat sales, rather than red meat in general.
Resources for Further Reading
- Study Results: The fatty acid composition of muscle fat and subcutaneous adipose tissue of pasture-fed beef heifers: Influence of the duration of grazing.
- A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef.
- What Factory Farms Feed Dairy Cattle: Note the sections on “Animal and Marine Products, and Unusual Feedstuffs. Other lists I’ve seen include “caged layer waste” which is a nice way of saying chicken excrement.
- Grain Feeding and the Dissemination of Acid-Resistant Escherichia coli from Cattle