I am very excited to have a bonafide crunchologist on the blog today. Meet my friend, Emily from CrunchyMamaScience.com. She studies the science of crunchology. What’s crunchology? Why, it’s the study of holistic health and natural living of course. Emily incorporates what she learns in her crunchy studies to her everyday natural lifestyle. She has much wisdom to share with the world, and I am thrilled she stopped by to teach us why we all should eat local, grass fed beef.
Meet Crunchy Mama Science
Hi! I’m Emily! I am a certified Medical Laboratory Scientist gone crunchy stay at home mama who loves encouraging others to enjoy a life of holistic health and natural living through knowledge and awareness. I believe in knowing the science and research behind my natural lifestyle and that education is empowering. I have a passion for helping others be informed and educated in their decisions, and to embrace true holistic wellness physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
The Benefits of Grass Fed Beef and Why You Should Buy Locally
Grass fed beef. Images appear in your mind of Whole Foods aisles lined with beautifully packaged meat wrapped in photos of happy cows roaming the fields grazing on natural grasses. Is that really what grass fed cattle look like? Is it worth the price? Is it that much healthier?
Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Grass-Fed?
First things first, for the purposes of this article, when I say “grass-fed” I mean 100% grass fed. The Agricultural Marketing Service withdrew the requirements for grass fed labeling in 2016, meaning the term “grass fed” is not regulated. Cattle may consume grass and grain and still be labeled grass fed. This article contains information about only 100% grass-fed beef—meaning the cattle only consumed natural grasses and forage throughout their entire lifetime. When I talk about conventional or factory farmed animals, I mean cattle that have been raised in the confines of mass production and have been finished on grain to increase overall fat content.
How Grass Fed Beef is Better for You?
Grass fed beef is not a silly health fad. The truth is, grass fed beef has many benefits, including better nutritional content, increased meat safety, environmental benefits, and sustainability.
The biggest difference, and perhaps the most profound, of grass fed vs. conventional beef is the nutritional content. Grass fed beef has been shown to have less overall intramuscular (within the muscle) fat and a deeper yellow color. The color is different because of the higher concentration of vitamins, mainly beta-carotene (7).
The trace mineral content of all beef is largely determined by the soil and environment they were living in. Because of the living conditions, grass fed beef is likely higher in vitamin E, beta carotene, B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, and potassium (6).
The fatty acid profile of all beef is determined by numerous factors, including geographic location, season, year, genetics, ranching practices, and of course animal diet (7). In one massive study led by Texas Tech University, researchers analyzed grass fed beef versus conventional beef (purchased at a supermarket) across the US. In the study, grass fed steaks were found to be lower in fat content (7). This study result has been reproduced numerous times.
Fatty acid profile and health implications
Grass fed beef has a vastly different fatty acid profile than conventional beef. What is a fatty acid profile? The amount and kinds of fat found in the meat. The types of fat found in beef are saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans.
Saturated fatty acids
The saturated fatty acid content in the previously mentioned study was greater for grass fed beef. However, this difference was mainly attributed to stearic acid. (7) Stearic acid has been shown to have no negative impact on blood cholesterol. (4)
Monounsaturated fatty acids
Monounsaturated fatty acids were lower in concentration in grass fed beef. Oleic acid is the main monounsaturated fatty acid in all beef, and conventional beef had greater concentration of it than grass fed (7). Oleic acid is a beneficial fatty acid for human health.
Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Although total polyunsaturated fats were not different between the grass fed and conventional beef, the ratios of these fats were. Polyunsaturated fats in beef are omega-6 (linoleic acid) and omega-3 (EPA and DHA) fatty acids. Grass fed beef was shown to have a higher concentration of omega-3s than conventional and a lower omega-6: to mega-3 ratio (7).
Among other benefits, omega-3s are thought to lower the risk of heart disease as well as improve cholesterol levels, depression, ADHD, anxiety, and cancer (8). Some studies have shown promise in linking omega-3 intake to an improvement in memory and prevention of Alzheimer’s (3). In contrast, a high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio is linked to increased risk of heart disease, depression, and chronic inflammation (8). It’s important to keep this ratio at 1:1 in comparison to the 20:1 or higher ratio commonly found in the standard American diet (2).
Trans fatty acids
Trans fat is a dirty word these days, but naturally occurring trans fatty acids are actually beneficial for human health. Researchers found that grass fed beef had more of these fatty acids than conventional meat (7). Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) was two times greater than conventional (7) but has been known to be up to five times greater in grass fed beef.
CLA is one of the most well-known benefits of grass fed meat, and it is a trans fatty acid. Some of the health benefits associated with CLA are anti-carcinogenic effects, production of asthma fighting compounds, improved insulin sensitivity, and beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, allergies, and inflammation (6). CLA may even help lower body fat while building muscle (6).
Antibiotic and hormone use
Antibiotic and growth hormone use is a big problem of factory farmed beef. Antibiotic resistance (superbugs) is a massive public health crisis, mainly due to the overuse and improper use of antibiotics. The use of antibiotics needs to be seriously limited in animals; the FDA has mentioned that antibiotic use should be limited, but they have not really enforced these rules and antibiotic use is still rampant in factory farming (6).
