What have you heard about Grassfed Beef?
Although you've most likely heard of it, you may not know why it's the gold standard for quality, and you may not realize that "100% grassfed beef" is hard to find and significantly different than partially grassfed beef, which is what is sold at the health food store.
In fact, most grassfed beef from the store is only about 30% grassfed! The rest is grain fed, and unless labeled organic, the cows are fed genetically modified (GMO) grains. This has to do with current labeling laws which only require 30% of the animal feed be grass/pasture for it to be called "grassfed beef". Shocking, right?
As you'll learn below, 100% grassfed beef is much higher in several vitamins, and contains Omega-3s which are anti-inflammatory. In contrast, grain feeding a cow fattens it up with inflammatory fats that often cause health problems.
That's why it's critically important to ask questions about the food the animals ate through their lives, and to buy from a trusted source such as Healthy Food Club and/or Miller's Organic Farm. We encourage you to visit the farm from where you buy your food so you can see for yourself.
Healthy Food Club is proud to be able to offer meat from Miller's Organic Farm, which not only treats its animals humanely, but have them roam on green pastures their whole lives. They live happy, natural lives, without antibiotics or hormones, and they are not exposed to pesticides, herbicides, or Genetically-Modified substances (GMO).
We know you'll love the meat you buy from the farm. You'll notice that grassfed beef fills you up with smaller portions, and you'll find it easier to digest. You'll also notice a difference in taste and quality.
Worried about saturated fats and cholesterol?
Read below to learn about the importance of these fats for your health and your children's health, when they come from healthy pasture-raised animals.
Modern meat processing: changes in the way we eat meat
In the last century, we've experienced a fundamental shift not only in the way we produce food, but also our eating habits, and the general condition of our health. Two things have caused this unprecedented change - the advent of industrially-produced, modern vegetable oils, and the confinement of animals and birds in unnatural environments who are fed corn, soy, and grain. This is a stark contrast to raising animals and birds traditionally on pasture.
The majority of these artificial fats are abundant in Omega 6s, and much lower in Omega 3s, producing foods that are not only indigestible but off balance from what nature creates in healthful foods. Our bodies cannot manufacture Omega 6s and Omega 3s, and must obtain these from an outside source. While it's true that seafood is one of the best sources of Omega 3s, meat, dairy, and eggs from animals and birds on pasture is also a rich source of this important, essential fatty acid.
Some important FAQs about Grassfed Beef
Q: What are the main differences between conventional and grass-fed and finished meats?
A: In Stanley Fishman's Tender Grassfed Meat, he talks about the differences:
Conventional, feedlot beef
Cattle may or may not be on pasture, but most of their lives are spent on dirt which is covered in feces. The animals are given growth hormones and antibiotics (whether they are sick or not as a "precaution") to promote rapid growth, and they are fed grain, soy, corn, and silage (which can contain any manner of unnatural, toxic substances) for the bulk of their lives.
Cattle are ruminants, and as such do not have the digestive ability to properly absorb these substances fed to them. As a result, they become sick and overweight. Their digestive tracts become very acidic and it is very common for their bodies to regularly harbor a pathogenic variety of E.coli bacteria, which is widely talked about in health news reports about the increasing amounts of recalls in our food supply.
Grain-finished, hormone-free, antibiotic free
Most of the organic beef raised in the U.S. falls into this category. However, raising cattle this way creates a watery meat which shrinks a lot in cooking. These animals may even spend some of their time on pasture, but they are sent to a feedlot for finishing and then receive grain, corn, soy, or silage to "fatten" them up quickly before slaughter. Although this variety of meat is better than conventional beef, it still lacks in nutritional profile and quality, and there still remains the same health issues discussed with conventional meats with regard to animals becoming sick and producing pathogenic bacteria.
Animals are on pasture from start to finish, and are usually free from antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals (as always, getting to know your farmer and learning about farming practices is key). These animals are treated humanely, have a low-stress lifestyle, and are allowed to have a peaceful life, roaming and exhibiting natural behaviors as nature intended. Healthy meat comes from healthy, humanely treated animals.
