The Benefits of Eating Grass-Fed Beef

I have a copy of this article from Mother Earth News dated 2002. We started eating Pasture Raised Beef in 2000. The facts are eye opening. We buy from our local farmers to support our local economy and we like knowing where our food comes from and what our food eats!!!!

Entire Article Taken From Mother Earth News

Jo Robinson is a New York Times best-selling writer and the author of Pasture Perfect — a book documenting the benefits of pasture-raised animals.

Grass-fed meat and dairy products have less fat and more vitamin E, beta carotene and cancer-fighting fatty acids than factory-farm products. All across the country, farmers and ranchers are returning to this ancient and healthier way of raising animals. Instead of sending them to feedlots to be fattened on grain, farmers are keeping animals home on the range. Cattle graze, lie down, chew their cud, graze — a soothing cycle, repeated day after day — and chickens hunt for seeds and bugs as their ancestors have for eons.

Although raising livestock on pasture is viewed as a radical departure from modern ranching, it is simply a return to a more balanced system. Ranchers boycotting the feedlots are hardworking pioneers whose goal is to make a living selling their products directly to customers or farmer’s markets, restaurants and natural food stores. By eliminating some of the middlemen they hope to accomplish what can seem like an impossible dream: making a decent living from a small, family farm. Many of the ranchers have another goal, as well. In addition to feeding their families, they want to create a workable, profitable alternative to agribusiness-as-usual.

After three years of examining this grassroots movement, I’ve become convinced these farmers are on the right track. Raising animals on pasture is better for the animals, ranchers, environment and health of the consumer. It’s one of those rare situations in life that is a win-win-win-win.

More Omega-3s

I became interested in pasture-based ranching several years ago when I was writingThe Omega Diet with Dr. Artemis P. Simopoulos, an authority on nutrition. The book focuses on the health benefits of a Greek Mediterranean diet and stresses the importance of eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s have been proven to lower the risk of a long list of diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression, allergies, auto-immune disorders, obesity and diabetes.

To get the benefits of omega-3s, most people eat fish, flaxseed, walnuts or take fish oil pills. Few realize these lifesaving fats are also found in the products of grazing animals. The reason is simple: Omega-3 fatty acids are created in the green leaves of plants, where they are essential for photosynthesis. When animals eat lots of greens they naturally accumulate more of these essential fats in their bodies. For example, steak from grass-fed cattle has two to six times more omega-3s than a steak from grain-fed cattle according to research at the University of Hawaii. When we eat the steak, the omega-3s are passed on to us. It’s often said, “We are what we eat.” The truth goes deeper. We are also what our animals eat.

An Abundance of the Good Fat

In 1999 researchers discovered another health benefit of grass-fed products: They’re the richest known source of another good fat called conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. CLA may be one of our most potent cancer fighters. Animals given very small amounts of CLA — a mere 1.5 percent of their total calories — had a 60 percent reduction in tumor growth in a study published in Cancer Research. CLA may fight cancer in people, as well. Finnish researchers recently found that the more CLA in a woman’s diet, the lower her risk of breast cancer. Women who consumed the most CLA had an amazing 60 percent lower risk. According to the research team, “A diet composed of rich foods, particularly cheese, may protect against breast cancer in postmenopausal women.”

What the researchers failed to mention is that cheese from a grass fed ruminant has five times more CLA than cheese from a grain-fed animal, according to Tilak Dhiman — a professor in Utah State University’s Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences Department. Professor Dhiman estimates that if you are an omnivore you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating daily one serving of meat, one slice of cheese and one glass of milk from a grass-fed cow. If the products are from an ordinary grain-fed cow, however, you would have to eat five servings of meat, cheese and milk to reap the same benefits.

The nutrient-rich milk from grass-fed cows is not a “designer” food that came about through genetic manipulation or the feeding of exotic ingredients: It’s the milk nature provides. Whenever cattle are allowed to eat their truly traditional diet, their dairy products contain high amounts of CLA. When you switch to butter, milk and cheese from grass-fed cows, you are restoring to your diet nutrients factory farming took away. (Might I add RAW Dairy is Best!)

You are also reducing your intake of something you don’t want: saturated fat and calories. Feedlot operators feed grain to ruminants because it makes the animals grow faster and fatter, resulting in highly marbled meat. All that marbling adds a lot of calories. A 6-ounce steak from a grain-fed steer has almost 100 more calories than a 6-ounce steak from a grass-fed steer, according to a report in the Journal of Food Quality. If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), eating grass-fed beef would save you 17,733 calories a year without requiring an ounce more of will-power. At that rate you could lose about 6 pounds a year.

Beyond Organic

Many people confuse pasture-raised animal products with organic products. An organic label does not guarantee that animals spent most of their time on pasture. It simply means the animals had access to pasture, weren’t given antibiotics, hormonal implants or injections, and their feed, whether grass, hay or grain — was organically certified. These rules allow organic meat and dairy producers to feed their animals significant amounts of grain, a proven way to speed their growth and increase milk production. The more grain in a ruminant’s diet, however, the lower the amount of omega-3s, CLA, vitamin E and betacarotene in their products.

A pasture-based dairy farmer I know hired an independent lab to compare the amount of CLA in his cows’ milk with milk from one of the leading organic dairies. The milk from his 100 percent grass-fed cows had 19 milligrams of CLA per gram of butterfat.

The milk from the organic, grain-fed cows had only 5 milligrams of CLA per gram. For optimal nutrition, it’s gotta be grass-fed. Some ranchers raise their animals on organically certified pasture, the best of both worlds. When you buy products from one of these farms, you are taking home nutritious food that also meets the strict guidelines of the certifying agency.  (Raw Dairy is best!)

In addition to robbing dairy and meat products of vital nutrients, feeding grain to ruminants is stressful to the animals. Ruminants are not designed to eat large amounts of grain. All grazing animals get small amounts of grain during the time of year when grasses go to seed, but the bulk of their diet comes from green leaves. When they are fed large amounts of grain, their guts become unnaturally acidic, which can lead to a condition called subacute acidosis. A calf afflicted with this disorder will kick at its belly, eat dirt, pant, salivate excessively, go off its feed or have attacks of diarrhea.

According to an article in Feedlot magazine, a publication for feedlot operators, this degree of suffering is the inevitable consequence of fattening animals on grain. “Every animal in the feedlot will experience subacute acidosis at least once during the feeding period,” the article says. It then reassures feedlot operators this is “an important natural function in adapting to high-grain finishing rations …” In other words, making calves sick to their stomachs is agribusiness-as-usual. Subacute acidosis can be much more than a bellyache, however. If the condition goes untreated, the animal will develop an ulcerated stomach and a diseased liver. It might even die.

I am an omnivore and eat a considerable amount of meat and dairy products. But I don’t want animals to suffer needlessly before they are slaughtered. I am happy to say the beef I now eat comes from an Oregon family who raises about 40 head of cattle on 120 acres of organic pasture. When the grass is growing, the animals get all their nutrients from grasses, clover and a random assortment of green plants. In the winter when the grass is dormant, the cattle eat organic hay plus a side helping of kelp for added vitamins and minerals. They are never treated with hormones, antibiotics, acid buffers or chemical additives. I have the privilege of eating meat the way nature makes it.

Emphasis is mine.

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