Years ago, most people didn’t know the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Today, the grass-fed beef industry is booming and continues to grow in popularity. A growing awareness of the health benefits that pastured beef has to offer is spreading like wildfire. As a result, it is popping up in supermarkets everywhere.
The nutrient content of grass-fed beef far exceeds that of grain-fed. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamins A and E, and powerful disease-fighting antioxidants.
Although the majority of conventionally raised cattle spend most of their first year feeding on grasses, they are eventually transported to concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) where they are fed a mixture of grains. Often included in these mixtures are hormones and antibiotics. Grass-fed beef is more likely to be free of these unhealthy additives.
For added assurance that a product has been 100% grass-fed, humanely raised, and free of hormones and antibiotics, purchase beef from a local farmer. If this option isn’t available to you, look for beef that has been American Grassfed certified. With this certification, you can be sure the product contains all of the amazing health benefits grass-fed beef has to offer.
Grass-Fed Beef Contains Omega-3 Fatty Acids
The chloroplasts of green grasses convert into anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Since grain-fed beef doesn’t get these chloroplasts beyond the first year of life, it only contains omega-6 fatty acids.
The optimal human diet contains equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. With high omega-6 vegetable and seed oils dominating our food supply, the standard American diet contains about 15 to 16 times as much omega-6 as omega-3, resulting in inflammation that leads to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and other modern diseases.
The yellow fat that you see in grass-fed beef is evidence of healthier fatty acid and antioxidant content. This varies depending on exactly what species of grasses the cattle are grazing on as well as the season.
Grass-Fed Beef is High in Conjugated Linoleic Acid
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) has been found to be an effective cancer fighter. It also reduces hardening of the arteries and the onset of diabetes.
Grass-fed cattle have been found to produce two to three times more CLA than those fed grain diets in CAFOs. This is thought to be the result of a healthier pH balance in the first stomach.
Grass-Fed Beef Contains High Amounts of Vitamin A and Vitamin E
Grass-fed beef is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important for good vision, bone growth, reproductive health, cell proliferation, and immune function. It also maintains the integrity of the skin and mucous lining throughout the body.
Compared to grain-fed, grass-fed beef contains more than twice the amount of vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects your body against free radicals, which lead to cancer and heart disease. It also acts as a natural preservative, preventing unhealthy oxidation of fats contained within the meat.
Grass-Fed Beef is Higher in Antioxidant Enzymes
Glutathione is a protein that also protects cells against free radicals. It helps prevent disease-causing damage to DNA.
Lush green grasses are rich in glutathione compounds. This results in a high glutathione content in grass-fed beef. Grass-fed is also higher than grain-fed beef in the powerful antioxidants superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase. These antioxidants not only improve your health, but also keep the fats contained within the meat from oxidizing and becoming unhealthy.
Grass-fed beef is rich in nutrients and balanced in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It’s high in fat-soluble vitamins and full of cancer-fighting CLA and other antioxidants. For the greatest health benefits, choose grass-fed beef.
Daley, Cynthia A., Amber Abbott, Patrick S. Doyle, Glenn A. Nader, and Stephanie Larson. “A Review of Fatty Acid Profiles and Antioxidant Content in Grass-fed and Grain-fed Beef.” Nutrition Journal 9.10 (2010). Print.
Simopoulos, A.p. “The Importance of the Ratio of Omega-6/omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids.” Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 56.8 (2002): 365-79. Print.