What are the benefits of grass fed beef?
“You are what you eat”.
How many times have you heard those words? Well they’re true. You ARE what you eat. And what what you’re eating ate.
Hang with me. This is not going to be a terribly boring diatribe in the minutiae of microbiology and nutrition. It’s only a somewhat boring dive into why what you feed yourself and your people matters. So read on!
There are a lot of questions out there about beef and the labels that come on the packages. From GRASS FED to GRAIN FINISHED to my favorite, PASTURE RAISED. (I mean all cattle see grass at some point in their lives.) These terms are thrown around in the grocery stores, farmers markets, advertisements and in general conversation.
What do these labels mean and why are they so confusing? They’re confusing because, I believe, companies know if you are educated you’ll make wise decisions and they may not really want that, depending on the product they have on the market.
Let me explain.
There’s a difference between “grass fed and grass finished” beef versus “pasture raised” beef versus “grass fed and grain finished” beef. And if you’re still reading I bet you’re wondering, what?
What’s the difference between “grass fed and grass finished” and “grain fed”? What does grass fed and grass finished even mean? Which should I try to eat and why?
I’m going to try to answer some of those questions below. (This however is not going to be a lengthy explanation of marketing and labeling. That may come in a later blog if anyone is interested.)
If you know me you know I love to research our food sources and the food industry in America. The research I’ve done has changed the way I eat, shop for groceries, spend my money and even live. It has, quite frankly, changed me as a person. It’s what started me on this road I’m on now - on a farm, raising grass fed and grass finished beef, pastured pork, chicken and eggs. So I’m going to share some of that research with you now, concentrating on grass fed and finished beef.
First of all, what even is grass fed and grass finished beef? For us at Bales Farms grass fed and grass finished beef means beef from cattle that have been raised 100% on grass. No grains. Ever. Some farmers who claim the grass fed title actually “finish cattle” on grains (and your label could say “grain finished” but doesn’t have to by law), which means they feed grain to the animals for the last 60-90 days of the animal’s life. Grain fed cattle eat grain-based products, mainly made up of corn and soy products with other ingredients like gummy bears thrown in. Finishing cattle on grain is serious business and makes a difference in their body make up and your nutritional input.
But for us here on our farm, grass fed beef is grass fed and grass finished. That’s it for us and our cattle. No marketing scams or schemes, no switch-aroo and funny business. I believe God created cattle to eat grass so that’s what we do.
In general I believe we can all agree beef has benefits, like iron and protein. But beyond these grass fed and grass finished beef has amazing benefits over grain fed beef. Grass fed and finished beef contains lower calories versus grain fed (www.eatwild.com). The average American eats almost 70 pounds of beef per year and consuming grass fed beef will save 16,642 calories over the same cuts of grain fed beef (see the book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link by Jo Robinson). That’s a huge savings in calories alone, meaning much less time on the treadmill or in the store buying new clothes.
Grass fed and grass finished beef has 6 times the amount of Omega-3s than grain fed beef. That’s important because omega 3s decrease cellular inflammation (which causes a myriad of diseases). Omega-3 and omega-6s are both important and we should be consuming both for sure. We should be eating a ratio of 1:1 omega-3:omega-6 but here is the good ol’ USA we get an average ratio of 1:20-30 which causes a lot of problems. (When you look at Blue Zones around the globe - those are pockets of populations with people living past 100 years of age - you’ll see they eat foods with a ratio of at least 2:1 omega-3:omega-6, which is very different from the average American diet.) Increasing the amount of omega-3s in our diets will decrease the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, depression, arthritic conditions (especially Rheumatoid Arthritis), asthmatic conditions and helps us focus (www.healthline.com, www.mayoclinic.org,www.blog.bulletproof.com, www.perfectketo.com).
Grass fed and grass finished beef has much higher (at least double) the amount of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) , which is a known anti-cancer nutrient. Grass fed and grass finished beef also has higher concentrations of beta carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin E, a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-aging nutrient. It improves blood glucose levels and glucose sensitivity which is super important if you have a family history of diabetes or are at a high risk of diabetes yourself. There are also ample amounts of all 3 essential electrolytes: sodium, potassium and magnesium.
So why grain finish on corn, soy, other grains and gummy bears? Read on.
Most, but not all, grain fed cattle are raised in a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO). They are raised with decreased space and given antibiotics and growth hormones to maximize growth (and health) in minimal time and space. (Got that? Maximize growth while minimizing time and space. Moving animals through a smaller lot quicker.) One reason they’re given antibiotics is because of the change in pH levels in their GI system due to the massive amounts of grain they are fed (after all remember God created them to eat grass so they can’t normally digest grain which causes all kinds of issues and requires the use of antibiotics). Here’s a quick fact for you. Do you know 70% of antibiotics used in America are given to commercially-raised livestock? 70%! That’s a huge number and it has significant implications for the animals and for us, not the least of which is the exponential rise in antibiotic-resistant diseases.
Most grain fed cattle are brought to “market weight” fairly quickly, in about 9 months, while it takes about 24 months for grass fed cattle to reach a mature weight. And most cattle from CAFOs are processed at huge facilities that run high numbers of animals through (I’m sure some of you have read Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan or seen the awesomely educational documentary Food Inc.) while most family farms (like Bales Farms) harvest their animals in small facilities which increases the time it takes with each animal and therefore the safety of everyone involved. Consumer Reports found the zero mycotoxins (food poisoning agents) in grass fed and grass finished beef versus their research with grain fed beef.
And have you seen all the recalls on commercial agriculture products? If you follow us on social media I bet you have because we post those! We don’t do it to shame the companies (although they should be ashamed and they should be embarrassed enough to change their policies! Wood chips in chicken nuggets?? Why in the world are wood chips even near the nuggets I ask you?). We post those notifications to remind you that you have a choice! There is much less risk of food poisoning and contamination with grass fed and grass finished beef versus grain fed beef due to the harvesting in general, decreased bacterial rate and just the life the cattle live.
I hope this answered some of your questions about grass fed and grass finished beef and why it’s important. It may have brought up more questions, and if so, I’m happy to talk with you about those anytime. You can email me or visit us online at www.balesfarmstn.com or email@example.com. If I can’t answer your questions I’ll research them until I can. And if you wanna see what we’re doing here on the farm, come on over for a visit! We’d love to have you.
Thanks! Have a great day!