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Ever since I started writing about health, the great debate over whether or not to eat meat and from what sources has continued. Have you ever wondered if grass-fed beef is healthier? Is it worth the cost and extra effort to look for it? Is there any real difference?
In short, yes! There is a clear difference between red meat raised in a place in front of grazed beef fed on grazing cow grass. Grass-fed beef contains omega-3 fats, antioxidants and B vitamins that are not cereal-rich. Grass-fed meat can have a place in a balanced diet.
So why has red meat been the subject of such a bad reputation? There are many reasons. Big Agriculture wants you to blame red meat for the problems caused by corn, sugar, soy, gluten and high meat in a batch of feed.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
The alleged problem with red meat
That’s why red meat is guilty of saturated fat for being a disease-causing food. Many researches have attempted to fix heart disease and cancer epidemics at saturated fats. Surely you can’t live on just the burger. Thus, while there may be some association when consumed in excess, it can be a balanced part of a nutritious diet.
Research of 2018 a Animal borders points out the nutritional value of red meat and considers other factors, such as body weight, lack of fiber and little exercise, as greater risks for cancer than red meat.
Also, red meat is not just saturated fat. It contains many healthy nutrients such as protein, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, iron, zinc and phosphorus. Grain-fed beef also contains these nutrients. But the grass-fed calf contains more certain types of nutrients, specifically:
- More omega-3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory
- More antioxidant nutrients like vitamin A and vitamin E.
Saturated fats are not just bad—This is how you balance your eating plan. Are you eating vegetables, fruits, fiber and other proteins such as omega-3 rich seafood? You will not catch heart disease by eating a delicious ribeye for dinner. But this is how a lot of talks about red meat are framed.
Red meat alone is not bad, but like many other foods, there are always optimal ways to consume it. Let’s look more at the nutrients it contains.
Nutrients in grass-fed beef
While red meat contains saturated fats, it also contains many other nutrients that offer health benefits. Next, we’ll talk about the different types of beef you can buy, but for now, let’s look at the different nutrients found in grass-fed meat and why they’re good for you.
The nutritional composition of grass-fed beef may vary from animal to animal, and even depending on where they are raised, but this is generally true for all grass-fed meats.
Stearic acid and cholesterol
Stearic acid is a type of saturated fat that can lower LDL cholesterol and is thought to have heart protection benefits. Grass-fed beef contains more stearic acid than conventional beef. While some research finds that stearic acid may be associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, ultimately, a diet that supports heart health is one that contains a large amount of food and nutrients.
You don’t need red meat to provide everything you need, you just need to know that a single food will not even break your heart health. Of course, I don’t care about cholesterol levels (here’s why), but it’s good to see more positive associations for red meat.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA)
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a potent antioxidant. A 2010 article from Nutrition diary CLA was found to have a protective effect against cancer, heart disease, and other disorders. Other research from 2019 a Nutrients found that ACL has proven to be promising in tackling breast, brain, and colon cancer. However, he also points out that some other studies were not able to replicate the benefits of ACL for breast cancer, so more research is needed.
Still, CLA has some promising evidence behind it, and grass-fed beef is a good source of it. It is also found naturally in lamb, dairy products and butter.
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and important for health. Beef is not a spectacular source, but grass-fed beef can have 3-4 times the content of omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed meat. The animal’s diet just before slaughter has a big impact on this, so grass-fed beef but finished in grain may not have the same benefits.
Seafood is a much better source of omega-3 fats than beef, but grass-fed meat is still a good source. (Learn more about omega-3s and omega-6s here)
Vitamins and minerals
Grass-fed beef also contains more nutrients than conventionally raised meat, such as:
- B vitamins.
- Vitamin E, glutathione and other antioxidants
- Pro-vitamin A carotenoids such as beta-carotene
Have you ever cooked ground meat fed on grass or other cuts and noticed that the fat it produces has a yellowish tinge? This is due to carotenoids, which are antioxidants. These same compounds give carrots and sweet potatoes their orange color and that is why the grass-fed beef fat is yellower.
But how does it taste?
Some people also notice that grass-fed meat has a different taste and smell. This is due to the higher levels of CLA, which can alter the taste, texture (marble) and even the smell of beef. These changes are happening in the last few weeks and it’s a good way to know if you’re eating meat finished with grass or not. Grass feeding, but grain finishing, produces lower levels of CLA, which causes a milder taste and smell, but less CLA.
The stronger flavor of the meat finished with grass may have a bit of a habituation, but it’s worth it for the extra nutrients.
All red meat, regardless of its aging, is a good source of vitamin B12 and iron, in addition to other nutrients to a lesser extent. If grass-fed beef isn’t available in your area or you can’t budget for it, don’t let that deter you from eating red meat in general.
Red meat supply and quality: which type is the best?
It is important to distinguish between grass-fed meat that has been raised in a natural environment and the meat of cows raised on feed. They are sometimes known as CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations), which provide large animals with genetically modified food for food instead of the natural free-feeding diet they would eat. They are also kept in a nearby area and are often given antibiotics to deal with infections that are common due to fresh air or space to wander.
You’ve heard the phrase “you’re what you eat,” but it goes a step beyond “you’re what you eat”. As genetically processed and modified grains are not good for humans, are also not good for cows. When grass-fed and grain-fed beef are compared, important nutritional differences are reduced to cows ’health. Grass-fed, grass-fed cows breathe fresh air, eat their natural diet, and are healthier. Therefore, meat that comes from grass-fed livestock will also be healthier.
How to read labels
You’ve probably gone to buy beef and seen many types of labels. These may include:
- Grass fed
- Grass finish
What do these labels mean? Natural and organic beef can still come from plots. In many cases, they can be fed better quality grain for food and organic meat will not receive antibiotics or growth hormones. Therefore, this meat is marginally better than conventional meat, but it does not feed on grass.
Here is the kicker. Even “grass-fed” beef can be fed some grain. This is because some animals graze and are allowed to feed on grass, but then the grain has run out in the last few weeks. While this type of grass-fed meat is better than conventional, the optimal type of meat is one that comes from grass-fed and grass-fed meat.
If you’re buying beef at a store, it can be hard to tell if the grass has run out or the grain has run out. Local farmers may be able to tell you more about their livestock farming process online retailers, which can be more transparent where your meat comes from.
Where to buy beef
Whenever possible, we buy directly from a local farmer so we can check animal health and support the local economy. In many areas, it is possible to find farmers who will sell beef for 1/4 or 1/2 of the cow. This is also the cheapest option.
When these options are not available, we buy at ButcherBox or US Wellness Meats. I have been able to verify the quality of both and I am satisfied with the options they offer. Not only can you get ground meat and other typical cuts, but you can also get filet mignon, roasts and even organ meats.
Belcampo it is another option to buy grass-fed meat directly, although it is not based on subscriptions and requires a higher minimum order. Still, it’s a great choice if you want to buy high quality meat in bulk.
Grass-fed beef is healthier than meat from cereal-fed cattle. It contains different and better nutritional profiles, such as more omega-3 fats and CLA, which is heart healthy. Even if you can’t exclusively buy grass-fed red meat, adding one to your diet can improve the way you enjoy red meat in your diet.
Do you eat red meat? Grass-fed or grain-fed? Share below.