Back to the Future: Grass-Fed Beef
The Life-Cycle of Your Supermarket Beef
When half-grown, beef cattle are shipped in diesel-fueled trucks to huge feedlots. There they are stuffed with delicious pesticide treated corn and soy, and implanted with synthetic hormones to make them grow faster. And of course, to prevent disease they are given antibiotics. When they are nice and marbled (in usually less than 2 years!), they are trucked again to slaughterhouses, butchered and shrink-wrapped ready for your consumption. Yummy.
There is no wonder beef has such a bad rap. If you don’t believe me, watch the film Fast Food Nation or Food Inc. Both films give a close captioned view of what’s going on at those huge slaughterhouses that are producing over 99% of the beef being consumed by Americans.
So What’s the Big Deal?
1. Biologically, cattle are ruminants perfectly evolved to graze on grass. What researchers have found is that a cows fed a grain-based diet (yes corn is a grain!) raises the acidity in their guts and reeks havoc on their digestive systems. On top of giving them stomach ulcers and liver abscesses, this problem breeds an acid-resistant form of E. coli that can spread from feces-contaminated carcasses to the meat we consume. Supermarket and restaurant beef claims to be E. coli free, but the system is far from perfect. According to USDA research, more than half of grain-fed cattle have been found to have acid-resistant E. coli in their feces! In other words there’s shit in your meat. Ewww.
2. How do you make a human fat? Feed them grain. How do you make a cow fat? Feed them grain. Industrialized cows carry much more fat (mostly saturated), their meat is much higher in omega 6 fatty acids and almost void of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This means that when we consume grain-fed beef we are eating meat that contributes to inflammation, chronic disease (like heart disease), and sickness. This is the reason everyone is under the impression red meat is bad for you. The truth is that it’s industrialized, grain-fed, hormone riddled beef that is bad for you — not grass-fed lean beef.
3. Overuse of antibiotics has caused more and more bacteria to become resistant to treatment, a factor in the deaths of more than 60,000 Americans each year. An estimated 70% of the nation’s antibiotics are fed to livestock and poultry to prevent illnesses and promote growth.
What’s so Great About Grass-Fed Beef?
In the past few years, more than 1,000 U.S. ranchers have switched their herds to an all-grass diet. Pure pasture-raised beef only represents less than 1% of the nation’s supply, but sales reached some $120 million last year and are expected to increase more than 20% a year over the next decade.
Grass is a low-starch, high-protein fibrous food, in contrast to carbohydrate-rich, low-fiber corn and soybeans. When animals are 100% grass-fed, their meat is not only lower in saturated fats, but also lower in omega-6 fatty acids and slightly higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Not to mention they are rarely fed antibiotics or hormones.
Here’s a comparison of Grass-fed cows and Grain-fed cows courtesy of Dr. Nick Araza:
|Grass-Fed Cows||Grain-Fed Cows|
|# of Cows/farm||About 100||1000s and 1000s|
|Place||Open pasture/barns||Crammed feed lots|
|Feeding||Eat grass when hungry||Force-fed unnatural foods|
|Drugs||0-1 Vaccinations||Antibiotics, vaccines, hormones by the truckload|
|Time Calf Spends with Mom||8-10 months||Few hours to a few days|
|State of Health||Healthy||Sick|
|Cost||More. Anywhere from $4-35 / lb depending on place of purchase and amount purchased.Bulk is ~$4.50-6.50/pound. Great for quality, health and your longevity.||Less. Tax payer dollars subsidized corn = cheap unhealthy meat.But how much does cancer, diabetes and heart disease cost??|
|Farmers||Caring; cows are treated with an understanding of their physiology and needs.||Inhumane treatment. Treated as products.|
|End of Life||Euthanized on lot, or humane slaughter-house (I haven’t personally checked this aspect yet)||Slaughter House (herded by tractors, very stressful death.)|
|Overall Life||PLEASANT/ WELL-CARED FOR||TERRIBLE|
|Overall Result for Us||Healthy||Unhealthy|