Artificial growth hormones are another great disadvantage associated with factory farmed animals. These hormones find their way into the meat to be consumed.
There is a health crisis in America of endocrine related illness, including estrogen linked cancers and early puberty. These illnesses may be linked to the use of hormones in our food (6) as well as the endocrine-disrupting chemicals that pollute our homes. Artificial hormones should absolutely be avoided.
Ranchers of grass fed beef rarely use these medications on their cattle, and when buying locally one can talk specifics with their rancher to ensure that none were used.
Grass fed cattle are sustainable and good for the environment. Most of the crops grown by farmers currently goes to feed livestock in factories while grass fed cattle feed on natural grasses and forage. Grass fed ranching leads to better soil, cleaner water, and a healthier environment (2). Feedlots, animal food, and transportation of animals consume an excessive amount of our resources as well as contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases, loss of water quality, and negative soil quality (6).
Factory farm feedlots are over filled, bacteria laden environments where meat is at high risk for bacterial contamination and excessive waste is produced (1). Grass fed cattle are generally healthier and cleaner because they are not in such a confined area filled with their own waste, and they don’t go through as much stress as factory farmed cattle do.
Because they are not mass produced, more attention can be taken to ensure their health. Grass fed beef naturally contains less harmful E. coli and campylobacter microorganisms, due to their diet and living conditions, which reduces your risk of food poisoning (5). Factory farmed animals on the other hand are more susceptible to acidosis, liver abscess, bloating, pneumonia, polio, bacterial growth, and of course antibiotic and artificial hormone contamination (6).
So, what next? Well, in my opinion, the best way to move forward with this information is to buy local. Local beef not only supports local ranchers and economy, it gives you absolute control over what meat you are purchasing. I find so much peace of mind in knowing who raised my food and where the cattle were pastured, instead of wondering what country and how many different animals it came from. Also, because grass fed beef is usually more expensive than conventional, buying a large amount at one time from a rancher will help with cost.
Because labeling is not regulated and marketing is often misleading, it is hard to know what kind of meat you are buying at a supermarket. Labels that say natural, organic, grass-fed, and pasture-raised do not always mean 100% grass fed cattle. I recommend visiting with your local rancher so you know exactly what kind of meat you are getting. 100% grass fed, antibiotic, and hormone free beef is your best option.
Many ranchers naturally have 100% grass fed cattle because they are not mass producing beef. When you buy from them, you are in control of knowing exactly what your beef has been injected with and fed. Purchasing local beef is much more beneficial for the environment than feedlots as well as safer for you because of decreased contamination risk. 100 % grass fed, locally pastured beef is better, healthier, and safer for your family.
For More on “Crunchology”
For more easy to follow tips on how to start non-toxic living one step up at a time, visit me at CrunchyMamaScience.com to get your printable worksheet. Find out the easy path to living naturally, removing toxins from your life, and making your home safer for you and your family.
Where Do I Find a Local Grass Fed Beef Farmer?
Thank you to Emily at Crunchy Mama Science for providing us with such great insight on grass fed beef. Hopefully, you are ready to find a good local farmer/rancher for all your grass fed needs.
There are several websites that will help find a good local farmer. The best 2 are Eat Wild & Local Harvest. Honestly, all you need to do is head to the websites of your local farmers markets. There, you will find a list of vendors. These vendors are the local farmers and typically they have their own websites as well. Once you find who the local farmers are you can search their websites and find out what they feed their animals and how they raise them.
You should also talk to the rancher or farmer and ask lots of questions. The main thing you want to find out is if they supplement their cattle with anything other than grass. Most will say no, they’re always on pasture. BUT, here’s your follow up question, “What about in the winter time? Do you need to supplement with any other feed since the grass doesn’t grow?”
Sometimes you can find this info on their websites, but it’s good to ask anyway.
If happen to find someone that considers them to be grass farmers, then you’ve likely found a good one! If they’re taking care of what the cows will eat, then the cattle are going to be healthier. This translates into a more healthy meat for you and your family.
If you want to avoid all the research and have the cream of the crop delivered right to your door, you want Alderspring Ranch. In my opinion, they offer the best of the best in terms of grass fed beef. BUT, with good quality comes a higher price tag.
- Organic Grass Fed Beef Environmental Benefits
- Omega-6 Fats in Processed and Deep Fried Foods Can Massively Increase Your Heart Disease Risk
- Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation for prevention or treatment of cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
- Stearic Acid A Unique Saturated Fat
- Grass Fed Beef Safety
- The Secret Sauce in Grass-Fed Beef
- Effects of conventional and grass-feeding systems on the nutrient composition of beef
- Omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil, alpha-linolenic acid
Emily (via Crunchy Mama Science)
It is so important to be mindful of what we put in our bodies! I love how helpful these graphics are! Thanks for the info on how to find a local rancher. 🙂
I studied holistic nutrition in school and STILL learned a bunch from this post. I had no idea that “grass fed” is no longer a regulated term. Yikes!
Thanks for the great post!!