Fat content of grassfed meat is vastly different from conventional and grain-fed. It contains a high amount of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is critical for cardiovascular health, Omega 3s, and Vitamins A, D, E, and K from being out in the open pasture, eating grass from healthy soil, and in the sunshine. As a result, consumption of grass-fed meat from healthy animals actually counters disease and illness - cancer, heart disease, thyroid issues, and high blood pressure. It strengthens the immune system, increases metabolic activity in the body, and reduces body fat and increases muscle mass.
Q: What are health benefits of eating grassfed meats over conventional?
A: According to Mother Earth News, grassfed meat is truly more sustainable and healthier to eat. When you talk about meat from grassfed animals versus meat from conventional sources, there is simply no comparison. The nutritional profile varies vastly.
Grassfed is superior in nutrient content
Vitamin A, D, E, K, beta-carotene, Omega 3s, and antioxidants, does not contain hormones, pesticides/herbicides, GMOs (genetically modified organisms), or antibiotics. You should always ask the farmer to make sure there are no chemicals or pesticides being used on the land where the animals are grazing (or anywhere else for that matter). Although the term "grassfed" does not guarantee these substances are not used, generally speaking, many grassfed farmers are mindful of avoiding their use.
Highlights of important nutritional differences between meat from grass-fed animals and conventional animals on a feedlot (Nutrition Journal, March 2010):
• Higher in beta-carotene
• Higher in Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)
• Higher in the B-Vitamins thiamine and riboflavin
• Higher in the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium
• Higher in total Omega-3s
• A healthier ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids (1.65 vs 4.84)
• Higher in CLA (cis-9 trans-11), a potential cancer fighter, keeps arteries from getting clogged, helps to maintain healthy weight, supports bone density and the immune system, and normalizes blood sugar and insulin production
• Higher in vaccenic acid (which can be transformed into CLA - conjugated linoleic acid)
• Contains healthy fats necessary for health - heart, immune, brain, nervous system
Scientific findings showing the health benefits of grassfed meats:
• A study conducted by North Dakota State University found the nutritional differences between grassfed and grain fed-bison to be greatly noticeable - grassfed bison had Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratios of 4.0 to one, while the grain-fed bison showed ratios of 21 to one.
• The University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada discovered the impact of grazing or forage as compared to grain-feeding on the fatty acid composition of cattle. Animals consuming grain for 120 days (40 fewer days than typical feedlot cattle) had Omega 6 to 3 ratios of 11:1. Those animals eating alfalfa hay had Omega 6 to 3 ratios of 3:1. The longer cattle consume grain in their diets, the more pronounced the imbalance of essential fatty acids becomes. Cattle on a feedlot eating grain for 200 days show an Omega 6 to 3 ratios that are over 20:1. In the United States, many cattle processed for meat consume grain for 200 days or more.
• The Journal of Animal Science reported in 2000 that beef originating from grain-fed cattle could have an Omega 6 and 3 ratio exceeding 20:1.
Grassfed meats contain more Omega 3s (Eat Wild web site):
Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals. Omega-3s are called "good fats" because they play a vital role in every cell and system in your body. In the entire spectrum of fats they are the most heart-friendly. People who have ample amounts of Omega-3s in their diet are less likely to have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat. Remarkably, they are 50 percent less likely to suffer a heart attack. Omega-3s are essential for brain function as well. People with a diet rich in Omega-3s are less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (hyperactivity), or Alzheimer's disease."
Another benefit of Omega-3s is that they may reduce your risk of cancer. In animal studies, these essential fats have slowed the growth of a wide array of cancers and also kept them from spreading. Although the human research is in its infancy, researchers have shown that Omega-3s can slow or even reverse the extreme weight loss that accompanies advanced cancer and also hasten recovery from surgery.
Omega-3s are formed in the chloroplasts of green leaves and algae. Sixty percent of the fatty acids in grass are Omega-3s. When cattle are taken off Omega-3 rich grass and shipped to a feedlot to be fattened on omega-3 poor grain, they begin losing their store of this beneficial fat. Each day that an animal spends in the feedlot, its supply of Omega-3s is diminished."
Q: Why are Omega 3 fatty acids important for health?
