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The Truth About The Beef You Eat
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The Truth About The Beef You Eat

Chances are good that in the last few years you’ve probably read something claiming that red meat is bad for you, that’s it bad for your heart, that it causes cancer or at least increases your risk of getting it. Chances are you’ve also read plenty of articles that talk about all the benefits of eating beef.

So what’s the deal?

The truth is, it is well established that beef – a certain kind of beef, and we’ll talk about that in a moment – is loaded with vitamins, iron, healthy fats, high-quality protein and other good-for-you stuff.

This is why I recommend that you DO include a particular kind of red meat (in moderation) in to your diet, whether you’re looking to lose weight or just be healthy, energetic and happy.

When I say there’s only one kind of beef you really should be eating, I’m talking about grass-fed beef. This is a recommendation I’ve been making for years, and it’s been nice to watch as other health professionals have gotten on board and seen the importance of eating grass-fed beef instead of grain-fed. But you may be wondering why exactly we’re all making this important recommendation, so I want to give you the complete low-down on the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef.

Let’s start with a brief history lesson (no homework, I promise!).

A Brief Beef History

Throughout the 19th century cattle were grazed on large, open pastures for the first year or so of life before being moved to “feedlots.” In these feedlots they were fed mostly on grain until slaughter. Once industrialization swept the continent, the entire process was quickly systemized like a factory line as the cattle industry found ways to make everything from feeding to slaughtering to processing as cheap and efficient as possible.

One of the primary results of this industrialization of the cattle industry has been the prevalent and wide-spread use of huge, crowded feedlots where cattle are packed in and fed primarily on grain and grain byproducts. These dirty, crowded facilities are breeding tanks for disease and infection and so the cattle are routinely pumped full of antibiotics. And to top that off, it’s been discovered that each head of cattle produces more meat when it’s pumped full of steroids and synthetic growth hormones, leading to the widespread use of those as well.

Let’s take a closer look at this “factory farming” practice and some of the problems it leads to.

Factory Farming

These days, most beef cattle in the biggest beef producing regions of the world (including America) are kept in concentrated feedlots most of their short lives. They may be allowed to roam free and eat grass for up to a year, but then they are moved to feedlots, also known as CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Here they are fattened up on feed made mostly from non-organic, genetically modified corn and soy. They also ingest huge amounts of antibiotics through their feed and water to combat their unsanitary conditions – in fact, about 80 percent of antibiotics used in the US today are used on animals.

According to the World Health Organization, the “overuse and misuse of antibiotics in food animals” is a major source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which affect both animals and humans and make it harder to treat infections, so that formerly treatable problems become dangerous and even fatal. On top of that, the animals are also pumped full of drugs and hormones that end up, eventually, in the meat sold at supermarkets and restaurants.

The normal diet for a feedlot cow is high in starch and low in roughage, minerals, and vitamins. The high amount of corn creates an unnaturally acidic environment in the cow’s stomach which can cause sickness and discomfort for the cow but also encourage the growth of parasites and pathogens like E. coli.

Grass-fed cows, on the other hand, are usually allowed to roam free and graze on pasture, though there is no reliable regulation of the term “grass-fed” and in reality feeding practices vary considerably from one operation to the next. But generally speaking, grass-fed cows eat mostly grass while grain-fed cows eat mostly corn-and-soy-based feed mixtures for most of their lives. Grass-fed beef comes from animals that are allowed to graze on grass right up until slaughter, and this is the only kind I feed my family.

Is Grass-Fed Really Better?

Many studies have shown that an animal’s diet has a large and direct impact on the nutritional quality of its products. So an animal raised with a natural, high-quality diet is going to produce meat that is much more nutritious than that from an animal raised on “junk food.”

Pastured cattle are not only happier cattle who have room to roam and don’t require the same antibiotics and drugs their factory farmed cousins do, but they in fact have a different nutritional makeup that, if you eat red meat, directly affects the health of you and your family.

