Surveying the meat department in my local grocery store, I was uplifted to see a section devoted to beef that was antibiotic-free and hormone-free. But the labels also boasted that this meat was grain-fed.
My heart fell. Two out of three is good. But it's no home run.
What's wrong, you may ask, with grain-fed beef?
Grain-fed meat contributes to our societal overdose of omega-6 fatty acids and our monumental deficiency in omega-3. This in turn contributes to inflammation-driven diseases now running rampant.
Grass-fed beef is lower in fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which can decrease cardiovascular disease. Grass-fed beef contains more antioxidants. Grass-fed beef has double the conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which increases lean tissue, may combat diabetes and obesity, and reduce the risk of cancer.
Cattle used to roam pastures and eat grass. This scenario altered in the 1950s, when cattle were first fed grain in feedlots. The grain made them bigger faster and increased their fat. Hormone use also makes them grow more quickly.
But their digestive systems handle grass much better than grains. Cattle may be given blood meal, bone meal, dried cattle manure, poultry fat, meat meal, poultry litter, as well as ammonium sulfate and defluorinated phosphate, to try to cover the nutritional deficits from living on the wrong diet.
Grain-fed cattle get acidosis, which can result in bloat, diarrhea, immune problems and liver disease. Feedlot bloat is from too much starch and not enough fiber. They're susceptible to bacterial infection. This necessitates the antibiotic use that is so problematic.
Grass-fed and organic beef is best. But keep in mind, grass-fed does not automatically mean organic.
According to the American Grassfed Association, a grass-fed cow once weaned is pastured, feeding on grass. They eat hay and silage (fermented fodder from grass crops) when fresh grass isn't available.
Feed must be 100 percent organically grown. Organic animal products cannot have any contact with chemicals or other substances that aren't organic.
No hormones or antibiotics are allowed.