Where's the Beef?
Ever wondered why there's such excitement these days for "grass-fed" beef? In this post we'll define "grass-fed" and talk about some main reasons that I believe grass-fed beef is better for you and your family. I'll also highlight a local farm which provides high-quality grass-fed beef in our area. Grass-fed beef is typically more expensive, but hopefully you'll see in this post why it's worth the price! (Some of the research I quote in this post comes from the very helpful resources from Chris Kresser and Mercola.)
In short, "grass-fed" beef comes from steers that eat nothing but grass and hay their whole lives. Beware of farms that call themselves "grass-fed" but do not feed their steers solely on grass. Real "grass-fed" farms are committed not to use any conventional grains during the lifetime of the steers. Talk to your local farmer or beef source to make sure you know!
The USDA definition of "grass-fed" does not address the additions of antibiotics or hormones to the steers. If you want to be certain that you are eating antibiotic-free and hormone-free grass-fed meat, look for certification not from the USDA, but from the American Grassfed Association or the Food Alliance, which add hormone-free and antibiotic-free analysis to their certifications.
So why would you care to eat grass-fed beef rather than grain-fed beef? Well, if you are going to enjoy a nice celebration eating the "fattened calf," you probably want to know how that calf got fat! Red meat is good -- we love it here at our house -- but which red meat is best for you? How an animal is fed is an important thing to consider in this age of hormone-injected, GMO-fed, grain-heavy-diet cattle.
In short, meat that comes from grass-fed steers has more omega-3 fatty acids (and less omega-6 fatty acids), contains very high amounts of a good fat called CLA, and contains higher amounts of vitamin E, beta-carotene and minerals than grain-fed meat. The cherry on top is that it WON'T contain any of the bad stuff!
Here are some important considerations:
Omega-3s versus Omega-6s
Experiments have determined that when the ration of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats consumed exceeds 4:1, health problems increase. Grain-fed beef have rations that exceed 20:1, but grass-fed beef is usually around 3:1 -- well below the threshold. Grass-fed products are rich in these omega-3 health-enhancing fats, which are essential for normal growth and may play an important role for prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease, hypertension, arthritis, cancer, and other inflammatory disorders.
Your body cannot make these omega-3 fats, so you need to obtain them from what you eat. Depending on the breed of cow, grass-fed beef contains between 2 and 5 times more omega-3s than grain-fed beef. So grass-fed beef, especially from the right kinds of cows, can be an excellent source of these important fatty acids.
Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
CLA is a type of fatty acid that is found naturally in milk and meat products, primarily from animals that ruminate (i.e., have more than one stomach for digesting grass!) -- such as cows or sheep. Research shows that CLA might be protective against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. And grass-fed beef contains an average of 2 to 3 times more CLA than grain-fed beef (see this research).
Antioxidants, Vitamins and Minerals
Grass-fed beef also contains more antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than grain-fed beef. Because steers that eat grass get a daily dose of beta-carotene and other carotenoids, their meat is richer with Vitamin A precursors. Grass-fed beef also contains antioxidants like Vitamin E, glutathione, and catalase -- higher amounts than grain-fed beef. These antioxidants help our cells from the harmful effects of oxidation. Grain-fed beef is lower in all of these supportive categories, since the grain used for these steers' feed does not contain these nutrients important to our bodies.
Rocking Chair Ranch
A great source here in Macon, Georgia for grass-fed beef is the Rocking Chair Ranch. Joseph Egloff is the owner, farmer, and main cattleman of the ranch. Joseph is a fourth generation cattle farmer who has spent his entire life working with steers. The ranch specializes in grass-fed cattle, and is certified by the American Grassfed Association. You can purchase (or eat) their delicious grass-fed beef at the following markets and restaurants in and around Macon, Georgia:
Have you transitioned your family to grass-fed beef? Was the price difference worth it for your family? Did you notice any differences from grain-fed beef? Got any tasty grass-fed beef recipes you'd like to share? Post a comment below!