Benefits of grass fed beef
The benefits of grass fed beef are for both your health and the environmentWe live in a world of constant changing medical advice, the threat of a planet on the verge of literal meltdown, and incessant social pressure to do everything in our lives bigger, better, faster, more. Most days, it’s all we can do to pop our multivitamin and vaguely consider getting more omega 3s in our diet whilst gobbling down a fast food breakfast in the car on our morning commute.
But there is this nagging feeling. We know we should eat better for our health, and, beyond ourselves we know--as above so below--that while our own health is suffering, so is the health of this big globe we depend upon for our very existence. We don't want to give up our burgers and steaks, but we don't want to kill ourselves or our environment for the sake of red meat, either. The conundrum is enough to make you crazy.
And then a solution so revolutionary, so immediately workable comes along that we think, why weren't we doing this all along?
For Your Health
On the microcosmic level, we humans are worried about our bodies, first and foremost. We know if we aren’t healthy, we can’t accomplish anything great for the rest of the world. But, while we have found super-efficient ways of producing lots of food fast, we have found ourselves growing sicker. Our industrialized food is responsible for the rise of everything from cancer to diabetes to heart disease to a rash of untreatable food borne illness.
In a nutshell, our food is killing us. If you look at the history of our nation's cattle industry, it isn't hard to see why.
Here’s what happened
Cattle, before industrialization, were always raised on pasture. A cow’s natural diet is, simply, grass. But then corn and soy subsidies came along, and farmers started growing more of those crops than they knew what to do with. So, they pushed them as animal feed. The concept took off.
If cattle ranchers fed cows grain rather than living grasses, they could cram them all together and raise thousands of cows in the space usually reserved for a few hundred. Feed lots were born. The cows were all penned and smooshed together, eating out of troughs of ‘feed’ rather than allowed to roam and forage freely.
This worked, sort of, but then the cows got sick. They started contracting diseases from their packed, unsanitary environments. So, the beef industry encouraged mixing antibiotics with the feed, as a precaution. The cows then contracted a particularly dangerous strain of e. coli which could be passed to humans. It turns out this type of e. coli could not survive in the stomachs of grass fed cows, and only developed in the bellies of grain fed cattle. No worries, said the industry, just pump more antibiotics into them! Over time, however, the e. coli adapted, and now hospitals are seeing more and more cases of antibiotic-resistant e. coli which has and is killing people.
And then of course, the industry (which should be taking on ominous tones in your head by now) decided it wanted not just more cows in tiny spaces, but it wanted those cows to get bigger faster to increase their profits. To this end, they implemented a wondrous little trick. They injected the cows with synthetic hormones, and voila! Bigger cows faster. And then the hormones started causing cancer. But profits were good. So the industry was happy.
A better way
This is where sanity enters the picture. A few brave farmers stepped out of the industry’s game plan and decided to do it like their granddaddies did. They bought some land and put their cows on pasture. And yes, it took a bit longer (about two years for most breeds) for the cows to get to the proper size for slaughter, but the meat was so much better. Here is what we know:
- Grass fed beef is naturally very lean, but contains significantly more omega 3s and linoleic acids (the good fats we desperately need for healthy hearts), and significantly less of the heart-killing bad fats than its grain fed counterpart
- It also naturally contains higher antioxidants (cancer fighters) than feedlot cattle.
- The stomachs of grass fed cows are inhospitable to dangerous strains of e. coli, and therefore pose much less risk of food borne illness than conventional beef.
- As you may have guessed by now, grass fed cattle do not require antibiotics and added hormones to make them fit “industry standards.” They are healthy because they are clean. As for growth hormones, well, ranchers who raise pastured cattle are patient, because the payoff is worth it.
For your environment
The macrocosmic side of raising these animals the way nature intended is the herds require loads less resources, there is none of the animal cruelty, and it produces almost none of the heavy pollution of ranching's feedlot counterparts. On top of that, grain is people food, not cow food, and redirecting all that corn and soy could go a long way toward alleviating world hunger.
And then there is the holistic benefit of rotational grazing. The livestock are moved from one pasture to the next, and farmers can then grow organic fruits and vegetables on the resting fertilized land. This also improves the grass quality, prevents soil erosion, prevents flooding, and helps to sequester the methane gas emitted from herds in a natural, symbiotic system where the grass feeds the cows and the cows feed the grass.
This is beef as nature intended. And this is how, once again, local farmers save the day.
Mayo Clinic: Grass Fed Beef: What Are the Health Benefits
Environmental Working Group: Why Go Grass Fed