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There are few things that have changed so drastically in the last 100 years than the way our food is produced. Through technology, mass production and priorities in efficiency, the way food is made has gone for self-sustainable family farms to factory-produced, GMO-laden foods that good or bad, have affected the quality and quantity of our food. Seen through the rise of gluten intolerances as a result of production methods of processed food or through the raising and butchering of animals, your grandma is right: “food just ain’t what it used to be.” And while advances in technology and production have their benefits, it’s important to know how the nutrition and quality of food may be affected, especially when it comes the way our meat is produced. Grass-fed beef has risen in popularity over the years and we believe there’s nothing more important when it comes to nutrition than education and choice.
So what’s the difference between conventionally raised and grass-fed beef? Both typically start out on milk and grass in the early stage of their life, however what they are fed and how they are raised for the rest of their life is where the difference lies.
- Raised in factories/feedlots in small, dark and often unsanitary quarters
- Given hormones and antibiotics to speed up growth and treat sickness
- Fed genetically modified feed (typically consisting of soy or corn) to bulk up cheaply
Grass-Fed (as labeled by the American Grassfed Association):
- Raised on pasture to roam freely
- Never given hormones or antibiotics
- Fed only grass and forage (hay and grass) from weaning to harvest
So what does this mean for the cow? Well, a cow’s digestive system is designed for grass and foliage and not the corn/soy that many farmers use to fatten them. As a result, conventionally raised cows are adversely affected in terms of the nutrient value of the meat and health of the animal.
Grain-fed cows have increased inflammation, digestive problems and even more propensity to E. Coli infection due to the unsanitary conditions in which they are kept. Grain-fed cows often have fattier meat as well as fewer nutrients and are eating genetically modified feed.
Conversely, as the saying goes “you are what you eat”, grass fed cows typically have less health issues, contain less fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid – which is thought to reduce heart disease, body fat and cancer risks), as well as having increased antioxidants, vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, E, iron, potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc. Which all in all, makes sense when they are given the food they were intended to eat in spaces they were intended to roam.
Benefits For The Cows & Environment
Of course, we’re naturally concerned about the food we are putting in our bodies, but when it comes to animals, it’s worth thinking about how it affects them too. From a purely compassionate and humane perspective, it’s hard not to believe that cows prefer to roam freely in pastures than be stuffed into feedlots sitting in their own manure. However, if your sympathy for cows isn’t very high, it’s worth also considering the environmental affect. According to the Environmental Working Group, the practice of grazing, grass-fed cattle is also better for the environment requiring less energy, conserving and promoting healthier soil, reducing erosion and pesticide residues and producing less pollution.
We believe that choosing grass-fed beef is the best option for human health, our environment and the animal itself however we’re also aware that grass-fed meat often comes at a higher cost. Just stop into any grocery store and it isn’t shocking to see a nine dollar price tag for a pound of ground beef. Plus for several of us on Team Get Healthy U, we found ourselves shopping at 2 or 3 grocery stores to buy our best produce or meat. Many of us have found that we’ll get produce from certain places but have to look elsewhere for meat. Bottom line, you have options you may not be aware of. If you’re looking to purchase grass-fed beef at a lower cost, one option for you might be finding a local farmer who participates in these practices. For one, it will likely be less expensive when purchased in bulk from a farmer and two, you’ll be able to support a local farmer and ask them questions about their farming practices. One thing the label “grass-fed” doesn’t address is the nature of the soil in which the cows are roaming, so if you’re able to talk with a local farmer, their care for the soil is something you may want to ask about. Some other questions you may want to ask your farmer:
- Can I visit your farm?
(Whether you want to or not, if the farmer truly has nothing to hide, you’ll be more than welcome!)
- Are the cows grass or grain finished?
(Grass-finished means that every day until the day of slaughter, the cow was fed grass, whereas grain-finished means that while the cow was fed grass for the majority of their life, in the last 90 to 160 days before slaughter, they were “bulked up” with grains.)
- What do you recommend for cooking time and temperature?
(Often grass-fed meat will cook faster since it has less fat so a lower temperature and shorter cooking time if often recommended.)
- How long will the beef last?
(Most farmers will sell it to you in bulk frozen, so they may have a recommended date to use it for best quality. Frozen meat should last indefinitely, however, the quality can decrease.)
- Do you use any hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides or synthetic fertilizers?
(If they are claiming to be grass-fed, then they shouldn’t, but it never hurts to ask!)
If buying in bulk from a local farmer is not the right choice for your situation, another option we love comes from a meat delivery service called Butcher Box. Butcher Box offers not only premium, grass-fed beef but also organic/pastured chicken and heritage breed pork delivered to your door on a monthly basis. All you do is sign up online for how often and what amount you’d like to order and it comes in a temperature-controlled package pre-frozen. And because we love them so much, we’ve teamed up to offer you all $10 off your first box and free bacon! Who doesn’t want free bacon? It is a subscription service, but of course, you can cancel anytime if you don’t want to continue getting it. For those of us feeding a bunch of hungry kids and spouses – this option has been fabulous!
When it comes to making healthy choices for you, your family and the environment, grass-fed beef may be the way to go – and the cows will thank you too. As we mentioned, we believe in the power of education and choice and of course, respect your personal choices. For our Team at Get Healthy U, we choose grass fed beef and we use Butcher Box!