Grass-fed is über trendy. Take a walk down a street in San Francisco and you’ll be barraged with menus promoting grass-fed burgers and grass-fed dairy. And unlike most trends, I’m definitely in support of this one.
The humane treatment of animals is something everyone can get behind. We all support the freedom for cows -- and all other animals for that matter -- to roam freely and eat their traditional diet. Just like us!
When animals are treated well and fed their traditional diet, they provide a more nutrient-dense meat, egg or dairy product. It’s a win-win – for animal and consumer!
A Day in the Life – Grain-Fed vs. Grass-Fed
Grain-fed cows begin their life drinking milk from their mothers and are fed grass. Off to a great start, right?
After a few months, conventionally-raised, CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) cows are moved to animal units, also known as feedlots. More than 70% of U.S. cattle eventually live in these feedlots. (1)
CAFO cows are fed grains, corn, soy and other cheap feed to quickly fatten them up. And when times get tough, cows can be fed candy and stale pastries. (2) What? Yes, seriously. Anything flies.
What else causes animals to grow quickly? Hormones. Cows can be given both natural and synthetic hormones to hasten their growth. (3)
Cows raised in these unnatural, confined lots are also given antibiotics. Because getting sick is easy when 1,000 cows are housed on one lot. (4)
Grass-fed, pasture-raised cows eat grass, shrubs and forage during their entire life. No antibiotics, no hormones, no crowded feeding lots – just sun, grass and roaming.
Sound like the perfect life!
Let’s find out why grass-fed is more nutritious, as well!
The diet of a cow has a large impact on the nutrient profile of the beef we consume. A healthy animal provides a more nutrient-dense meat, egg or dairy product. It’s a win-win – for animal and consumer!
Omega 3 vs. omega 6
Cows were not evolved to eat grain. They are, however, evolved to eat grass which contains a specific type of Omega-3 fat that humans were not evolved to eat and digest.
Cows are called ruminants because the largest pouch of the stomach is called the rumen. Unlike humans, cows are able to un-swallow their food, then re-chew and re-swallow, to break down the grass.
When we eat beef, we consume the Omega-3 from the meat and receive all the benefits from the cow eating the grass. The same grass that we are not evolved to eat.
CLA - Conjugated Linoleic Acid
CLA is a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid and is technically a trans fat.
CLA is a naturally occurring trans fats. CLA is formed when rumen bacteria in the stomachs of ruminant animals --- (cattle, sheep, goats -- animals with 4 stomachs) digest the grass the animal has eaten and forms a trans-fat from the polyunsaturated fats in the grass.
CLA is found abundantly in grass-fed meat and dairy products, and to a lesser degree in grain-fed products.
CLA helps with losing body fat, improving the immune system and increasing lean body tissue. CLA content is 3-5 times higher in beef and dairy from grass-fed cows.
Grass-fed beef contains up to twice as much Vitamin E as grain-fed beef. (6)
Be on the lookout for nuances in labeling.
Grass-fed, grain-finished – Producers can label their beef as grass-fed, yet finish their cows on grain for the last 90 to 160 days. Not sure? Ask your farmer.
Organic –Organic beef can be grass-fed, grain-fed, or grain-finished. The organic label means the grain feed is certified organic, and no antibiotics or hormones were used. Remember, the Omega-3 benefit comes from the cow eating the grass!
And remember, healthy, happy cows keep us healthy and happy, too!