3 Reasons to Eat Grass Fed Beef
Written by Invictus Member Kristi Lee Graham, Founder of True Pasture Beef.
Grass Fed Beef is a term you may be hearing more and more these days. You may see it in the description of food on your menus, stamped “USDA Grass Fed” on certain packaged meats in grocery stores, from a local CSA at your Farmer’s Market, or you’ve been seeing it online. Fun fact: all cattle eat grass in one form or another, so what does “Grass Fed Beef” really mean?
According to the USDA “grass and forage shall be the feed source consumed for the lifetime of the ruminant animal, with the exception of milk consumed prior to weaning.” What’s interesting is approved “grass (foraged) fed” cattle can receive up to 20% of other feed (such as grain) and still qualify for this label. 100% Grass Fed Beef should be cattle that are born and 100% pastured raised in the field, without any additional foodstuff.
When you’re choosing the right meat for you and your family, these are things to consider; but the big question is, why do you want to eat it? Besides tasting amazing, here are the three main reasons to eat Grass Fed Beef!
We’ve all heard the saying: “you are what you eat” and the same is true for cattle. What they consume eventually becomes what we consume. Wild grass is the best and most natural food source for cattle – it’s what nature intended. Hay is used often and can be a decent alternative; it’s certainly better than grain! Grain feed can include corn, spent grains from breweries and distilleries, and soy hulls. Often times, these are leftover from other products, which is not a healthy diet.
The big difference between Grass Fed and Grain Fed cattle is the kind of fat we get from them. Grain Fed beef has high levels of Omega-6 fatty acids and low levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. Grass Fed beef has a balanced combination of the essential Omega-6s and Omega-3s, which are easier (and better) for our bodies to consume. We can’t produce these kinds of fats, so we have to consume them; however, if consumed out of proportion, it can do a lot of damage. A diet that is balanced in Omega-3s and Omega-6s reduces inflammation, helping to prevent heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, many types of cancers, and more.
It also packs a punch with protein and nutrients that our bodies need; Grass Fed beef is an excellent source of B12, Selenium, Zinc, Niacin, B6, and is also a good source of phosphorus, choline, iron, and riboflavin.
Additionally, Grass Fed beef raised on a pasture are usually leaner, with less fat and often require less drugs and antibiotics, unlike cattle who spend most of their time in large industrial feed operations. Since the 1950s, the use of antibiotics has been a routine practice and the FDA reports that nearly 80% of all the antibiotics used in the US is used on animals, and of that share, 83% are used on healthy animals as routine practice. Most pasture animals are only treated if ill (and often they are removed from the pasture entirely). Simply put, pasture cattle eat “clean” with little to no intervention and are therefore “cleaner” for us to consume.
For more fun facts on the nutrition of beef, visit www.beefnutrition.org.
Grass Fed cows living on pasture land are a part of the natural cycle of plant life. Studies indicate perennial grasses are better for soil. We use top soil quicker than can be replaced when shallow-rooted plants like corn, wheat, and soy deplete the soil of critical nutrients. According to the National Academy of Sciences, cropland in the US is being eroded at least 10 times faster than the lost soil can be replaced by natural processes. Perennial grasses extend deep below the earth’s surface and lift nutrients back up to the surface for other plants and all the way up the food chain. When cattle graze, they cut the grass and the root stays intact, which has positive effects on CO2 and the top soil. Grass crops are also more environmentally friendly because it reduces flooding (due to that rich top soil) and contributes much less to global greenhouse-gas emissions.
Conversely, Grain Fed cows consume mostly corn. Corn requires the use of fossil fuel in its growth and processing. The United States produces 23 million tons of chemical herbicides and fertilizers, all derived from fossil fuels, for crops in this country, of which nearly half (10 million) is used on corn crops.
For more on how Grass Fed Beef is better for the environment (and other resources): http://therealfoodguide.com.
Remember the TV dairy ads: “Happy Cows Come From California?” Well, we know that there are a lot of happy cattle on our True Pasture Beef ranches, but that’s not the case for most cattle. Factory or industrial farms raise animals in tight, confined spaces and feed them grain to fatten them up, so they can grow large cattle quite quickly. It’s one sure-fire way to increase profits and decrease time spent raising the animals. It’s an efficient system to benefit the business.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Animals that are raised in open pastures get to do what they do best – act like animals. It lets them express their natural behaviors, instead of engaging in abnormal behavior because of the boredom and stress of being confined in small spaces. Cattle raised in open pastures are less likely to develop health problems because they’re eating food they were meant to eat, in an open, natural environment where they were meant to live. It’s not rocket science – it’s letting nature take its course and the result is healthier, happier cows.
How can you tell if your beef was raised in a factory or industrial farm? The easiest way is to ask the person that raised your food; you can also look at the label and avoid packaging that has just one of these misleading phrases:
- Local or locally raised: This only speaks to the geographic location (usually 100-250 mile radius) of where the animal was raised.
- Farm Fresh: A farm is “a tract of land where produce or animals are raised” and does not necessarily mean the animal is outside on a pasture.
- Natural: This just means they haven’t added any artificial colors, flavors or preservatives to the meat.
- Naturally Raised: This means there are no antibiotics, hormones or feed containing by-products, which is great, however does not speak to the living conditions of the animal.
Also beware of packaging that indicates it was “humanely raised” since the use of this phrase is not regulated by the USDA. Look for a company who shares details about how their beef is raised, either on the packaging or when you ask questions. Packaging marked with USDA “Grass Fed Beef” meets their minimum requirements, so that’s the place to start, but does not guarantee the beef was fed exclusively grass. If you find one that’s “Locally Raised, All Natural, USDA 100% Grass Fed Beef” – even better!
For more insight on packaging and humanely raised beef, please visit www.humaneitarian.org.
Go Get Your Beef On!
What your reason is for choosing to eat 100% Grass Fed and Pasture Raised Beef, know you’re eating the best beef on the planet.
About the Author
Kristi Lee Graham is the founder of True Pasture Beef, a sustainable California CSA that raises home grown, free range, 100% grass fed pastured beef, serving San Diego and Los Angeles Counties. Connect with her on Social Media at http://facebook.com/truepasturebeef, on Instagram @truepasturebeef, via email email@example.com or visit http://www.truepasturebeef.com to ‘meat the herd’!
Some of this information was compiled from the following sources:
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