Grass-Fed vs Grain-Fed Beef

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It’s fair to say that if we are what we eat, then animals are what they eat too.  I feel it’s really important to know what our meat is made of, and this comes with knowing what the animal ate. 

GRAIN FEEDING GUIDE

The ‘Victorian Department of Primary Industries’ has a grain feeding guide titled ‘Hints on feeding grain to cattle’ on their website and state that grain is fed to cattle in the following three situations:

  1. in times of drought
  2. as a food supplement to grazing
  3. while animals are in lot-feeding/intensive finishing (animals fed high quality grain rations to achieve optimal weight-gain while in enclosures of a minimum size)

The article warns that cattle can develop grain-sickness called acidosis (also called lactic acid poisoning or grain overload).  The article states that ‘the digestive system of a beast that is unaccustomed to grain-feeding and eats a large quantity of grain will be unable to cope.’  To read full article go to http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/beef-and-sheep/beef/feeding-and-nutrition/hints-on-feeding

ACIDOSIS
The ‘NSW Department of Primary Industries’ state on their website that ‘in severe cases of acidosis, the blood may become more acid, resulting in heart failure, kidney failure and death.’  To read full article go to http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/101338/grain-poisoning-of-cattle-and-sheep.pdf

ANTIBIOTICS
The problem is that the farmers cannot always control the amount of grain that cattle eat, especially in group-feeding situations.   As a result, and in order to prevent acidosis, animals may be medicated with the following:

Rumensin – an antibiotic or ant-bacterial agent which increases the amount of beneficial bacterial in the stomach of an animal
Eskallin – an antibiotic that reduces the number of acid-producing bacteria in the gut to help reduce the risk of acidosis

Feeding of antibiotics to cattle increases profitability for farmers by reducing the numbers of sick cattle, but how much of this ends up in our food?

HORMONES
Cattle are also fed hormones called hormone growth promotants (HGP’s) which increase cattle growth rates by up to 30%.  This affects around 40% of beef sold in Australia. Source:  http://www.natureandhealth.com.au/news/how-safe-is-your-food

ENVIRONMENT
The farming practice of concentrated feed-lots also produces more waste than the land can handle, leading to another environmental problem.  This can also be unhealthy for the cattle themselves.

WHAT DO I DO?
So how much of this chemical cocktail ends up in our food and how much damage is done to the environment?…. it is really hard to say.  I’d rather not think about that too much as it’s pretty scary what affect it may be having on us.  In order to know I’m doing my best to avoid it in my food, I buy grass-fed/organic beef (this also goes for butter, eggs and other meat).  I like to chat to the vendors at my farmer’s market to find out how the animals are raised, and it’s so nice to hear how proud they are of their animals and that they feel they are doing the right thing by them.  Safeway and Aldi also have grass-fed labeled brands which I buy regularly.

Grass fed steakGRASS-FED MEAT NUTRITION
Grass-fed meat contains more omega-3 fatty acids with a ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 of 0.16 to 1.  Cattle that have been fed grain for 200 days plus however, produce meat with an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio that exceeds 20 to 1. This far exceeds the ideal ratio of omega fatty acids that we should be eating which is more like 1 to 2, therefore grass-fed meat supplies a better quality of fat to our diet.

The fat from grass-fed meat and dairy also contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which helps to prevent heart disease, atherosclerosis and breast cancer.

Grass-feeding cattle also pass on beneficial nutrients to us through their produce.  These nutrients include Vitamin A, E, K2 and beta-carotene. 

IS IT WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY?
I would say a straight 'yes' to this with no hesitation.  Grass-fed meat is noticeably different not only in nutritional properties, but also in tenderness and flavor, with the added benefit of being hormone and antibiotic free.  I have found the fat is softer and renders more easily, plus to me it actually feels healthier to eat.  I buy grass-fed, organic meat whenever I can.

TIP
When eating grass-fed beef, and only having one portion (not several helpings), it is not necessary to remove the fat.  Saturated fat from grass-fed beef is great to help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins from your food and it is also crucial for body function, so don’t be scared of eating fat, your body needs it in moderation.  You will also feel better and more satisfied when including a source of fat with your meals (but be sure to avoid trans-fats and high amounts of vegetable oils from processed foods). 

I like to choose grass-fed produce knowing I am doing the best thing for my body and the environment.

Your healthy friend,
Amanda

 


Some sources used in the writing of this article:
http://www.dpi.vic.gov.au/agriculture/beef-and-sheep/beef/feeding-and-nutrition/hints-on-feeding
http://www.springhillbeefhamper.com.au/grass-fed-beef
http://www.nu-mega.com/content/?id=24
http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server../info/books-phds/books/foodfacts/html/data/data3d.html
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beef-products/10526/2
http://www.mercola.com/beef/health_benefits.htm
http://www.natureandhealth.com.au/news/how-safe-is-your-food
http://www.animalagriculture.org/Solutions/Proceedings/Symposia/2011%20Antibiotics/Lormore,%20Mike-Connecting%20with%20Consumers.pdf
http://www.cattletoday.com/archive/2002/November/CT242.shtml
http://www.mla.com.au/Livestock-production/Feeding-finishing-and-nutrition/Lotfeeding-and-intensive-finishing
http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0016/101338/grain-poisoning-of-cattle-and-sheep.pdf
http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/its-the-beef
http://www.thekitchn.com/grassfed-vs-grainfed-beef-what-79032
http://organicvalley.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/organicvalley.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=3
http://products.mercola.com/organic-beef/
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