This awesome post was written by Alina Islam, a wonderful Certified Nutritional Practitioner from Toronto, Canada. She is a writer, speaker and nutritional consultant. You can read more of her work at AlinaIslam.com or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Who doesn’t love a good, juicy burger? Or a tender steak? But while we’re eating that burger or steak, do we ever stop to think about how healthy that cow was before it was put onto a plate? (A bit sadistic, I know, but also crucial to think about). Because essentially, we’re eating whatever that cow ate during its life, and our health is dependent on how healthy they were.
I’m sure most of us have heard the term “grass-fed” by now, but I think some further education is needed. We need to understand what it truly means for our health and which foods we should be looking for this label on. For must of us, this applies to red meat, butter, dairy, and whey-based protein powder.
And here’s why it’s better:
Better nutrient profile
Factory-farm cows are fed grains (primarily, corn) because it’s cheaper and faster to fatten them up that way. Unfortunately, these aren’t as high in key nutrients, but higher in calories.
Grass-fed cows graze on grass, which means they take in more key nutrients such as the Vitamin E, beta-carotene, B Vitamins, Omega 3, Magnesium Calcium etc. Below are some graphs showing the difference in nutrient profile for two such nutrients:
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More Omega 3
The ideal ratio of Omega 6 to 3 is 3:1 and the former has a tendency to be more pro-inflammatory and the latter, anti-inflammatory.
Unfortunately we eat far too much Omega 6 in our diet (due to processed food and industrial seed oils), made worse by eating grain-fed cattle, and not enough Omega 3 (found in fish, walnuts, flax, chia seeds etc).
Look at the graph below showing the difference in ratio between grain-fed and grass-fed, it’s alarming! Not having a balanced ratio of good fat leaves us more susceptible to disease and higher cancer risk.
Less risk of e-coli bacterial infection
Conventional feedlots are essentially overcrowded and unsanitary, thereby encouraging the rampant spread of bacterial infection such as e-coli.
A grain-based diet in conventional feedlots also increases acidity in the gut, and allows more bad bacteria vs. good to thrive, which leaves them more susceptible to infection.
As a general practice, grass-fed farmers will not use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary for a sick animal. They do not need to inject every cow with antibiotics since the cows are raised in a humane, natural environment and are less prone to infection and disease.
Antibiotics used in factory farms or conventional feedlots are being overused, and this has led the the growth of “superbugs” that are now becoming more and more resistant to the antibiotics. These bugs can be passed onto us when we eat meat, human contact, through the air or contaminated water.
Less calories & less fat
Grass-fed cows are simply healthier (and happier) because they get to go outside and graze freely!
Compared to their more sedentary, conventional feedlot counterparts, they have more lean muscle and less fat, since they get more exercise and consume less calories.
And in case you’re wondering….
- If you see the word “pasture-raised” for meat, that means that the cattle was free range, ate grass, but it also ate a mix of other grains as well. Better to buy your meat from a local butcher who can answer any questions that you have about the ratio of grass to grains!
- Organic and grass-fed are two different things, but most grass-fed meat is organic as well and will have the label on it. If it doesn’t have the label on it, there is also the chance that the farmer couldn’t afford the label but is still following the same practices. (Often the case with smaller farmers).Organic means that the cattle will be free range and not confined in a small space, and cannot be indirectly or directly exposed to artificial pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, GMOs, or other synthetic contaminants. But, they’ll still be eating grain. If I had to choose, I’d just go for grass-fed since you get pretty much all the same benefits as organic and better nutrient profile, although exposure to any artificial contaminants is not guaranteed.
Okay, you can go eat a burger now. But try to buy your own meat and make it at home when you can.
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