Discover the health benefits and other great reasons for switching to grassfed beef! This article is brought to you by Karen Christensen from Mack Brook Farm, a small, family-owned farm in Argyle NY that produces 100% grassfed angus beef. Learn more...
Why Switch To Grassfed Beef?
"The consumer should feel free to ask what practices are followed on the farm where the beef they're purchasing was grown."
Eating beef raised on pasture grasses and hay has definite health benefits. It has a very different nutritional profile from the commercial cornfed product of the same name sold in supermarkets. In addition, there are environmental benefits associated with the change in farming practices from the commercial feedlot to the small farm. The health and environmental benefits are outlined below.
However, it is the flavor that will win you over. We are especially lucky here in the Northeast as our soil has not been depleted by over planting of one crop and still produces grass that imparts a delicious flavor to the meat.
Standards for labeling beef 'grassfed' as defined by the government went into effect November 15, 2007. They state that the animal's diet must be solely from grass and hay, that no grain or grain byproducts will be used, and that animals must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season.
What's missing from these regulations? Nothing is required regarding antibiotics or growth hormones, two issues important to consumers.
Farmers on the small farms raising grassfed beef wanted the government to go further and include the practices they commonly use, such as eliminating the use of antibiotics and growth hormones, and giving the animals access to pasture year round not just during the growing season.
The consumer should feel free to ask what practices are followed on the farm where the beef they're purchasing was grown.
Health benefits of grassfed beef include the following:
Less risk of E. coli contamination
Commercially raised cattle live in very confined paddocks with many animals and all of their waste matter. These are prime conditions for the spread of the E. coli bacteria. Also, cattle are natural grass eaters. When their diet is switched to corn or other grains in a commercial feedlot, their stomachs become very acidic. E. Coli bacteria thrive in this acidic environment. Freely roaming on pasture and eating grass eliminates these issues.
Less fat and calories
Grassfed beef is 4 times lower in fat than commercially raised cornfed beef. Since fat has more calories per gram, grassfed beef is lower in calories.
Grassfed beef has 2 to 4 times as much Omega-3 as cornfed beef. Omega-3 is one of the 'good' fatty acids and plays a role in the prevention of heart disease, cancer and arthritis. Omega-3 fats must come from your diet, as your body cannot make them. Green grass is naturally high in Omega-3. Corn, however, is not a good source of Omega-3.
More Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
Grassfed beef has 4 to 5 times more CLA than cornfed beef. CLA is proving to be one of the best natural defenses in preventing cancer.
More Vitamin E
Grass fed beef is up to 4 times higher in vitamin E than cornfed beef.
The environment benefits from the switch to grassfed farming in several ways:
Significantly reducing the use of fossil fuel
Since pasture grass is a perennial, it only has to be planted once, unlike corn or other grains, which are planted and harvested annually. Therefore, heavy equipment that requires a lot of fuel is not taken into the fields each year to till and plant or to fertilize and harvest, as it is for grain crops. The animals roaming around take care of both fertilizing and harvesting.
Using far fewer chemicals
Since the pastures are being naturally fertilized by our cattle, no commercial fertilizers need to be spread. In addition to using less fuel for spreading the fertilizer, this also reduces the amount of chemical runoff into our waterways.
Lessening soil erosion
The pasture grasses form a healthy stand of vegetation and root mass all year long that holds the soil in place, thus reducing soil erosion. The root mass also improves water filtration.
Enhancing soil composition
As discussed above, the cattle take care of fertilizing the fields. This naturally deposited manure adds nutrients to the soil increasing the amount of organic matter in the pasture. This enhances soil life by enriching all the 'good' microscopic organisms essential to a healthy planet. The decomposition process has an added benefit of 'carbon sequestration' that reduces atmospheric carbon dioxide.*
For your own health and for the environment, grassfed beef has a part to play. But one of the main reasons to switch to grassfed beef is - IT TASTES GREAT!
* Information from the New York State Department of Agriculture
Mack Brook Farm
312 McEachron Hill Rd