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What the big deal with grass fed beef?

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With the advent of pesticides, irradiation, hormones and antibiotics everyone has had to take a close look at the beef they eat. This also turned our food vocabulary on its head. We just can’t call it beef, is it antibiotic and hormone free, organic, pastured, grass fed beef.

Food processing is now so common, that we refer to food in its natural state with qualifying adjectives rather than the other way around.

Most people would choose to eat unprocessed food. But price, flavor, availability, size, color and a host of other factors are impacted by food processing. What we will explore in this article are the differences between Grass Fed Beef and Grain Fed Beef, the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Grass Fed Beef versus Grain Fed Beef

Grass fed beef comes from cattle raised entirely on grass, pasture and other forage. Before World War II all beef was grass fed. Even today, the first six to twelve months of their lives, all cattle graze on pasture. Grass fed beef, however, refers only to beef from cattle that spend their whole lives eating nothing but grass. Argentine Beef is still raised this way today.

Who was it that first decided to feed grain to a ruminant designed to eat grass? With four stomachs – rumen, reticulum, omasum and obomasum – a diet of grass is most in harmony with cattle’s physiology. When cattle are fed mostly grain there is a disruption of natural digestive processes. For one they stop chewing their cud, because grain can’t be recovered by cattle like balls of partially digested grass. Grain is food for animals with one stomach. When fed to ruminants, especially without other roughage, the function of the rumen is severely compromised, resulting in a variety of unhealthy conditions for the animal.

Small wonder that many cattle on crowded feedlots are sick and have to be feed massive doses of antibiotics just to keep them on their feet. At least 60% of all antibiotics produced today are fed to animals. That means that only strong pathogens survive as they develop ways to minimize the effects of antibiotics. Some of these pathogens and antibiotics find their way into the human food chain. Is it any wonder that resistance to antibiotics in people is a major health concern today? Dave’s beef contains no antibiotics or hormones.

Grass fed beef is leaner than most. That means it contains less cholesterol than “marbled” grain fed beef. And how wonderful that my burgers don’t shrink to half their original size by the time they are cooked! Also, the ratio between omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids in grass fed beef is about 3:1, comparable to a healthy ratio in the human body. Grain-fed beef averages a ratio of 20:1.

Grain fed beef comes from cattle raised on a diet comprised of grain (corn, soy, sorghum) as well as other ingredients. Although grain fed cattle do spend the first months of their lives feeding on grasses, once they reach a certain

Grass Fed Beef

age they are typically moved from pasture-land and “finished” in feed-lots where a grain-based diet is used.

Grass fed beef has different characteristics from grain fed beef.

Grass fed beef

  • Is leaner
  • Lacks fat marbling
  • Has higher levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
  • Has higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (ALA, EPA, DHA)
  • Has a distinct grass or game flavor
  • Has higher levels of beta-carotene
  • Can be chewier, drier and yellower due to the higher levels of beta-carotene

Grain fed beef

  • Has more internal fat (marbling)
  • Is more tender
  • Has a milder flavor
  • Is usually less expensive

Grass fed beef is being “re-discovered” and is gaining in popularity due to the health benefits derived from eating beef that is fed grass.

Grain fed cattle are usually “finished” in feed-lots. This environment can be unhealthy due to several factors such as over-crowding and dirty conditions. Because of this, antibiotics are often added to the cattle feed, and these antibiotics then find their way into the meat.

Health benefits of Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed beef contains nutrients which contribute in different ways to greater health: higher levels of CLAs (helps lower LDL cholesterol, helps lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers); Omega-3 fatty acids (helps reduce blood pressure and helps prevent cardiovascular disease, arthritis and depression); beta-carotene (helps the immune system) and Vitamin E (helps prevent cardiovascular disease and some cancers.)

Since the vast majority of the beef sold today in the United States is fed grain, most people are familiar with the best methods for cooking it. Some cuts need to be cooked low and slow, some turn out better when seared at very high heat. So, the question is, does grass fed beef need to be treated any differently?

Cooking Grass Fed Beef

Since grass fed beef tends to have less fat, extra care must be taken to not dry it out. Some ways of doing this include brushing it with olive oil, marinating it, and using medium high heat. When turning you should use tongs, If you use a fork you risk losing the juices. It should be brought to room temperature before cooking, but not in a microwave. And after it is cooked it should sit for 5-10 minutes.

Remember, whatever beef you prefer, the most important thing is to purchase quality beef from a reputable source.

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