Benefits of Grass-Fed and Pasture-Raised Animals

The Basal Evolution Challenge this week was top  focus on your meat’s labels/background; to try to purchase meat that has a label of grass-fedorganic, and/or antibiotic/hormone free.

A little background/information on the purpose of this challenge…

If your meat doesn’t have any additional labels, you can probably bet it came from a feedlot.

What  exactly is a feedlot? 

Information from this website (pay close attention to statements in bold text)…more information can also be found on EPAs website here.

“A feedlot or feed yard is a type of animal feeding operation (AFO) which is used in factory farming for finishing livestock… prior to slaughter. Large beef feedlots are called concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in the United States They may contain thousands of animals in an array of pens.

…Once cattle obtain an entry-level weight, about 650 pounds (300 kg), they are transferred to a feedlot to be fed a specialized diet which consists of corn byproducts (derived from ethanol production), barley, and other grains as well as alfalfa, cottonseed meal, and minerals. In the American northwest and Canada, barley, low grade durum wheat, chick peas (garbanzo beans), oats and occasionally potatoes are used as feed.

In a typical feedlot, a cow’s diet is roughly 95% grain. High-grain diets lower the pH in the animals’ rumen. Due to the stressors of these conditions, antibiotics become necessary to be given to the animal.

Feedlot diets are usually very dense in food energy, to encourage the deposition of fat (known as marbling in butchered meat) in the animal’s muscles. This fat is desirable to consumers, as it contributes to flavor and tenderness. The animal may gain an additional 400 pounds (180 kg) during its 3–4 months in the feedlot.Once cattle are fattened up to their finished weight, the fed cattle are transported to a slaughterhouse.”

How does this differ from pastured (grass-fed) animals?

Information from this website (again, pay attention to the text in bold):

PASTURE-RAISED ANIMALS LIVE HAPPIER, LESS-STRESSFUL LIVES

  • Pasture-raised beef and poultry follow natural eating schedules and eat natural diets.
  • Pasture-raised animals live in comfortable, natural settings.
  • These animals are also less prone to sickness and disease

PASTURED ANIMAL PRODUCTS ARE BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

  • Pasture-raised animals do not eat grain and other products shipped hundreds or thousands of miles and treated with petroleum-based products; thus they do not significantly contribute to petroleum burnoff and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Pasture lands sequester carbon from the air, actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Grazing practices used in pasture farming increase plant biodiversity and soil fertility.
  • While wastes from the conventional animal food industry may end up contaminating rivers and ground water, waste products from pasture-based animal farming get recycled back into the ecosystem.

So what are some benefits of eating Grass-fed meat:

1.  Saves you calories. “If you eat a typical amount of beef (66.5 pounds a year), switching to lean grass-fed beef will save you 17,733 calories a year—without requiring any willpower or change in your eating habits.”

total fat grams per 3 ounce serving

(Graph from Eatwild.com)

2. Higher in Omega-3s.  Grass-fed cattle can have 2-4 times more than Omega-3s than the grain-fed; chickens/hens can have 10 times more. As  reminder, research has sown that a diet rich in Omega-3s decreases your risk of high blood pressure,  less likely to suffer from depression, schizophrenia, and may even reduce your risk of cancer.   Read more about the benefits of Omega-3s online or in a future post.

Why are Omega-3s higher in grass-fed beef? 

They are formed in the chloroplasts of leaves and algae.  When animals are fed grain everyday, they lose this essential fatty-acid.

3. Higher in CLAs (conjugated linoleic acid), which is another “good fat.” CLA may also have a cancer fighting property. Animal studies have shown a reduced cancer growth with an increased consumption of CLAs- a finnish study has also shown a reduced breast cancer rate in women who consumed a diet with higher amounts of CLAs.

4. Higher in Vitamin E.

From eatwild.com: “Researcher Tilak Dhiman from Utah State University estimates that you may be able to lower your risk of cancer simply by eating the following grassfed products each day: one glass of whole milk, one ounce of cheese, and one serving of meat. You would have to eat five times that amount of grain-fed meat and dairy products to get the same level of protection.”

Grassfed beef four times higher in vitamin E

(Graph from Eatwild.com)

5. A research article written by Mother Earth News proved that chickens that were raised on a pasture produced:

• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

Here is more great information about the benefits of pasture raised chickens.

6. Dairy products are also said to have greater health benefits from those animals who are grass-fed. If you are interested in reading more, here is an additional article. 

All of this makes sense as animals are created to eat the natural environment from which they exist. They aren’t created to live inside a crammed building with other cattle and force fed whatever is placed in their trough.

Grass-fed meat is more expensive, is it worth it?

In my opinion, absolutely. Not only are the nutrients/vitamins/minerals better within the meat, I feel better about purchasing meat that was raised in a more humane environment (for the animal and the planet).

Here is a great company (American Grassfed) that is helping to inform the American public on grass-fed products and meat terms. Check it out if you have a chance.

After my continued reading and research about the treatment of animals and the resulting meat products, I am very particular as to which meats I will purchase. I 110% support purchasing grass-fed, certified humane, antibiotic, hormone-free meat whenever possible.This doesn’t mean that I will necessary refuse to eat a burger or a piece of meat at a restaurant….at least not yet 😉

Again, from Oct. 21-Nov. 21 I am living a strictly vegetarian diet, but I will continue to purchase the same meat for the hubs. Will keep you updated on my vegetarian journey, so far so good! 🙂

It is all a journey, a basal evolution, that I am traveling on…trying to figure it all out. I encourage you to travel with me.

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