A: Omega 3 fatty acids are critical for normal growth and health maintenance and may play an important role in the prevention and treatment of the following:
• High blood pressure
• Cardiovascular disease
• Arthritis and rheumatoid and joint issues
• Other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders
Our bodies are unable to make these important fats, so obtaining them from our diets is essential. We cannot convert Omega 3 and Omega 6 fats in our bodies and these are important components of nearly all cell membranes. While proteins found in our cells are determined by genetics, unsaturated fats of virtually all cell membranes is determined to a majority by what we eat in our diets. Thus, the balance of Omega 6s to Omega 3s is critical and must occur this way to ensure good health.
Our diets have evolved from what our ancient ancestors consumed. From evaluations of studies in Paleolithic nutrition and modern populations that maintain hunter-gatherer behavior, humans survived on a diet that was substantially lower in saturated fatty acids than the Standard American Diet. These diets contained small but roughly equal amounts of omega 6 and omega 3 fats.
We are proud to be able to offer meat from healthy animals who are allowed to roam on green pastures, without antibiotics, hormones, and who aren't exposed to pesticides, herbicides, genetically-modified substances, and other harmful chemicals. We know you'll love the meat you buy from our farm, and you'll recognize not only the health benefits but also the difference in taste and quality.
Q: Red meat contains saturated fat and cholesterol. Aren't they harmful to my health?
A: No. Contrary to popular health advice, cholesterol and fats are vital to our health.
The history of processed foods and heart disease in the U.S.
In 1900, less than 10% of the population died from heart disease. One of the most well-known inventions, Crisco, entered the American marketplace in 1911. German chemist E. C. Kayser helped Proctor & Gamble develop the process of hydrogenation, which adds hydrogen atoms to the fatty acid chain and changed liquid cottonseed oil into a solid which closely resembled lard. Crisco was produced from cottonseed oil, and was billed as a "healthy alternative" to lard and tallow, formerly used by nearly every household in the nation for years for all types of cooking as well as soap and candle making.
By the time World War I was over, consumption of animal fats started to go into decline but consumption of modern, hydrogenated and industrially produced vegetable fats and oils showed a dramatic increase. After World War II, heart disease became rampant during a time when people started consuming more and more convenience foods which had a lot of calories, were highly processed, devoid of nutrition, and were made with artificial fats and other ingredients.
Many medical doctors and other experts refer to The Framingham Heart Study, an ongoing research effort started in the 1940s through Boston University as proof of the "lipid hypothesis", which states that cholesterol and saturated fats cause heart disease. However, the study's director Dr. William Castelli has now admitted that after 40 years of examining the diets of over 6,000 people, "we found that the people who ate the most cholesterol, who ate the most saturated fat, who ate the most calories, weighed the least and were the most physically active." In summation, no connection between cholesterol and fat and cardiovascular disease actually exists.
What causes heart disease?
From the Weston A. Price Foundation:
• Deficiency of vitamins A and D: Back in the 1930s, Weston A. Price, DDS, observed that rates of heart attack rose during periods of the year when levels of these fat-soluble vitamins in local butter went down.
• Deficiencies of Vitamins B6, B12, and Folic Acid: Kilmer McCully, MD, PhD, demonstrated that these deficiencies lead to elevated levels of homocysteine, a marker for heart disease.
• Trans fatty acids: Fred Kummerow, PhD, and many others have linked heart disease to the replacement of saturated fats with trans fatty acids; saturated fats actually protect against heart disease in many ways.
• Mineral deficiencies: Deficiencies of magnesium, copper and vanadium have been linked to heart disease.
• Milk pasteurization: J.C. Annand, a British researcher, observed an increase in heart disease in districts that implemented pasteurization compared to those where milk was still sold unpasteurized.
• Stress: Heart attacks often occur after a period of stress, which depletes the body of many nutrients.
Why cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease?
Dr. Malcomb Kendrick MbChB, MRCGB looked at a study set up by the WHO (World Health Organization) to monitor trends in cardiovascular disease. The highest average cholesterol levels come from Switzerland, where they experience some of the lowest heart disease rates in the world. Aboriginal populations possess the lowest cholesterol levels in the world and yet have the highest levels of heart disease - higher than France, and 15 times higher than the U.K.
