If you haven’t yet heard, Wednesdays are our Guest Blogger Series day! It’s a day where Stacy and I get a bit of a mid-week break while getting to share with you some of our favorite online bloggers. And for their hard work, they get the benefit of your readership – we encourage you to please show all of them your support by visiting their blog and social media links at the end of this post!
This week, Melvin Marks of Naturally Grass Fed guest blogs on the importance of grass fed beef. Species appropriate feeding for livestock is something that has become very important to us. Almost every recipe we have produced for Beyond Bacon has been from a pastured pork source, especially Mt. Vernon Farm and The Organic Butcher of McLean. We hope that this article might inspire you, if you are able, to find a source of pastured animals for your meat!
Making healthy food choices for you family is not the easiest task in the world, and we all know that it is getting harder all the time. With all the food additives and over processing that goes on with our food supply today, the burden of feeding our families can be overwhelming. I think most of us agree that whole, unprocessed foods such as our grandparents and their parents before them ate, were much better for you than most of the food that we have available to us today. By looking around and reading labels we can still find high quality foods today.
The decline in the quality of our beef supply began in the 1950’s when farmers and ranchers discovered a faster and cheaper way to finish, or fatten beef cattle. This is when the major shift began to move yearling cattle off of their grass pastures and onto feedlots (factory farms), and stuff them full of cheap corn and grain. Being confined in pens, not allowed to get much exercise and a buffet of all the feed they can eat, made these cattle gain weight at astounding rates. Here they could be finished for slaughter almost 1 year sooner than grass fed cattle.
Cattle are ruminants, meaning they have a four compartment stomach, which allows them to breakdown, and digest grasses and hay and turn it into a healthy meat product for us to enjoy. When cattle are fed large amounts of grain, candy, stale pastries and animal byproducts that they receive in feedlots, it throws off their digestive system and causes them to get sick. Being confined in close quarters with 1000’s of other cattle, sickness spreads quickly. To combat this, grain fed cattle are given antibiotics regularly to try to keep them well. These antibiotic residues can be stored in the meat and passed onto us. Then it was discovered that they could be made to gain weight even faster by giving them growth hormones, which can also leave residues in the meat and fat of grain fed beef.
!00% grass fed and finished beef cattle are born on the grass and spend all of their time there until slaughter, eating only grass, grass hay or grass silage. This means that they are raised the way they used to be- the way nature intended, grazing in pastures in the summer and eating stored feeds in the winter, such as grass hay and silage. They are usually healthier and happier this way with no need for antibiotic or growth hormones. This is the best and most humane treatment that cattle can get.
Grass fed beef is better for you in many ways. Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a good fatty acid, is produced in the stomachs of grass fed cattle. CLA is then found in abundance in the meat, 2-3 times more than grain fed beef. CLA is important to us because in recent studies it has been found to block all three stages of cancer and slow tumor growth. Our bodies convert beta carotene into vitamin A and grass fed beef has 10 times the amount of beta carotene and 3 times the level of vitamin E that grain fed beef does. Also grass fed beef is very high in good omega 3 fatty acid and the balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids is nearly perfect. Omega 3 is important to us because it aids in preventing coronary disease, cancer and diabetes. Grain fed beef contains high level of bad omega 6, which causes inflammation of our joints. Minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium are higher in grass fed beef because they get them through the lush, green grass and pass them on to us.
Grass fed beef is naturally leaner, and also higher in protein, averaging 1.5 times more than conventional beef. Eating leaner beef can favorably lower your LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing your good HDL cholesterol levels.
Grass fed beef does generally cost more per pound, but you really get what you pay for. It does take up to a year longer to finish a grass fed beef, so this is part of the extra cost. Even the fat that is in grass fed beef is good for you because it contains all of the nutrients that the meat does. It will also have a yellow color- not the chalky white color of store bought beef. Also, meat bought in the grocery store will have more moisture, or water, because it is wet aged, vacuum sealed and shipped to the stores from the huge processing plants. When you buy grocery store meat you are buying more water than when you buy dry- aged, grass fed beef. This also affects the tenderness and taste of the meat, which is why high end steakhouses prefer dry-aged grass fed steaks.
You can save money by buying a sampler variety pack of grass fed beef to see what you like best. You do not have to start out with porterhouse steaks and prime rib roasts to get the full benefits of grass fed beef. You can buy less expensive cuts such as arm, chuck or rump roasts or just ground beef. Another way to save is to buy a ¼ or ½ of a beef and even split it with someone- that way you can get a variety and the best cuts, too- all for the same price per pound.
As you can see, eating healthy grass fed beef not only benefits you, but also your family, your friends, your country and your world! To learn more information about grass fed beef, please visit my website at www.naturallygrassfedbeef.com.
Melvin Marks has lived on a farm in south central Pa All his life, dairy farming for 20 years, and beef farming for 10. He now hobby farms with goats and horses and works away at a natural gas turbine power plant, producing green electricity for all of us to enjoy. In his spare time he blogs about his favorite subject, grass fed beef.