The Benefits of Natural, Grassfed Meat
Our family farm consists of grass fed beef, sheep and free range poultry. In the beginning we couldn't afford to feed grain to the animals so we fed just to grass and grass hay. We were looked down upon by friends and neighbors who would tell us that our meat would be tough and tasteless, or that we'd have a hard time finding buyers for our steers and lambs. Of course, we believed them. They were, after all, not only more experienced but some of them are rather large producers and considered experts. But since we were after more of a lifestyle than making a living from the farm, we didn't let it didn't bother us too much. Our cows were happy and healthy in their pastures, the chickens and turkeys roamed through the yard and the woods seeking whatever critters they could find to gobble up, and the sheep (4-H projects) were content in their pasture laying under the big evergreen tree. Everyone was healthy, content and peaceful. Since we started off so small, it took several years before we had anything to sell.
Then comes the all natural and grass fed, grain free interest. We started to think that maybe we had "done it right" after all. As we began to learn about the health benefits of grass fed beef, in particular, we learned that we have been doing it right all along. What we've learned has been quite interesting!! I'll share a little here and include links to other web pages that contain more information. If you're interested in purchasing all natural, hormone free, grass-fed beef please contact me with the button at the bottom of the entry here.
Ruminants, such as cows and sheep, were not designed to eat grain. Ruminants have been created with a wonderful ability to produce all of the major nutrients they need from the forage they eat. Cows and sheep can produce all of the protein they need from grass as they digest the grass they eat. When they are offered grain in the beginning, they won't even eat it so they have to be force-fed the grain in order to learn to like the taste of the sweet molasses that is added to most feeds. This isn't really a big deal to some, but when you look at it's general health and the quality of the meat you will be consuming you begin to see something taking place with grain fed beef and sheep. Grain fed animals are in a constant state of acidosis, which means that their body's pH balance is incorrect - they are acidic. As a culture, we are beginning to take more seriously the effects of our own body's pH balances as we've discovered that cancers and other serious illnesses are often related to an out-of-balance pH level. The same is true in cows and sheep. Acidosis can be fatal in cattle and sheep. Survivors of acute acidosis may have chronic problems such as liver abscesses, bloat, founder or laminitis, permanent rumen damage, growth impairment and fungal rumenitis. The unhealthy animals are not removed from the feed lots but continue on to the meat processing plants where they end up in your grocery stores or at your local restaurants. Who wants to eat an unhealthy animal? If they're constantly in a state of compromised health, what other ailments might the animals be dealing with before they arrive at the grocery store?
Feeding grain to ruminants is all about profit margins and the "financial bottom line". Heavy animals will sell for more money than lighter animals and like human body builders, protein and carbohydrate intake is increased to produce more muscle and a more desirable fat content. Yet unlike body builders, the opportunity for physical activity for the animals is restricted at feed lots (not to mention the quality of their environment which can lead to other health issues). Large producers like the end results they get from feeding grain, and processing plants like that it takes less time to age the meat. In the business world of meat raising, it all comes down to your profit margin - the faster you can fatten an animal up and get it out the door, the faster you get the next one in. The reason that grain fed meat doesn't take as long to age as grass fed meat is because the acid level of their meat is higher meaning that tenderizing/aging of the meat happens faster in grain fed animals than in naturally fed animals. Grass fed meat will need to "hang" longer in order for the meat to become more tender simply because their bodies aren't in a state of acidosis when they are out grazing in a pasture.
The Good News
Grass fed beef is comparable to skinless chicken breast in it's fat content and to wild salmon in it's Omega oil content. WOW! Societies of people who are hunters and gatherers, people who live off of elk, deer, salmon, or other wild animals do not have all of the health issues that our modern science has blamed on red meat. Now we're beginning to understand why that is. Wild animals do not eat grain or grain products, they eat grass and other plants. For the most part, the red meat in your North American grocery story is all grain fed on feed lots and has been given various chemicals to enhance its growth and stabalize it's health.
The difference between grainfed and grassfed animal products is dramatic.Grass fed animals do not put on much fat, they are leaner than their grain fed counterparts. Since the fat content is considerably less in a grass fed animal this translates directly to the fat content on your plate. Now keep in mind, because the fat content is less you will have to cook this meat a bit differently. It will take less time to cook and sometimes at a slightly lower temperature as well. If you cook grass fed beef like you cook store bought (or other grain fed) beef you will end up with a really dry piece of meat. The meat is that different.
First of all, grassfed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grainfed products. For example, a sirloin steak from a grassfed steer has about one half to one third the amount of fat as a similar cut from a grainfed steer.
In fact, grassfed meat has about the same amount of fat as skinless chicken or wild deer or elk. When meat is this lean, it actually lowers your LDL cholesterol levels.
After isolating these fats scientific experiments determined that if the ratio of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats exceeds 4:1, people have more health problems. This is especially meaningful since grain-fed beef can have ratios that exceed 20:1 whereby grass-fed beef is down around 3:1.Omega 3'sare all the rage these days so I'm sure that you've heard of them and how wonderful they are. They are found in higher ratios in wild meats and in grass fed meat thereby balancing the Omega 6 fats.
Similar ratios are also found in
grain-fed versus grass-fed livestock products.
Grassfed products are rich in all the fats now proven to be health-enhancing, but low in the fats that have been linked with disease.
Omega 3's, specifically, are important for the prevention and treatment of:Other Benefits
* coronary artery disease
* other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders
Grass fed beef is lower in calories, which is good for us because we often consume more calories than we use. Remember back in science class where we learned that the term "Calorie" is a unit of measurement for energy? The energy we consume needs to be used up by our bodies and what doesn't get used up is then stored as fat. The fat we store in our bodies is the warehouse for toxin storage and a source for future energy. So to put it plainly - extra calories translates to fat. Grass fed cattle spend their energy grazing and chewing their cud. Grain fed cattle consume a lot of calories in their grain and typically do not have access to grazing pasture, so they spend their days standing on a dirt lot. They do not burn the calories they consume so it becomes fat, which we want to avoid in our diets. So the calorie question is two-fold in beef - the calories and toxins the animal has stored in it's lifetime and the calories you will consume when you sit down to your favorite steak dinner or you summer b-b-q burgers.
Grass fed meats also have a higher content of CLAs and Vitamin E. A lack of these seem to be related links to things like heart disease and cancer.
Now That You Know
Now that you know a little about the health benefits of grass fed beef you might be interested in some further reading. I have listed a few links at the end of this article for you to start your reading with. But you may have heard enough and be interested in buying some grass fed meat for your own family. Contact me with the button below or if you do not live in the wonderful Pacific Northwest, I suggest finding someone in your local area who raises grass fed livestock. Give them a call, drive by their place and see how the animals are living. Most small producers are just families like us who love living rurally and work hard to be good stewards of their small farms as well as the animals they raise. Buying locally will keep your hard earned money in your own community and will support small family farms, like ours, who are a dying breed. I can't think of a better way to provide healthy and nutritional food for your family, support your local economy and your local environment.
For Further Reading:
The Health Benefits of Grass Fed Products
The Benefits of Grassfed Lamb
Enhanced Nutrient Content of Grass Fed Beef: Justification for Health Benefit Label Claim
Grass Fed Beef - Health Benefits
Why Grass Fed Animal Products Are Better For You
The Health Benefits of Grass Fed Beef
Cuts of Beef and Lamb