Scientific studies have shown time and time again that when the ratios of omega 6 fats to omega 3 fats exceeds 4:1, people experience more health issues, including inflammation which causes an increase of cholesterol levels in the body. By way of comparison, grain-fed beef can have ratios exceeding 20:1. Grass-fed meats are closer to 3:1 ratio. You will find similar ratios in all grain-fed livestock products (milk, eggs, pork, poultry, etc). So it's safe to say that diets rich in meats and fats do not cause dangerous issues with cholesterol and heart disease unless the person is eating fats and proteins produced in unhealthy environments such as commercial and factory farms where animals are confined, fed corn, grains, and soy, and administered antibiotics, hormones, and exposed to pesticides and other chemicals in their feed.
Why cholesterol and saturated fats are critical for health
From the Weston A. Price Foundation (Myths and Truths About Cholesterol), cholesterol is essential to maintain the following:
• Cholesterol is produced by almost every cell in the body.
• Cholesterol in cell membranes makes cells waterproof so there can be a different chemistry on the inside and the outside of the cell.
• Cholesterol is nature's repair substance, used to repair wounds, including tears and irritations in the arteries.
• Many important hormones are made of cholesterol, including hormones that regulate mineral metabolism and blood sugar, hormones that help us deal with stress, and all the sex hormones, such as testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.
• Cholesterol is vital to the function of the brain and nervous system.
• Cholesterol protects us against depression; it plays a role in the utilization of seratonin, the body's "feel-good" chemical.
• The bile salts, needed for the digestion of fats, are made from cholesterol.
• Cholesterol is the precursor of vitamin D, which is formed by the action of ultra-violet (UV-B) light on cholesterol in the skin.
• Cholesterol is a powerful antioxidant that protects us against free radicals and therefore against cancer.
• Cholesterol, especially LDL-cholesterol (the so-called bad cholesterol), helps fight infection.
From The Truth About Saturated Fats by Dr. Mary Enig, PhD and Sally Fallon:
• When we eat saturated fats in our food, they help to slow down absorption rates and provide feelings of fullness and satiety so that we can go longer without being hungry.
• Saturated fats from animal sources deliver concentrated sources of energy to cells and are the building blocks of hormones, hormone-like substances, and cell membranes.
• Food with saturated fat help our bodies to transport critical fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K which are important for immune, bone, digestive, reproductive, endocrine, brain, and cardiovascular health.\
• Saturated fats from animal sources are an important source of Vitamin K2, which is essential in bone metabolism, and keeping bones strong. Source: 1999; 340 (25): 1994-1998 "Trans Fatty Acids and Coronary Heart Disease," The New England Journal of Medicine.
• Saturated fat aids in uptake of calcium into bones. To ensure optimal calcium uptake, more than half of dietary fat should be from saturated fats. Source: Clin Calcium. 2009 Dec;19(12):1797-804.
• Recent research reveals that consuming enough saturated fat prevents strokes. Specific types of saturated fatty acids, only found in natural fats such as animal fats, protect kidneys from disease.
• Over 50% of our cell membranes are made up of saturated fats. Phospholipids, which form cell membranes, are comprised of saturated fat. These provide stability for cells and cause greater permeability for nutrients to enter cells. This is especially true for parts of our brains where more than 80% of the phospholipids carry half of their fatty acids as saturated fatty acids.
• Saturated fatty acids, such as 18-carbon stearic acid and 16-carbon palmitic acid are the preferred foods for the heart, which is why the fat around the heart muscle is highly saturated. Source: Lawson, L.D. and F Kummerow, Lipids, 1979, 14:501-503; Garg, M L, Lipids, Apr 1989, 24(4):334-9
Grassfed products are abundant in the healthy fats that are now starting to be recognized as health-supporting and low in the fats that are connected to the development of illness and disease.
So when you eat organic, grassfed meat and other animal products, not only are you going to experience a heritage taste that superior to modern-raised meats from animals on feedlots, you can also feel confident that you are making the best, most natural and nutritious choice for your own and your family's health.