By: by Ben Clinch from The Free-Range Butcher
It's better. It's that simple!
There are numerous articles around about the pros and cons of grass-fed versus grain-fed beef and the impact on our health. The fact that you are reading this may mean that you are conscious of how your meat is produced and how this effects your own health.
What is the issue around grain-fed meat?
Most beef produced and finished in Australia for local consumption is fed a grain mix used to fatten them up quicker. This would be fine if a cow's digestive system was designed to digest grain - but it's not. Grass eating animals such as cows and sheep have a rumen which acts like a fermentation tank containing necessary bacteria to break down the grasses and convert them to protein and fats. Switching a cow from grass to grain is so disturbing to the animal's digestive process that unless it's done gradually with the use of antibiotics it can kill the animal.
A small-scale American cattleman (and now a very successful author), Michael Pollan, wrote an article for the New York Times about what happens to cows when they are taken off of pastures and put into feed lots and fed grain wrote this:
"Perhaps the most serious thing that can go wrong with a ruminant on corn is feed-lot bloat. The rumen is always producing copious amounts of gas, which is normally expelled by belching during rumination. But when the diet contains too much starch and too little roughage, rumination all but stops, and a layer of foamy slime that can trap gas forms in the rumen. The rumen inflates like a balloon, pressing against the animal's lungs. Unless action is promptly taken to relieve the pressure (usually by forcing a hose down the animal's oesophagus), the cow suffocates."
This obviously isn't good for the cows, but what are the consequences for us when we eat the meat?
Grain-fed animals that are continually fed antibiotics to survive can lead to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria. These "superbugs" are increasingly rendering our "miracle drugs" ineffective. It is also the reason for the heightened prevalence of E. coli O157:H7, found in an under-cooked Hamburger. In some people, this type of E. coli may also cause severe anaemia or kidney failure.
We could go on about the negatives of grain-fed meat; such as the impact on the environment and the fact that it has more saturated fat than grass-fed beef but instead let's look at all the positive reasons to eat grass-fed meat.
Here are a dozen ways why grass-fed beef is better for our healthÖ
Compared with grain-fed beef, grass-fed has:
1. Approximately 65% lower in total fat.
2. Higher in the powerful antioxidant beta-carotene.
3. Three to five times higher in the champion anti-cancer fat - (CLA) ("cis-9, trans-11, CLA").
4. Higher in vaccenic acid (which converts to CLA).
5. Four times higher in vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) - a powerful antioxidant with benefits to cardiovascular health.
6. About five times higher in total omega-3 fats - good for the cardiovascular system, inflammation and symptoms of depression.
7. A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids - good for cardiovascular health, anti-cancer, better mood and reduced potential for obesity;
8. Lower palmitic acid and myristic acid; specific saturated fats that are linked with heart disease.
9. About four times more selenium which may also improve mood.
10. Less trans fats, which may promote cardiovascular disease, cancer, anxiety and depression.
11. More vitamin B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin)
12. More magnesium and vitamin K.
Cow's are meant to eat grass, therefore if we are to eat beef we should make it eat grass - fed.