For starters, grass-fed meat is lower in saturated fat – so lean, in fact, that it actually lowers your LDL cholesterol levels (the bad kind of cholesterol). It’s also much higher in Omega-3 fats, which are created in the green leaves of the very grass that grass-fed animals eat. Omega-3s are absolutely critical to the health of your brain, heart and nervous system and have been linked to faster weight loss. It’s been shown that cattle which are taken off pasture and shipped to feedlots to fatten up on grain-based feed immediately begin losing Omega-3s and consequently contain up to 50 percent fewer healthy fats. If you’re eating conventional beef then you may not be getting all the Omega-3’s you need.

Grass-fed meat also has more vitamin E – up to four times more – and more vitamin A (beta-carotene), B vitamins and high-quality protein. It also contains important micronutrients like potassium, iron, zinc and phosphorus, along with lesser-known but critical nutrients like creatine and carnosine.

Very importantly, grass-fed meat is much higher in conjugated linoleic acid (also known as CLA). CLA has been linked to lower heart disease and cancer risk and is only found in a few quality food sources. The meat and milk from grass-fed grazing livestock are the richest known source of CLA.

In addition to all of the nutritional benefits of eating grass-fed meat, it’s also more socially, economically and environmentally responsible. Here’s a quick breakdown of just a few of the other amazing benefits of raising livestock on grass pasture instead of in concentrated feedlots:

  • It’s better for soil and long-term agriculture – The depletion of usable farmland is a very real problem, and it’s due mainly to modern intensive farming practices which grow products like corn and soy with intensive techniques that drain the soil of nutrients in a matter of years. Pasture, on the other hand, grows naturally year after year, maintaining healthy soil, reducing erosion, and cutting down on pollution runoff. It also absorbs carbon gases, partially compensating for the CO2 output of beef farming.
  • Pastured cows are happy cows – Properly pastured animals generally have more space to roam, live in a cleaner environment, have fewer health problems, and are treated with humane processes. This is a stark contrast to the over-crowded, miserable and unsanitary conditions of concentrated feedlots.
  • Grass-fed uses less fossil fuels – The grains fed to feedlot animals requires tremendous amounts of fossil fuels to grow and is almost always non-organic and genetically modified. It takes about 248 gallons of oil to feed just one feedlot steer during its lifetime of less than two years. This would be prohibitively expensive for farmers if it weren’t for grain subsidies, including $50 billion a year just for corn, which makes the cost of feeding cattle on grains artificially low.

Where To Find 100% Grass-Fed Beef

Alright – so you get it. You need to be choosing grass-fed meat over grain-fed for your health, for your weight loss and for the planet. But where do you find it – and better yet, where can you find it cheap?

  • •Whole Foods – Whole Foods carries grass-fed meat in a variety of cuts these days, but this is usually the most expensive option.
  • •Trader Joe’s – Trader Joe’s has high quality grass-fed beef (and other meats) at affordable prices, so if you live near one of these fantastic markets, you’re in luck.
  • •"Regular" supermarkets – Even discount stores like Costco are getting on board and offering grass-fed brands at reasonable prices.
  • •Local Farms - If you want to support your community and be absolutely sure that your meat is grass-fed, grass-finished and humanely treated, then a great way to go is to connect with a local farm (easily done at a farmer’s market) and buy from them directly.

Order 100% Grass-Fed Beef Online!

Not everyone has convenient access to supermarkets which carry grass-fed options, and farmer’s markets are rarely year-round affairs. If you’re having trouble finding grass-fed in your area, there are a number of great resources online.

»Click here to get 100% grass-fed beef delivered straight to your door (plus exclusive deals for Beyond Diet readers)

Another great way to go light on your budget is to buy bulk. Just like with other food stuffs, buying meat in bulk can yield some serious savings.

If you’re ready to enjoy all the flavor and benefits of true, grass-fed beef, then try one of these great recipes:

Ground Beef and Cauliflower Pizza Bake

»Click here for recipe

Beefy Spaghetti Squash Boats

»Click here for recipe

Beef Ragu

»Click here for recipe

Looking for a deal on grass-fed beef exclusively for Beyond Diet readers?

»Click here for high quality, humanely rasied 100% grass-fed beef that you can trust, delivered straight to your door