on the island where I live, a little shop opened up called
Local Island Meats. Here, local farmers sell their farm grown
meat, chicken, fish and eggs, all neatly packaged and separated
in refrigerators and freezers baring each farms name
and a brief description of their farming practices. The meat
products are all further identified as organic, grain-fed
As I browsed through the shop, the idea
for an article comparing the flavor of grain-fed beef to grass-fed
beef materialized. My original concept was to compare the
taste of organic beef, regular beef sold in grocery stores,
small farm grown grain-fed beef and grass-fed beef.
To prepare for the article, I researched
the practices and results of grain-fed and grass-fed cattle.
I quickly realized that the debate is far more health related
than taste related. The factors that contribute to the end
result include the animals diet, environment, (air,
land, pollution) and the use of hormones, antibiotics, steroids
and other drugs.
The Truth About Cows
as well as other grazing animals, are ruminants, which simply
means that through multiple stomachs, they are able to convert
grass into protein and fats. Their bodies are not engineered
to process grain naturally.
Commercial feed lots feed grain to bring
the cows to maximum weight, (about 1200 lbs.) in the shortest
amount of time possible, (14-16 months). Since cows are not
naturally built to process grain, converting them to grain
is understandably disruptive to the animals digestive
system and can only be done, without causing illness or death,
with the use of antibiotics and other drugs. To further reduce
costs, additions of by-product feed stuff may be added to
the grain and can include many shocking ingredients including
excess beef, which is one of the suspects of the cause of
mad cow disease.
Besides the negative effects to the animals
themselves, this unnatural diet also lessens the nutritional
value of the meat. Compared to natural grass-fed beef, grain-fed
beef has more total fat, saturated fat and calories. It has
less Vitamin E, beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids and,
yes, it can taste better. Thats right, more fat translates
to better taste and more tender beef.
So, what about that comparison?
- Higher fat, more marbled
- More tender
- Less nutritious
- Managed with growth hormones,
antibiotics & other drugs
- Leaner meat
- Less tender
- Higher nutrients
- Low stress/ healthier cows
- Can be less tasty
- More expensive
Grass-fed beef is more expensive because
of the obvious economics. However, the health benefits of
grass-fed beef clearly win the comparison contest.
beef has about three times the Vitamin E as conventional fed
cattle and 60% more omega-3 fatty acids. Grass-fed beef also
have a higher level of another health promoting fat called
conjugated linoleic acid or (CLA). CLA has been associated
with a reduction of cancer, heart disease, the onset of diabetes
and accumulated body fat.
Organic beef is not the same as grass-fed
beef. Unless it specifically states that it has been grass-fed,
it can mean that it has been fed organic grain.
This upsetting state of affairs poses a
difficult challenge for those of us who enjoy beef and who
are also good stewards of our health. Grass-fed beef is the
obvious healthier choice but is expensive and not as readily
Its been said that knowledge is strength.
I say knowledge can be frightening. The more one knows about
the practices of American food production, the scarier it
gets. A friend of mine said, "Youre not going to
get weird about this, are you?" My answer is, "Maybe".
However, I am a believer in moderation and I think one should
strive to live the healthiest lifestyle possible. It is not
possible for most of us to eliminate all the toxic foods and
food ingredients from our lives. Converting to a gluten-free
diet once seemed impossible and now is the most natural diet
I can imagine. What we can do, and as Celiacs must do, is
to be aware of what is in the food we eat and make good choices.
If the saying is true, You are what
you eat, we should all take a hard look at the way our
food supply is produced and managed. As for me, Im making
the switch to grass-fed beef and by doing so hope that I will
contribute in a small way to a better way of doing things
for my health and for my conscience.