Eating Grass: Mooo Good!

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Most cows in this country are fed a sugary junk food called industrial corn.  This is not your mamma’s corn on the cob. It makes them sick. In fact ruminants who eat mostly starch (like grain and corn) and little amounts of roughage hijack their digestive system and fill it with gas.  This gas (cow farts) released as methane into the atmosphere increases the greenhouse effect.  A cheap industrial diet makes cows ill and more susceptible for acidosis, heartburn, severe bloat, immune system suppression, and increases in the pathogen E.coli 0157:H7 among other things.  Diseasedness is common on the feed-lot and thus we medicate these ruminants with bountiful amounts of antibiotics.  The more antibiotics we use in our food system the greater likelihood for a super strain of bacteria to emerge.   

Michael Pollan, writer for the NYTimes and “Omnivores Dilemma” states:

“Most of the microbes that reside in the gut of a cow and find their way into our food get killed off  by the acids in our stomachs, since they originally adapted to live in a neutral-pH environment. But the digestive     tract of the modern feedlot cow is closer in acidity to our own, and in this new, man-made environment acid-resistant strains of E. coli have developed that can survive our stomach acids — and go on to kill us.     By acidifying a cow’s gut with corn, we have broken down one of our food chain’s barriers to infections.”

Intuitively I believe eating sick animals filled with medication can’t be healthy.  Even my wide-eyed 7yr. old agrees with this statement.  Please don’t get me wrong, I miss the 20 oz. marbled grain fed rib eye that has been dry aged and cooked to perfection. It just tastes better.  Grass-fed cattle tends to be gamier, less marbled and earthier in its’ taste. Its also likely to be 2 to 3 times more expensive than grain-fed cattle. Not sure about you, but I value my health (and the ethical treatment of animals) over the so-called better taste and lower price of industrial feed-lot beef.

Benefits of organic grass fed beef:

1- Lower in overall fat and in saturated fat
2- Higher in Omega 3’s (healthy fat which benefits the heart) and has anti-inflammatory effects
3- Much higher in CLA – thought to lower cancer and heart disease risks
4- Much higher levels of antioxidants
5- Better for the environment
       a- a ton of fossil fuels are used to produce corn
       b- Cows produce less methane
       c- Ruminant waste is redistributed onto the land and not polluting our waters
6- It is more humane to let cattle roam free on a pasture and eat food it was intended to eat then the factory farm alternative. Grass-fed cattle have fewer health issues, including less stress and anti-social beaver.
7- Devoid of antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and Hcgs.
8- Eating grass fed beef lowers your risk for E Coli infections.  
9- Thought to benefit overall human health due to the reduced or lack of antibiotic use (no super strains)

Side note:  There is a difference between conventional grass fed beef and it’s organic counterpart.  The conventional  beef may come from cows treated with a whole host of antibiotics who have been fed grass treated with pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals.

The majority of vegan and vegetarian research claiming superior health benefits over conventional American meat based diets rarely (if ever) compares itself to the diet of organic grass fed meat eater.  Furthermore most nutritional studies are observational or correlative in nature.   It is extremely difficult to show direct causal effects of one diet over another.  That being said, I would take a low sugar vegetarian diet any day over a conventional meat and potatoes eating plan.  But for now I am content being that annoying guy in the restaurant who asks “where do you source your beef from and is it grass-fed organic?”

1-AMS. (2007, Oct 16). Grass Fed Marketing Claim Standards.
Retrieved April 4, 2011, from United States
Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Marketing

2-Brewer, P. A. (2003). Quality Traits of Grain- and Grass-Fed
Beef: A Review.

3-Clancy, K. (2006, March). Greener Pastures: How grass-fed
beef and milk contribute to healthy eating. Union of
Concerned Scientists.

4-Cynthia A Daley, A. A. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles
and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed
beef. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Nutrition Journal:1475-

5-Pollan, Micheal. (2006). The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of
Four Meals. The Penguin Press.

6-Rule, D. Grass-fed beef: can we make a healthier product?
2008. Proceedings, Arizona/Utah Livestock and
Range Workshop April 8-10, 2008.

Doug Joachim – NYC
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