When are we (the consumer) going to wake up? All of a sudden “big box” food retailers are jumping on the healthy food bandwagon…sheesh! Everyone from Walmart to Costco and all the big regional grocers are selling organic beef…. and then expect us to pat them on the back for looking out for our well being.
Cattle are grazing animals, which makes them "ruminants". This means cows have a chemical in them, rumen, that turns a non-protein substance (grass) into protein (meat). A grain only diet increases the acidity of the animals digestive system which increases the risk of E. coli infection. Combine this with the animals being confined in large numbers and you have a breeding ground for multiple forms of disease or infections....which means that the animals must be given multiple doses of various anti-biotics to keep them healthy and eating. Furthermore, the animals are given growth hormone implants to speed weight gain which, some researchers believe, is creating a higher risk of cancer in humans who eat conventionally raised beef. Suffice it to say this is why the large feedlot system that provides the overwhelming majority of our beef is making us more susceptible to disease and sickness.
Background and comparison:
This is the major form of meat sold. It goes by a several labels, “corn fed”, “grain fed”, etc, etc. Like I mentioned, 99%...did you get that(?) 99%...of the beef sold in the U.S. came from a feedlot. A typical feedlot has anywhere from a couple of thousand head of cattle to as many as 250,000 (some feedlots are even larger) in pens at any given time. The cattle are confined and fed large quantities of lots of interesting things….corn and other grains, out of date candy, and animal litter (poop!) to name a few. Sometimes, though less likely after the “Mad Cow Disease” scare, other animal parts or ground bones.
(There are varying forms of organic labels, see left sidebar under "FACTS" to learn more)
Organic, hmm, that’s good, right? Well, some may argue yes, but, I say no.
I will quote Jo Robinson of EAT WILD to tell you why:
“When you see the organic label, you know the food is going to be free of pesticide residues, synthetic hormones, genetically modified organisms, and a long list of questionable additives. Few consumers realize that many of the largest organic producers raise their animals in confinement and feed them grain, just like ordinary commercial producers. Feeding large amounts of grain to a grazing animal decreases the nutritional value of its products whether the grain is ordinary grain, genetically modified grain, or organic grain.”
“Similarly, meat from a cow raised in an organic feedlot operation has the same increased risk of E. coli infection as meat from an ordinary feedlot operation…"
The term “grass fed” refers to animals raised in open pastures of tall, waving grass. The results of which lowers the level of saturated fats and cholesterol while raising levels of both omega-3 fatty acids (thought to help prevent heart disease) and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a polyunsaturated fat that scientists believe helps fight obesity, diabetes and cancer. Furthermore, grass fed meat has vitamin E and beta-carotene both of which help fight all manner of disease and ailments.
Forcing animals who are meant for grazing to eat large amounts of grains is detrimental to the nutritional value of their meat. Simply put the meat has more of the things you don’t want in your diet which could lead to increased health risks.
However, grass-fed meat contains more monounsaturated fat (good fat), less cholesterol and fewer calories. It also has health promoting vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C, health promoting omega-3 fatty acids and disease fighting CLA.
So, when it comes time to grill that steak or some juicy burgers, think GRASS!